Posted on March 8, 2011 at 3:34 PMTwo years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come. Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.
Filed Under: Los Angeles Angels
| Playing Pepper
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (80-82, 10 GB and third in the AL West)
For the last few years, it's been just automatic that the Angels are going to either win or be in contention for the AL West title. Last year, though, the wheels fell off as just about everything went wrong. Even a late trade for Dan Haren couldn't right the ship enough to make a run at the Rangers.
A lot of the same names are back this year, hoping last year was an aberration. I talked to Garrett Wilson of the Angels blog Monkey With A Halo
. As most of my interview subjects have been, you can find and follow him on Facebook
if you want to know about the West Coast team.
Coming up, we talk about a former Cardinal farmhand. OK, so I used that line this morning. Doesn't mean it's not still true.
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C70: What was your opinion of the Los Angeles offseason?
MWH: My opinion? That depends on whether or not you allow swearing on your blog.
OK, let's try the family-friendly version. The off-season was very disappointing. I never bought the hype that the Angels had the cash to sign Crawford, Beltre and Soriano, but I definitely thought they'd go all out for Crawford. Heck, I'd even started addressing him on my blog back in July as Future Angel Carl Crawford. The whole debacle was just embarrassing because the Angels not only lost out on their targets, but came out looking like clueless buffoons in the process. The Vernon Wells trade made the team better in the short-term, but the financial cost of the move only made their baffling decision making this winter look even worse.
C70: Can Dan Haren get back to being Dan Haren?
MWH: Can Haren get back? Newsflash, he is back. Check out his numbers as an Angel (2.87 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 2.0 WAR in just 14 starts), he was LIGHTS OUT. Yeah, he had a rough start to 2010 in Arizona, but he was rejuvenated returning to his SoCal, where he was born and raised and being freed from the purgatory that the D'Backs organization had turned into.
C70: Will Kendry Morales be ready for Opening Day?
MWH: A qualified yes. All reports are that Kendry can hit with no limitations, but the team is being extremely careful with him in the field. In fact, he still hasn't even been cleared to run. Worst case scenario is that Morales starts the year at DH, but the team continues to state that they believe he will be 100% by Opening Day. I choose to believe them, though history has shown that may not be the smartest decision.
C70: Is there a prospect that will make a significant impact this season?
MWH: If you count Jordan Walden as a prospect still, then yes. He had a short debut with the Angels in 2010 and opened eyes with his triple-digit velocity. Already he is getting calls to be named the closer. The team thinks it is premature to saddle him with that pressure, but that doesn't mean Walden won't be an impact-making setup man/middle reliever type. After Walden, no, probably no prospects will make a big impact with the team. That includes Hank Conger who seems like he is bound to return to Triple-A since Mike Scioscia still hasn't gotten over his inexplicable man-crush with Jeff "Mendoza Line" Mathis.
C70: What is your prediction for Los Angeles's record and divisional finish?
MWH: I hate to say it, but 85 wins and third place. The Angels pitching is great, but the offense still has a lot of problems (especially at leadoff) and that lack of offense is going to prevent them from reclaiming their stake on the AL West, not with the Rangers coming into their own and the A's looking like they might be ready to make the leap as well (in fact, I have a hunch Oakland is going to win the division).