Watching Jeff DaVanon

Watching Jeff DaVanon

A weblog devoted to #55 of the Anaheim Angels, Jeff DaVanon. How is he doing? Is he getting his due respect yet? Let's watch and see...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Classy Trash

I attended the Quakes game on Saturday night. We'd selected that game because it was Mr. Potatohead give-away night, but, fortuitously, it was also Jered Weaver's first home start.

I'd dearly love to be able to tell you that Weaver looked awesome, brought his best stuff, and was a force on the mound. But I can't. Not because it isn't true, it might be, but pitching is like my last, great baseball ignorance, and I just have no basis on which to evaluate it. He looked like every other pitcher in the world. I'm sorry!

This is what I can tell you, he pitched close to three innings. He was no better or worse than the other pitchers we saw. He had a stellar first inning that I suspect had as much to do with the twilight sun making the ball truly impossible to pick-up as it did with his pitching prowess. I was also told, both by my husband and by random people in the crowd, that Weaver wasn't doing a very good job of "hiding" his pitches, especially his curve. Why only 3 innings? Well, he loaded up the bases, but we're going on the theory that they have him on a low pitch count right now.

I can tell you that, according to the stadium scoreboard, he was pitching 109 mph curveballs and 69 mph fastballs. But I am highly skeptical that those numbers have anything to do with reality. I'm thinking that the speedgun in an A ballpark is truly suspect. I can accurately report that he kept his mouth shut in the dugout. And that concludes my Weaver assesment. You don't have to thank me.

I have never attended a minor-league game before, and it was quite the experience. You want to know the difference between A and the bigs? Let me sum it up for you: holes in the pants and the classy trash dancers.

I guess when the guys get holes in their pants from sliding, they don't get new pants, they mend the holes (or leave then be). Check out exhibit A.

The game is not about the game. We were sitting behind home plate, the place to be in any ballpark, only not. Because the packed sections in Rancho were not the ones behind the plate, they were the ones behind the dugouts. Why? That is where the mascots (two of them, one isn't enough) and the classy trash dancers perform between innings, and half-innings, and plays, and pitches, and basically whenever they feel like it. You can search for a more interesting entertainment experience in the LA area, but I'm not sure you'd find it. Hardly a moment goes by without some sort of sound effect, musical interlude, or dance break.

Who are the classy trash dancers you might ask? Well, they are a cadre of highly-trained performers who astound the captive audience with their dance moves. They do this while sporting tails, cumberbunds, and white gloves. Oh, and when they aren't dancing, they make the rounds to pick up trash. Actually, they are a set of six folks, most of whom are probably in high school, and they give it their all, but I'm thinking that if they are operating under the assumption that hoofing in Rancho is ever going to lead anywhere, they are very much mistaken. But I appreciated their enthusiasm (and the trash pick-up) and it seems to be an astute sponsorship choice for 1-800-got-junk.

I have taken into account all that I witnessed on Saturday. I made careful notes, looked up averages, and squinted to determine who was playing in the outfield. I have done all this, and I give you my list of the most talented people on the field that night, the ones to watch.

1) Tremor and After Shock. The mascots are seriously top-notch. They have costume changes. They have pre-arranged bits with the umpires. They dance (and better than the classy trashers) in these crazy contraptions. And 3 out of 4 of the under-10 set that were sitting near me were at the stadium soley to see the mascots, and they made sure we all knew it in their under-10 screeching voices. I'd say that these guys have a big future ahead of them, but I think there is like a reverse system in place for mascots, where the lower the team is, the better the mascot needs to be, and the more highly-regarded. The skills required to be that freaking elephant in Oakland cannot begin to compare to the skills required to entertain people who are attending a single-A game.

2) Danny Putnam. Outfielder for Stockton. He rocketed this one ball home from Left, and it was a strike, it was beautiful. He's a 2005 California League All-Star. It was the most impressive thing I saw all game.

I've been to a lot of baseball games, this is the only one I've ever been to that ended with 4 outs. (the final batter hit into what would normally be a double-play, if there weren't already 2 outs, but the guys went ahead and completed it.)


I owe y'all my write-up of the Quakes game on Saturday. But there is actual Jeff-related news to speak of.

First of all, Jeff played fairly well in a the freeway series. He played hard, he took some more hits to the nose, he got actual hits. I'm sure he did it all to cause me shame for having been such the doubting thomas. He also gave an incredibly cranky post-game interview on Friday. Now, I figure anyone would be cranky if they had to talk to Rex Hudler, but since we're used to boyish, gee-whiz, Jeff, it was a bit of a shock.

But of course, today, my husband comes home and is all "I'm so off the Jeff bandwagon!" And goes on to re-enact the key Jeff moments of the game: Jeff totally ignoring the right-field fans who were trying to show him mad love after he was the go-ahead run, Jeff failing to take more than 3 steps out of the box after hitting a funky popped-up bunt that wasn't caught and he probably could have beat, and then Jeff losing a ball in the sun and doing a duck-and-cover. I'm not so upset about the losing-the-ball-in-the-sun thing, since I see Vlad do that up-close and personal at least twice a month. But the rest of it ain't cool.

