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Oh My! Dick Enberg Voted into Hall of Fame

December 12th, 2014
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“And the halo shines tonight!”

 

Earlier this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that former Angels and current Padres play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg had won the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.  Enberg was the voice of the California Angels from 1969 to 1978, and was a guest announcer often in 1985 during the Angels’ 25th franchise anniversary season.

Enberg grew up in the midwest as a Tigers fan and attended Indiana Univeristy where he earned a masters and doctorate in health sciences.  His first love was sports, though, and he worked the airwaves calling Indiana Hoosiers football and basketball games.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1961 and found employment with Gene Autry’s KTLA television station and his KMPC radio station calling UCLA Bruins basketball games and Los Angeles Rams football games.  He also worked as a baseball coach from 1961 to 1965 for Cal State Northridge.

At the end of the 1968 baseball season, long-time Angels play-by-play man Buddy Blattner decided to move back home to Missouri, so that left the Angels’ play-by-play spot open.  The honey-voiced Enberg was an in-house talent whom Autry hired to take over for Blattner, and Enberg ended up working the mic as the Angels’ lead broadcaster for the next ten years, his distinctive “Oh, My!” often punctuating a phenomenal play on the field.

When asked in 2010 by Los Angeles Times reporter Jeff Fellenzer for an article titled “Q & A with Dick Enberg” if he could recall his most memorable games as a broadcaster, Enberg replied:

 

That’s easy. I’ve said many times that in all of sport, the most exciting game for an announcer is calling a no-hit, no-run game. There’s nothing like it, the drama of knowing from the seventh inning on that there’s the potential of a no-hitter. And the importance of every out, every nuance, every subtlety, and then to have it grow in theater and become more compelling, into the eighth and ninth, and then you ultimately finish with one.

As an announcer, to be able to sink your teeth into a no-hitter and have it come to fruition — there’s just nothing like it. You can hear the sounds of the no-hitter as well. Having the joy of calling Nolan Ryan’s no-hitter in 1973 in Detroit, where I had been so many times as a kid, was special.

There was Rod Carew’s 3,000th hit and other individual accomplishments. But you know those are coming, and you’re prepared for them. You’re never prepared to see a no-hitter when you come to the ballpark. And then it happens, and it’s like a joyful script that lands in your lap. The no-hitter is the most delicious experience any sportscaster can encounter.

 

After his decade calling Angel games, the time came for Enberg to share his talent with the rest of the country as he signed with NBC and later CBS and ESPN to work national regular season and post season baseball games as well as golf tournaments, tennis grand slam events, eight Super Bowls, and the Olympics.

In December of 2009, Enberg was hired to be the play-by-play man for the San Diego Padres, a position the 79-year-old continues to hold, and on Wednesday he was announced as the newest Ford C. Frick Award winner, joining such baseball broadcasting luminaries as Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray, Jaime Jarrin, and Jerry Coleman.

Did You Know?:  Enberg also was a long time television announcer for the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade as well as the host of several television game shows like this one.

 

Halos Acquire INF Taylor Featherston in Rule 5 Draft

December 11th, 2014

 

Heading into the 2013 offseason, the Angels hadn’t selected a player in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft since the start of George W. Bush’s first term in office. Now they’ve made an acquisition two years in a row: Last winter it was LHP Brian Moran from the Mariners, and this morning it was 2B/SS Taylor Featherston from the Rockies.

Like last year, the Halos didn’t actually draft the guy they ended up getting, but rather worked out a trade, for cash, with the team who selected him earlier in the process. Which teams those were doesn’t really matter, but for the sake of thoroughness, they were the Blue Jays (Moran) and Cubs (Featherston).

Featherston, 25, spent all three of his years at TCU as the club’s starting shortstop, but has received a majority of his playing time in the minors at the keystone. He’s never been young for his level, but he hasn’t been considerably older either, so it’s probably safe to read into his strong offensive numbers.

In 2014, Featherston batted .260/.322/.439 with 16 home runs in 550 plate appearances in the Texas League, leading the league in extra-base hits in his first foray into the high minors. While his .760 OPS doesn’t exactly pop off the page, it’s worth keeping in mind that the league-average OPS was .695 and that top Angels prospect Alex Yarbrough, also a second baseman, posted a .718 OPS in the same circuit. Oh yeah, and Featherston followed up his Double-A debut with a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .294/.355/.456.

I think it’s safe to say his bat can play, so though Featherston’s yet to appear above Double-A, he will likely compete with Grant Green and new acquisition Josh Rutledge next spring for the openings at second base and utility infielder. Each of the trio carries some pop and strong bat-to-ball skills from the right side of the plate, so it’s tough to discern at this point who’ll end up where.

