NOT THE KICKERS FAULT

Sure, it’s easy to blame the kicker for this loss.

In the fourth quarter alone, he missed two FG attempts. One that would have made it an eight point game, and one that would have given them the win with time expiring in regulation.

It’s easy to blame to kicker because that’s what stands out the most at the end of the game. But football, just like any other major sport, is a team game.

The offense could have scored a touchdown to stretch their lead off a turnover after UCLA fumbled the ensuing kick off after ASU scored a touchdown.

The defense could have stopped UCLA’s offense when they had them at an improbable 3rd and 29 with the clock ticking down to another ASU win.

But no. None of that happened. ASU lost as a TEAM. They lost the game at every angle and various aspects of the game. UCLA made big plays when they needed them, and that’s how you win in a dog fight. It’s the little things and ASU just didn’t do enough of them.

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The Season After the Season

The Angels season may be over for the players, but for the front office, it is the season after the season; more commonly known as the off season.

It is no surprise to anyone who has watched the Angels this season, what their biggest needs are this offseason; A big bat in the heart of their line-up, and bullpen help.

As an Angel fan, I thought the Angels took care of both of those needs last off season when Vernon Wells came over via trade to provide the pop in a line-up desperate for power, and added two left handed relievers to the bullpen for match up purposes.

By Getty Images

Instead, Wells was as big a disappointment as you can imagine and still locked and loaded for years to come. Scott Downs was by far the most consistent reliever on the team but still needs more help. Hisanori Takahashi was used in a variety of roles, and had his moments, but overall was inconsistent.

Others who did not perform the way they were expected:

Bobby Abreu, Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, Jeff Mathis, Michael Kohn, Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Rodney.

This off-season starts with the search of a new GM. Tony Reagins abruptly resigned at the years end with mixed results from variety of moves he has made after replacing Bill Stoneman.

“In moving forward, we felt a change was needed,” Angels owner Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times.

I agree a change was needed. The Angels “off season needs” haven’t changed for the past couple years. Payroll keeps increasing but that hasn’t translated to more wins or playoff births.

So with that being said, what do the Angels need to focus on this off season? First, lets get a general manager who knows the Angels system. Then grab the bat the Angels line up desperately needs.

Pujols and Fielder

By Getty Images

Two of the premier sluggers are available if Moreno decides to spend more money. Albert Pujols will command the most money in the open market, probably followed by Prince Fielder. An addition of either one of those players will change the dynamic of the Angels offense, especially if you combine it with the return of Kendrys Morales and the growth of Mark Trumbo.

There are other players out there such as Aramis Ramirez, who might be a better fit because of monetary reasons and that he plays third base.

The next general manager will have his work cut out for him this off season. With an already crowded outfield, the power source will most likely have to come from the corner infield positions which is already crowded as well.

This should be a very interesting off season, albeit a very important one. Especially since the Angels play in the same division as the two-time defending American League Pennant winning Texas Rangers.

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The Season That Went Wrong

Once again in 2011, the Angels season came to a crashing halt in the second to last game of the season when they were eliminated from playoff contention, and eventually finishing 10 games behind first place Texas Rangers for the second straight year. With the fourth highest payroll in baseball, expectations were high coming into the season.

On paper, the Angels line-up had a good mixture of young talent and savvy veterans, who were ready to lead the young players into the post season. The pitching staff lead by Jered Weaver as the lead dog followed by Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Joel Pinero, and Scott Kazmir was matched by few.

Then, things changed.

Prized free-agent acquisition Vernon Wells, who was supposed to be the key bat the Angels traded for in the off-season, after striking out on Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, had a career worst year, to go along with the worst on-base percentage in the American Leagues.

Morales injured at the plate

Kendrys Morales injures leg during a celebration at home plate. (AP)

Kendrys Morales was lost for the year again due to the foot injury he suffered after celebrated a walk-off win two years ago. If healthy, Morales would have provided power to the line-up lacking in pure power.

Bobby Abreu continued to age at a rapid pace, as his batting average continued to decline and his power diminishing with no sign of return. Abreu finished the year with a .253 average with only eight home runs, far below the numbers needed from Abreu.

Third Base, mainly played by Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis was solid but not spectacular. At a position where power is essential, they provided very little with six and five respectively.

The catchers were a nightmare offensively. Starting catcher Jeff Mathis batted only .174 and backup Bobby Wilson batted .189 on the season. Praised by many in the clubhouse and scouts for their defense, the offensive production, or lack their of, hurt the team drastically. In the American League where pitchers don’t hit, the Angels got zero production from their catchers, mimicking the National League pitchers in the nine-hole.

