What a great time to be a sports fan. The world's best soccer players are battling in South Africa, the world's best basketball teams played an epic Game 7 for the NBA Championship and, here in Orange County, the Angels are back!
After a long struggle that had many reaching for the panic button, the Halos are playing baseball worthy of Orange County. This is what we have become accustomed to. Does that make us here in the OC spoiled? Entitled? Yeah, probably, but we like it that way. As passionate as Halo fans are, however, they pale in comparison for the passion soccer fans feels for their team of choice.
When you watch a soccer game in Argentina, you stay after the game is over to settle the score with fans from the other team in an alley. I know--my uncle took me to a game in Buenos Aires when I was 13. Afterward, he asked me to wait for him. He returned 30 minutes or so later, a bit disheveled but no worse for wear. The smile on his face was wider than when he watched his team win.
Soccer fans are passionate--though some might say outta-their-minds.
It is in their honor, as well as in honor of the amazing soccer we have witnessed thus far in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that I present a special World Cup edition of Give 'Em Halos!
The dreaded yellow card is held up in soccer after an infraction. A hard foul, screaming at a referee or another player--essentially not controlling your emotions and playing below your capacity will net you a yellow.
Angels yellow card goes to:
Sure, it's a bit harsh. I mean, this bullpen isn't putting up horrible numbers. The Halos are 16th in MLB in saves and eighth in save percentage. The problem is that we are used to having Scot Shields setting up for K-Rod. Angel games used to be over if the team was leading after the seventh inning. Now, it's more hit-or-miss.
So with Scot Shields (0-2, 6.23 ERA and 0 Holds) as the representative, I'm lifting up the yellow card to the Angels bullpen.
When you see red on the soccer field, that's your cue to leave the field. A red card is given to a soccer player for a hard play on a player not the ball. Sometimes the red card is raised when a player can't control his emotions and drops a head butt straight into another player's chest. Ouch. No matter what you did to get it, red means you are outta-here!
Angels red card goes to:
B-Wood continues to look lost at the plate. Yes, he is defending OK for the Halos at third and now short, but so could Gary Patchett. Patchett is the Angel's triple-A shortstop. He is a 31-year-old lifetime minor leaguer who has yet to taste his cup of coffee in the majors. I'd rather see him than Wood right now.
Enough is enough--package this guy in a deal. Sure, he might blossom somewhere else, but that's fine because if he was going to blossom here, he would have by now. Calling Wood closer as I raise the red card to the embattled Angel infielder.
The English Goal Keeper
Did you see it? The USA's Clint Dempsey takes a shot from beyond the 18-yard line. It's a good shot and, no doubt, hit hard, but it was rolling just to the right of the keeper for what should have been a routine save. Instead of getting in front of the ball like you are taught in Goalie 101 however, the English keeper reaches out his hands to stop the ball. That nonchalant attempt back-fired as the ball bounced off his gloves and in the net.
What a GOOF!
The Angels "English Goal Keeper" is:
I hate kicking Morales while he is down too, but what a GOOF this injury was. I understand that teams have been celebrating walk-offs like this for years with nothing worse than a headache from the constant pounding the home-run hitting player might take to his helmet when he crosses home plate. Notice how hitters adjusted and throw the batting helmet aside before jumping into the mosh pit? Much in the same way players adjusted to the helmet, expect to see toned down celebrations at the plate.
Looking at the reply the injury seemed to stem from equal parts not allowing Morales enough room to get to home plate, an over exuberant hop by Morales that included an odd horizontal leg kick and plain ole bad luck.
No matter what the cause however, losing the team's best power threat and one of its best hitters was a GOOF on par with the English keepers flub-a-dub-dub.
These are those oversized kazoos that are a hot item in South Africa. A reporter commented that they cost about $1 to make, are going for $15 at the stadium and can irritate the ba-jeee-zus out of some players. Anyone want to join me in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup? I have a vuvuzela manufacturer all lined-up, we will make a fortune selling noise-makers!
Which leads me to the Angels player who makes the most noise. Easy, right?
The Angels signed Hunter when they already had a center-fielder in Gary Mathews Jr. It seemed like an odd signing because it would no doubt irritate Mathews (it did) and there had to have been other players at different positions the team could have given that money to. After enjoying Hunter's play and personality for a few years, however, it's clear that the Angels knew what they were doing.
Matthews is gone and Hunter has entrenched himself as the face and voice of the Angels.
In basketball, baseball and football, the refereeing staff have access to replays and conferences to ensure they get a call right. Not so in soccer--in soccer, the center referee has total and complete autonomy. If he sees a hand-ball, he will call it. He is under no obligation to check with either of the assistant referees who roam the sidelines.
Additionally, when time has expired, it is the center ref who can, at his discretion, add extra-time. Imagine a baseball umpire calling both teams back to the field for the 10th inning in a 5-1 game because he felt the visiting team's pitcher took too much time warming up in the 4th inning. It's silly, but it happens.
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Extra time is seen as a negative, but for this special World Cup edition of Give 'Em Halos, it represents a player giving that little extra.
The Angels added time player is:
The season began with Napoli on the bench watching his good friend Jeff Mathis get the bulk of time behind the plate. Mathis, not known for his bat, was hitting well and playing his normal, exceptional defense. Frustrated by the lack of playing time, Napoli expressed his dissatisfaction. With the club struggling at the time, it seemed like a change in scenery might benefit both the team and the now back-up catcher. Then Mathis went down and Napoli got his shot. He has made the most of it.
Simply stepping in and doing your job, however, is not enough to earn you status as the "added time player"--there has to be more. After Morales went down with his freak injury, it was Napoli who saw time at first-base. He did so well there he has since been at first-base seven times while sporting a nice .982 fielding percentage. His .251 average, 11 homeruns and 27 RBI's don't hurt either. Napoli has put in the added time and it shows.
Check in next week when the I recognize the Halo's with a few more World Cup "awards."