Still, I'd be cranky too, and I'm all about cutting slack. Jeff is starting to do something that resembles hitting, and I'm happy that he's alive and fighting, and still has life left in him.

And I apologize for being the doubting thomas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

So DH may be something of a misnomer

So Jeff has sort of run out of time to get his act together.

When everyone else in the lineup can't seem to avoid getting a hit, and you can't manage to really step up to the plate, it just doesn't look good.

The Jeff of 2005 is no DH.

This really has to suck for him. He finally got a solid month to show what he could do, and it turned out he couldn't do much. Then he had a chance to work back into the mix, and his hitting strategy vacillates between playing the odds and looking at everything, or swinging for the fences trying to get rid of that annoying goose-egg in the HR column. He's pretty good at bunting. Is that a legitimate position, being the go-to bunting guy? A DH with no home-runs isn't worthy of the name. Jeff is in a dangerous position, he's a 5th outfielder on a team that doesn't need one.

Now, "brand name" players like Kennedy can spend a whole season hitting like a pitcher. Finley hasn't been any great shakes this year (we could have put Jeff in CF and saved the money). Jeff hasn't that luxury.

My husband came home form the game last night and was like "So your boy kind of sucks...."

and all I could do was sigh and say "I know."

I KNOW! He sucks. He sucks at the moment, he sucks right now, he might even suck in general or be embarking on a long career of suck-itude. What do you want me to do about it?

I love playing Texas. I love adding to our division lead so decisively just by winning a game. It makes me happy.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

boredom punctuated by moments

Sometime around the sixth inning I was feeling pretty bored. In fact, I was starting to mentally write the post I would make about the game, and I wasn't sure how to make my boredom worth writing about. I sadly thought of the other things I could have spent these hours of my life doing. I wished I had brought a book. I tried to muster enthusiasm over Vlad having changed from his new amazing red shoes back to his old normal shoes sometime in the middle of the game.

I was thinking that everyone was bored. The energy seemed off. Even the players seemed to be going through the motions, waiting for that moment when something would happen and they could feel invested in the game. In the stands, we endured the world's longest crowd wave, and that was the most exciting thing we had going on.

The problem was that exciting things had happened to lead off the game, and we weren't prepared for it. Most people weren't even in their seats yet. We were caught unawares, hadn't yet given ourselves over to the ebb and enthusiasm of the game. Figgins and Kennedy turned a kick-ass doubleplay and then Figgins followed that up with a home-run. And we were happy and shouting and stuff, but we weren't really ready to be all enthusiastic.

And then it got boring. Or maybe it was just me. My husband tried to tell me it was a pitching battle, but I didn't feel like it was. People were getting hits, it just wasn't leading to anything. Every bit of progress got shut-down quickly. The air itself was conspiring against drama, keeping balls from soaring, turning homeruns into long outs, chilling any enthusiasm we mustered.

Later on, Donnelly made an appearance, and we showed our support. We couldn't quite feel supportive enough to go for an all-out ovation, but we applauded. Donnelly has a new, very deliberate pre-pitch routine. He carefully circles the mound, stops before stepping on the dirt, makes sure he has done whatever he needs to do, and then steps on. He pitched a flawless inning, and we probably would have given a real ovation had the final out of the inning not been so attention-getting.

Then we got a string of people on base. And I wondered why I ever felt bored. And then we tied the game! Oh my god! And Jeff was in!

And we watched more Rally Monkey clips that have sexual undertones. (is anyone else as disturbed by those as I am? Especially the Palmer video one where the monkey head is superimposed on hot chicks with jiggling breasts? We're starting to quietly refer to it as the beastiality monkey.)

It seems like we should have been able to win in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn't to be, and we pressed on to the tenth. Still nothing.

And then, with the crowd on it's feet, and 2 runners on-base, Jeff comes up and works to a full count, fouling off pitch after pitch. He's so hungry for a hit he isn't going to let this at-bat pass him by, he's fighting for it. And then he gets a pitch he likes and drives one past the infield, Vlad scores, Angels' win. Finley jogs to second from first, but as soon as Vlad scores he turns around to be the first to congratulate Jeff, meeting up with him between first and second, all smiles.

The really nice thing about baseball is that almost everyone gets to be a hero during the course of a season, and this was Jeff's night.

And as Jeff himself admits that with the way he's been hitting lately, he needed to be a hero, needed to pull through in the clutch for his team.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

what a catch!

Jeff was on fire in the outfield last night. He made a bunch of awesome catches. The whole game his play was just shouting "put me in coach, put me in more." But we'll probably just see more of Figgins. Otherwise, it was a tough loss, and I'm really happy to see the Nationals leave town.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Out of Control

The game last night was so weird. The Angel fans seem to have latent hooligan tendencies that were just waiting for the right moment to materialize. There was the thing with the glove and then the other thing with the glove. And the bench and bullpen-clearing "passionate discussion" on the field.