Since there isn’t much separation in the three players’ offensive profiles, a spot on the roster could come down to what they can do on defense. There’s not much information out there on Featherston’s glove, but the little we know seems to indicate that he is a much better fielder than either Green or Rutledge. According to Baseball Prospectus, Featherston has been worth 13.3 fielding runs above average in his four minor-league seasons, while Green and Rutledge are way, way in the red. Advantage, new guy.

As Featherston is a Rule 5 player, the Angels are required to keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire 2015 season if they want him to remain in the organization. If they decide to go with Green and Rutledge instead, the club must either return Featherston to the Rockies (along with $25,000), or work out a trade with Colorado so they can stash him in Triple-A. If I had to hazard a guess right now, I’d say that he’s the most likely candidate for the utility infielder gig, at least to start the year.

Featherston wasn’t the only Rule 5 acquisition by the Angels this morning. In the minor-league phases of the draft, the club selected infielder Chris Curley from the White Sox, Pedro Ruiz from the D’Backs, and outfielder Kentrail Davis from the Brewers. While Davis has first-round pedigree, none of that three are are likely to serve as more than organizational depth for the farm system.

 

Angels Acquire Josh Rutledge from Rockies for Jairo Diaz

December 11th, 2014
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While not nearly as good as Howie Kendrick, Rutledge is under club control for the next four years.

 

In the immediate wake of Howie Kendrick’s shocking trade to the Dodgers, the Angels have made a minor move to address their middle infield depth, acquiring infielder Josh Rutledge from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for right-handed reliever Jairo Diaz, the club announced.

The 25-year-old Rutledge is somewhat of an intriguing addition, though the move shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Halos have been tied to him in recent days. Rutledge gives the Angels an option capable of playing both second base and shortstop, though he grades out sub-par defensively at both positions. He has hit a decent .259/.308/.403 in 947 plate appearances with the Rockies over the past three years, though the role of Coors Field places his career OPS+ at just 83. Thus far, he has produced a -1.1 career WAR. However, he still offers potential everyday player upside, and has a strong track record of performance in the minors, with a .328/.386/.506 career slash line.

As the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher notes, the Halos likely don’t view Rutledge as an immediate everyday fill-in for Kendrick, as he is rather young, has options remaining, and hasn’t quite played up to his skill level yet. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, the plan is for Rutledge to compete with Grant Green for the starting second base job, though an outside candidate – such as Gordon Beckham – could be considered as well.

Having yet to reach arbitration eligibility, Rutledge has four more years of club control remaining, which isn’t insignificant considering Kendrick was scheduled to reach free agency next winter.

The 23-year-old Diaz has electric raw stuff, with a heater that routinely reaches triple-digits, and a plus breaking ball. Many have anointed him as having closer potential, but he likely wasn’t slated for a major role in the Angels’ 2015 bullpen. In 64.2 minor league innings last season, Diaz notched a 3.48 ERA, 11.8 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9. He reached the big leagues for a five-game trial in September, allowing two runs with eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

Overall, the Angels had a rather eventful day. They essentially traded Howie Kendrick and Jairo Diaz for Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge, which represents a significant improvement in terms of both youth and cost control.

 

Howie Kendrick Traded To Dodgers

December 11th, 2014
He gone.

He gone.

 

All week Jerry Dipoto was playing it cool. He said time and again that the Angels’ plans for the Winter Meetings were simply to fill a few holes at the bottom of the roster, and he backed it up with a deal for a new fringe player each morning: Marc Krauss on Monday; Drew Butera on Tuesday; Scott Snodgress on Wednesday. Dipoto was so casual in his words and his overall demeanor—showing up to his MLB Network interview in a pullover sweater rather than his customary suit and tie—that it was easy to overlook the prescient caveat he fit into just about every interview: that the team would make a big move “should an opportunity present itself.”

Well at about 9:00 pm Wednesday night, that opportunity came. The Angels saw their chance to add a promising, cost-controlled starting pitcher and they took it, sending Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for young left-hander Andrew Heaney, who had just been acquired from the Marlins hours earlier1. A one-for-one deal, no money involved.

There’s a lot to unravel in this trade, and I’m not sure I can digest Kendrick playing for the Dodgers just yet, so let’s start by talking about Heaney…

The 23-year-old began his Wednesday as the top prospect in the Miami Marlins system and the No. 18 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. The southpaw struggled in his first cup of coffee with Miami in September, but he had already blown past his career high in innings pitched at that point and had started the year at Double-A, so there’s really not much to be read into those 29.1 innings. What can be scrutinized are the 137.1 innings he threw in the minors this past season, where he posted a stellar 3.28 ERA, 0.7 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, and 9.4 K/9 between the Southern League and the hitter-friendly PCL.