Los Angeles Angels' Bobby Wilson, left, and Jered Weaver, right, look on after they were defeated in their baseball game against the Texas Rangers, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, in Anaheim, Calif. The Rangers won 4-3. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Weaver, Haren and Santana pitched brilliantly, forming arguably the best trio in all of baseball. Piniero never found his groove after suffering a mid-season injury. Kazmir was released after only one start, never regaining his form when he led the American League in strikeouts.

Manager Mike Scioscia said it best when recapping the season.

“It was a roller-coaster year for us. Tore us inside and out. It teased us. We need to turn the page on this and we need to get better.”

The Angels starting pitching staff did all they could to keep the team in games. Led by rookie Mark Trumbo, the offense did have its moments. In what seemed to save the season, Trumbo hit a walk-off home run off Texas reliever Mike Adams to keep the Angels within striking distance and preserving hope that they would have enough to make the playoffs.

Instead of being led by the veterans, young Angel hitters Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout joined Trumbo trying to spark the team into the playoffs.

Jordan Walden

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Jordan Walden reacts after giving up a two-run home run to Texas Rangers' Mike Napoli during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

True to form, in what was the Achilles heel for the team, the Angels were unable to finish what they started. Although they had the best team ERA in baseball, they tied the league with the most blown saves. They were able to get people on base, but were never able to cash in on the opportunities as they were terrible hitting with runners in scoring position.

The team fell short of its expectations. Heading into the season with goals of winning the World Series, the Angels were unable to do what they failed to do all season. Execute.

Although they were unable to reach their goal this year, the future is bright Angel fans. Stay positive and BELIEVE!!

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Photo Essay

This gallery contains 9 photos.

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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- History in the Making

Many fans look at the standings now and all they can fathom are negative thoughts. I am more than likely in the minority in this, but I think the Angels still have a shot at this. No team in the American Leagues has come from a 4.5 game deficit with 10 games to play. The Angels trail the Texas Rangers by 4.5 games in the division and four games to the Boston Red Sox in the wild card.

Weaver pumped up

Photo Courtesy of Google

The last few games haven’t been very promising for the Angels. Losing two out of three to the lowly Baltimore Orioles didn’t help either. There is no other way to look at this. They probably have to win three out of four to the Toronto Blue Jays, and sweep the Oakland A’s at home to have a shot in the final series with Texas. With the Ranger’s magic number down to six, they have to contribute by losing a few games along the way as well.

The Angels can go another route in their quest for the playoffs as well. If they can’t catch the Rangers, The wild card is still certainly in reach. An epic collapse by the Red Sox who the Angels trail by four games combining with the Tampa Bay Rays who the Angels trail by two games running out of gas can catapult the Angels into the playoffs via wild card.

Two things need to be done by the Angels in order for them to have a realistic shot at this. The pitching needs to get back to where it was and the timely hitting needs to improve. Manager Mike Scioscia put it best.

“The frustrating part when you’re a team that’s been hit and miss offensively, as we have, is that the margin of error for what your pitchers can do becomes very thin.”

The inefficiency of the offense has put of a lot of stress on the pitchers and it is starting to show. Dan Haren and Ervin Santana both slipped and didn’t pitch up to their capabilities in their most recent outings. In order for the team to reach the playoffs, a strong finish by them, along with rest of the pitching staff is a necessity.

Morales injured at the plate

Image Courtesy of Google

Hitting has been the achilles heel for the team much of the year. Prized acquisition Vernon Wells has been less than stellar on his way to a career worse season batting only .219 for the season. The loss of Kendrys Morales has also hurt the team. Angel’s catchers combining to hit under .200 doesn’t help either when you’re playing in the American League.

The bottom line is that it is now or never. I have faith in this team to crank it up and rumble their way into the post season. Let’s re-write the history books and make the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the only team to come back from a 4.5 game deficit to win their division.

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Left-right, that’s all she wrote

I had a good feeling Floyd Mayweather was going to knock Victor Ortiz out, but not in that fashion.

Mayweather catches Ortiz off-guard and beats him down with a nasty left-right combo in a controversial finish with a 4th round knockout.

What was even better, was the interview Mayweather had with Larry Merchant. Mayweather berated Merchant with expletives after Merchant once again refused to give Mayweather much credit after his victory.