But you can hear about all those things and see them other places. So I'll get to them later. The most out of control thing on the field last night was Vlad's new shoes.

His shoes defy description. It's as if a Vegas showgirl and an athlete got together and shared a closet and that closet was subjected to Troma-like levels of radiation and the resulting mutation was Vlad's shoes. They are just amazing. If a friend of mine owned those shoes, I think I'd stage an intervention. They are red and they sparkle. They sparkle. It's like someone was bowling and decided they wanted their shoes to look like a bowling ball. But what the heck, it's Vlad. He can wear shoes manufactured from the lips of kittens and I'll still love him.

Let's move on to the fans. I don't know if $3 Tuesdays were as bad an idea as $2 Tuesdays uptown, or if Angel fans are sick of being nice, or if the pixie dust has just fallen off our shoulders, but the fans were bad last night and they liked it. We really don't like Jose Guillen. He led us on for months and made us think he was a nice boy that we could bring home to momma and then we found out he's been cheating on us, and we tossed him, and we were depressed for a few months but now we're just angry that we ever liked him. A year ago we were praising his name, cheering for all we were worth, and now we enjoy nothing more than booing and taunting him, to the point of insisting that our fellow fans throw back foul balls as well as home runs. The cognitive dissonance should be deafening. But instead, we mustered more enthusiasm for chanting "Guillen Sucks" than we did for the Rally Monkey. And he took that abuse and channeled it into a homerun that should have shut us up but just gave further credence to our belief that Guillen Sucks. Beyond Guillen, when the post-glove discussion was going on, we were out for blood. I've seen fights in the stadium before, but never before have I seen a fight instantly take on the vibe that we were all like personally involved. I think we felt bad for Donelley who was so f-ed with on the road trip, and the fans were feeling protective of him. Luckily, I don't think Nationals fans exist in LA, so none were in attendance, if there had been any sprinkled in the stands, there would have been some serious brawling.

Santana got an ovation as he left the field. Don't get me wrong, I like the kid, but I'm not so sure it was an ovation-worthy performance. We're like children with a shiny new toy. We'll see if our adoration lasts, or if some other shiny thing comes along and shifts our attention and affection.

Hey, can we all agree that taunting the ballboy is never cool? Especially when he hasn't commited an error, or done anything wrong?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

bits, pieces, things like that

We uncovered another use for Jeff in Chicago... landing pillow for a flying Molina

I feel sort of bad for Scot Shields. He's a great late-inning relief pitcher, we are so lucky to have him, but I don't think even his rubber arm is designed to be used every freaking day. Seriously, it doesn't seem responsible or fair to unleash him from the bullpen every day.

I don't really understand why there is controversy about Erstad's play at the plate. Would there be so much controversy if people couldn't so easily add to the conversation the paranthetical "former football player with the Nebraska Cornhuskers"? Is it ever a player's goal to seriously F up another player's body and career, hell no. Was Erstad's move a cheap shot? You are kidding me! He scored the run, he had 2 choices, take a chance on a slide or take a chance on knocking the ball out, he picked the one with better odds at the time. This is how the game is played, am I wrong? There is a rule that the baserunner isn't out if the defender drops the ball, and this is the consequence of the rule. I just don't get it. Then again, if the situation were reversed, I guess I wouldn't be a terribly happy girl. I can't imagine Scioscia, legendary for blocking the plate like a wall, having any sympathy for a catcher on the losing end of a play like that. And look! There is in fact a quote:
"I never got upset when anyone hit me at home plate. I can only tell you about Darin Erstad and his integrity and how hard he plays the game and how clean he plays the game. His integrity wouldn't let him do anything that was out of the bounds of what sportsmanship is." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia on the eighth-inning collision at home plate

Friday, June 03, 2005

Suggested uses for Jeff

So for the last bit of time, I've been watching Jeff.... model the official warm-up sweatshirt and let us not forget..watching Jeff .... come into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement. It hasn't left me with much to do except answer my hate mail, and be annoyed, and watch heart-breaking Sox games.

So I've started a list of alternative possible uses for Jeff.

1) He and Josh Paul can make an effort to sit on opposite ends of the bench, thus balancing it perfectly and avoiding any unfortunate see-saw mishaps.

2) We can place him in front of a machine that transfers wind into power, have him swing, and generate enough power to, um, power something, probably small, that doesn't actually require a lot of electricity.

3) Sock manufacturers can use him as a spokesmodel in their attempt to bring back knee socks.

4) On particularly-poofy hair days, he can be used as part of an elaborate plot to convince fans that Angel Stadium is a time machine and we are all back in 1977.

5) Constant reminder that Figgins isn't a very strong outfielder, and probably shouldn't be thought of as a go-to guy for those outfield spots.

God this is depressing.