Heaney’s smooth, repeatable delivery and a solid three-pitch arsenal (sinker, slider, change) has earned him a No. 2 starter ceiling and a mid-rotation floor over at Baseball Prospectus, and glowing reviews from around the scouting world. Perhaps the most exciting thing about him is that, unlike rotation-mates C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago, Heaney has excellent control—a career 2.4 BB/9 in the minors. His command within the strike zone still needs a little work, but you could probably say that about every 23-year-old pitcher ever.

Heaney was with the big-league club in Miami for only a little more than a month, meaning the Angels will get a full six years with left-hander in the rotation. He is more than ready for a shot in Anaheim, so his arrival likely means that Cory Rasmus will abandon his conversion to starter, and that Hector Santiago could begin the year as a second lefty in the bullpen (if Garrett Richards is healthy). What does this mean for Nick Tropeano? Well, it probably means he’ll start the year at Triple-A, where teams with rotation depth typically store their extra arms. Extra arms! The Angels! What is happening?!

As for Kendrick…

Howie was a cornerstone in Anaheim for nine seasons, and part of the organization for more than a third of his life. He leaves the Angels just a couple seasons shy of taking the reins from Bobby Grich as the best second baseman in franchise history, but still comes away as the easy runner-up. It goes without saying that he will be greatly missed. Watching Kendrick and Aybar man the middle of the infield the last nine years has been a joy to watch, and it’ll be a long while before it won’t be weird to see Kendrick in a Dodger uniform–I never got used to Garrett Anderson in blue.

So far as replacing Kendrick goes, the Angels’ plans are rather unclear. The late-night addition of Josh Rutledge from Colorado gives the club an immediate option at the keystone, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be the guy manning second come Opening Day. Alex Yarbrough, the top positional prospect in the system (non-Baldoquin division), is another option, but he’s still at least half a season away from a promotion to the big stage. Grant Green’s could also get a shot at the starting job, I suppose, but it just seems unlikely.

The clearest answer, to me, seems to be to use the money saved by dealing Kendrick to pick up some veteran help at the keystone. Before Howie’s trade, the Angels had about $10 million in wiggle room before hitting the luxury tax threshold. Now, that number is closer to $19 million. There’s no reason for the front office to go out and spent all their funds, but someone like Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, or Asdrubal Cabrera could be within reach.

All in all, I really like this trade for the Angels. Yes, they created a hole on the infield and in the lineup, but in return they got a pitcher who should anchor the middle of the rotation for much of the next decade. There’s still plenty of time to find an adequate replacement for Howie, and even if they don’t the team is so strong elsewhere on the diamond that they can afford to be subpar at one position.

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1 I have no idea if the Angels and Marlins ever talked about a one-for-one Heaney/Kendrick swap, but one imagines it came up at some point. Does Miami feel bad about having four years of Gordon rather than one of Kendrick? Probably not. Also worth noting that Miami was one of four teams on Howie’s limited no-trade clause.

Winter Meetings: Day 3

December 10th, 2014

 

- 9:20 pm -

Oh dear lord. Howie Kendrick’s been traded to the Dodgers. Full post here.

 

***

 

- 9:05 pm -

It seems Jerry Dipoto and everyone else has decided to take a step back this evening and stand in awe of the workings of the Dodgers’ Dream Team front office. Remember how they snatched Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies earlier this afternoon? Then bamboozled the Marlins by dangling Dee Gordon? Well now they’re closing in on a multi-year deal with Brandon McCarthy that’ll complete their rotation. McCarthy obviously isn’t the best pitcher available, but when you consider that he’s going to be the club’s No. 4 starter at best, it’s a more than understandable move. What’s more, the Dodgers have pretty much filled all their roster holes (except catcher) in the span of 12 hours. Now all they have left to do is collect more promising prospects to clear up their outfield glut. At this moment, I’m exceedingly glad the Angels don’t play in the NL West.

Believe it or not, there is at least one other thing going on as well:

- The Red Sox may or may not have acquired Wade Miley from the D’Backs for Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and a third piece. All the big-name newsbreakers had it confirmed, then 10 minutes later new Arizona GM Dave Stewart came out and denied it. Who knows.

 

***

 

- 5:00 pm -

The Angels are “very unlikely” to land their infielder today, per Alden Gonzalez.

The same can’t be said for the folks up in Chavez Ravine. Not only did the Dodgers acquire long-time Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins this afternoon, they also got four promising young players from the Marlins, including top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney. All new GM Farhad Zaidi had to give up for that score was Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and a still-unknown minor leaguer. Unless that prospect ends up being Julio Urias or something, that deal is going to go down as the biggest steal of the winter.

Oh yeah, and the Dodgers probably aren’t done. They still have about seven outfielders on the roster, so there’s still a chance they’ll send Matt Kemp to San Diego for even more young, cost-controlled talent. Good day to be a Dodger fan.