Merchant unprofessionally fired back with “if I was 50 years younger I’d kick your ass.”…..

Probably not something you’d want to say if you were conducting a post fight interview. But let’s go back to the fight.

It was an exciting fight from the start. Both boxers exchanging combo’s at one another, although Mayweather was landing twice as more punches.

The controversy started when Ortiz had Mayweather in the corner and inexplicably lunges upward and torpedoes his head towards Mayweather’s for the third time…and busting his lip…

One stupid move follows another stupid move.

Ortiz apologizes, hugs and kisses Mayweather. Ok cool. Let’s fight. They get back to the center to square up, touch gloves. Cool.

Ortiz apparently forgets he’s in a boxing match and wants to continue this love affair with Mayweather when Mayweather quickly gives him a left hook.

No? Still want to hug it out? Ok. BOOM straight right to the DOME!

Wham bam what the….. Just happened?!

You got knocked the …. Out!!!

Left-right. And that’s all she wrote.

Let’s go Money. Fight the fight everyone in the world has been waiting for.

Next up. Pacquiao

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Starting Pitching and Defense Are Keys to the Los Angeles Angels 2011 Season

Angels Stadium Main GateStarting Pitching and Defense Are Keys to the Los Angeles Angels 2011 Season

By Kay Maemura

September 7, 2011

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have always been a franchise who prides themselves in drafting quality players and building their team with pitching and defense. The 2011 season is no different. Led by their three –headed monsters Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, the Angels have surged back into contention in the American League West. The three have combined for 41 of the teams 77 wins and sit three and a half games back in their division.

The pitching staff as a whole has been dominant thus far with a team ERA of 3.60 and 86 quality starts, both good for second in the American League. The Angels have always had strong starting pitching in the Mike Scioscia from Jarrod Washburn, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and the most recent threesome.

Weaver Pitching

Led by the home grown and Cy Young award candidate Jered Weaver who leads the team in wins with 16, strikeouts with 176, and an ERA of 2.49 good for second in the American League, the Angels are in prime position to catch the division-leading Texas Rangers.

At 28-years-old and geared up with a new $85 million dollar contract, Weaver looks to put the team on his back and bring back the division crown to Anaheim. Although Weaver doesn’t possess the power arm you normally see from a staff ace, Weaver uses his long frame and deceptive mechanics, while changing speeds to perfection to mow hitters down.

Dan Haren has solidified the number two spot in the rotation with a solid 14 wins to go along with his 169 strikeouts. He owns a 3.20 ERA which is third on the team. Haren, who was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks right before the trade deadline last season, has been dominant, making the trade look somewhat lopsided thus far. 

Haren at 30-years-old doesn’t possess the power arm he once blew hitters away with. Instead, he has mastered his craft with pin-point accuracy, while using his devastating split-finger fastball as his out pitch to make the best hitters in baseball look foolish at the plate.

Another home grown talent Ervin Santana shows enormous growth in his sixth full season with the club to win 11 games, strikeout 162 batters to go along with an impressive 3.18 ERA. Hailing from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, Santana is just one of three pitchers to toss a no-hitter this season. Like Weaver, Santana is 28-years-old, blessed with a power fastball in the mid-90’s and uses a knee-buckling slider as his out pitch. Primarily a two pitch artist, Santana occasionally uses a change-up to keep hitters off balance.

To complement and playing behind the outstanding pitching is the stingy team defense. According to ESPN and MLB.com, the Angels currently rank fourth in fielding percentage in the American League and turn the second most double plays with 139. The infield defense is led by slick shortstop Erick Aybar who has one of the most range at his position to go along with his powerful arm to make difficult plays look routine. Every Mike Scioscia led ball club will have a defensive minded catcher behind the plate, and Jeff Mathis is one the best at calling the game and blocking the plate.

The cliché and movie title angels in the outfield come to real life when talking about the outfield defense. Flanked by 12 combined gold gloves at the corners, the speedy Peter Bourjos is making a living by running down fly balls in center field that will normally be hits. Using his speed and keen instincts to track down fly balls, Bourjos is a highlight reel waiting to happen. The nine-time gold glove award winner Torii Hunter takes his talents over to right field and the three-time gold glove award winner Vernon Wells takes care of left field. With the range these Angels possess, this is arguably the best defensive outfield in all of baseball.

Although runs are hard to come by at time with these Angels, baseball games are won with pitching and defense. Unfortunately for other teams, the Angels have both. 

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