 

***

 

- 2:50 pm -

Nothing new to report on the Angels’ quest for a middle infielder, but there were a couple interesting bits of information in Mike Scioscia’s media session this morning:

1) Garrett Richards is unlikely to be fully healthy by the start of 2015, but should be good to go by the end of April. This has always been a possibility, but until today no one had ruled out an Opening Day return. Richards was just cleared to throw earlier this week, so it seems the Halos got a much more definitive idea of his rehab timeline after seeing him play some catch. Far, far too soon to be worried about his recovery.

2) Mike Scioscia is open to batting Mike Trout in the three spot next season, which … I don’t want to overreact to an offhand comment made in December, but this seems like an awful decision. It’s long been understood that lineup construction makes surprisingly little difference in a team’s overall run production. I get that. The thing is, though, most lineups don’t have Mike Trout. When he’s in your lineup, the goal should be to get him as many plate appearances as possible, not drop him down in the order so he can “drive in more runs.” With Chris Iannetta in the nine hole, Trout will get just as many RBI opportunities, if not more, as the two hitter as he would in the three spot with Kendrick ahead of him.

Other notes:

- The Phillies have *finally* started to clear house. Jimmy Rollins is reportedly going to the Dodgers in return for two pitching prospects. Philadelphia fans are probably praying that Julio Urias is one of the arms going east, but that’d be a massive overpay on L.A.’s part. Much more likely that it’ll be Zach Lee and some other guy from the low minors.

- The Phillies are also close on a deal that’d send Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates for an unknown return. Seems like it’s only a matter of time before Cole Hamels hits the road.

 

- 11:55 pm -

Another day, another small deal. The Angels have crossed yet another item off their short Winter Meetings checklist, signing lefty reliever Scott Snodgress to a minor-league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The 25-year-old Snodgress was one of the many southpaws non-tendered at the start of the month, after making all of four appearances with the White Sox in 2014.

Snodgress has never put up numbers that jump off the page, but there is some reason to believe he has better days ahead of him. Until July of this year, the Stanford alum was just another lefty starter with maybe enough deception to crack the back end of an MLB rotation at some point. When moved to the bullpen upon his promotion to Triple-A, though, an immediate improvement in his peripherals hinted at the possibility of a bright future as a reliever. Snodgress doesn’t have great control, but his mid-90s fastball, 6’6″ frame, and three-quarters delivery should be unsettling enough to hitters to offset his walk-rate woes, especially in a LOOGY role. The southpaw complemented his plus heater with a slider and a change-up while working as a starter, but effectively dropped the cambio from his arsenal when moved to the ‘pen.

Snodgress’s size, arsenal, and projection are strikingly similar to those of Mark Sappington, who the Angels shipped off to Tampa Bay last month for Cesar Ramos. The biggest difference between the two, other than the whole throwing-with-a-different-arm thing, is that Snodgress has actually had success in the high minors. Sappington has most definitely not. Trading away Sappington, then, only to get the slightly more productive lefty version of him at no cost a month later is some pretty sweet maneuvering by Dipoto and crew. /tips cap

 

***

 

- 9:15 am - 

Jon Lester finally came off the board late Tuesday night, signing a six-year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. His departure to the North Side opens the doors for things to get pretty hectic the next two days. Many teams were waiting for Lester to sign to see how the chips would fall, and now that he has there shouldn’t be anything holding them back. The Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Royals, Tigers, Yankees, and more still need starting pitching, and there’s plenty of it to be had. I’d be surprised if at least two more starters aren’t traded or inked to lucrative contracts before Thursday afternoon’s Rule 5 draft.

For the Angels, the modus operandi for the remainder of the trip appears to be adding depth in the middle infield. As was written last night, there are at least seven guys the front office is looking at: Brock Holt, Eugenio Suarez, Marwin Gonzalez, Nick Ahmed, Pete Kozma, Eduardo Escobar, and Josh Rutledge. If tasked to rank which players would bring the best return, it’d probably be in that order. Word on the rumor mill is that the Halos are looking to deal from their surplus of righty relief pitchers to acquire their infield help, but it’s not clear who is and isn’t available among that group.

The best of the rest:

- The Astros have shored up their bullpen some, signing Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson to multi-year deals. Is it just me, or does it feel like almost every free-agent pitcher this winter was on the A’s at some point in time?

- The Phillies are probably going to trade Cole Hamels. The Red Sox, Giants, and Dodgers are all said to have interest in the three-time All-Star, but only two of those teams have the volume of high-ceiling prospects necessary to get a deal done, and only Boston has the absolute dire need for rotation help to make it worth the cost.

Recaps: Day 1 | Day 2

 

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