Monday, September 19, 2022

Las Vegas Aces 78 at Connecticut Sun 71 (WNBA Finals, Game 4) - September 18, 2022

I first attended a WNBA game in Los Angeles in 2001, which was my first visit to Staples Center. Since then, I have seen exactly one other, here in NYC at MSG, which did not count as a new venue. Still, 6 of 12 teams play in arenas that are not used by another Big 4 team. Of those, two are college spots that I have already visited (Dallas, Chicago), two are G-League gyms that I plan to see (Capital City, Atlanta), and the other two are inside casinos. Coincidentally, those two casino teams are playing in the Finals, with the Las Vegas Aces taking on the Connecticut Sun. The Sun's home is Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, which is just over two hours by car from NYC, and about double that using transit. I've been waiting for an occasion to get out there and when the Sun advanced to the WNBA Finals, I made plans to go to Game 4 on Sunday afternoon. Fellow sports traveller Eddie was also going, and he picked me up at home, saving me a couple of hours of transit time both ways.

The arena is located inside the Mohegan Sun, a glitzy casino resort that opened in 1996; the arena followed five years later. The Sun moved here in 2003 when the Mohegan tribe purchased and relocated the Orlando Miracle, becoming the first Native American tribe to own a professional sports franchise. Obviously, the team is named after the casino, and perhaps less obviously, they were taking advantage of Connecticut being a women's basketball hotbed due to the presence of the UConn Huskies.

The logo (below) is a modern interpretation of an ancient Mohegan symbol, while an alternate jersey sports the word Keesusk, the Mohegan word for 'sun'; the word is also visible at one baseline in some photos farther below.

Despite this being a Finals game, tickets were readily available at the box office, with the cheapest going for $44 including fees, nearly triple the regular season price. Fortunately, there are cheaper options as many casino club members get complimentary tickets and sell them for much less. Of the 9,652 in attendance, I'd bet that 75% did not pay for their ticket. Sadly, I was in the minority, forking over $25 for my ducat.

Inside, I was surprised to see the above sign, curious how such a ranking can be achieved. Turns out this is related to capacity size and ticket sales, and Mohegan Sun sold more tickets for a venue between 5,001-10,000 seats, mostly due to the many concerts it hosts during the year.

In fact, you can see some of the acts who have performed here on posters above the concourse. The arena colours are muted orange and brown, following the style of the resort, which has an Indian theme. There are two separate casinos (Sky and Earth), and each has an entrance to the arena. Long lines formed before gates opened, causing some gamblers to wonder what was going on. Yep, even a WNBA Finals game did not register with much of the clientele. Inside, the concourse is large enough for the crowd, but concessions do see long lines before the game and at halftime. I'd advise eating at one of the many restaurants in the resort before or after the game.

The seating bowl is designed for basketball and there are no bad seats in the building. The corner sections face the court and even the upper deck is quite close as there are no suites between the two levels. The scoreboard above center court is very small, though there are two stat boards at either end.

There are several banners along one side of the arena: three highlighting the Sun's achievements (they have yet to win the title), another with jerseys of team legends, and then one for the "Fight of the Century" between Gatti and Ward in 2002 (a rather premature declaration with 98 years to go), one for Billy Joel's 10 sold-out shows, and one for the facility's numerous Arena of the Year awards.

Below is the shot from the upper deck at midcourt. As you can see, it is not a big place.

There were glowsticks handed out at entry and when they did the player introductions, the arena went dark and everyone turned on their glowsticks, which made for a striking sight. The fans were loud all game and really gave the place an atmosphere that is rarely experienced in larger NBA arenas. There are cheerleaders, a mascot, and an arena host too, but whenever there was a break in the action, I checked the NFL scores.

Overall, Mohegan Sun Arena is a surprisingly attractive venue that is an excellent place to watch basketball. If you are vehemently opposed to women's hoops, there are men's college games held here on occasion, though expect a much different crowd and more expensive tickets. Either way, if you haven't been, consider a visit in the near future.

The Game

Top seed Las Vegas won the first two games of the best-of-five series at home and then were blown out in Game 3 by the Sun, who finished second in the East but upset Chicago in the conference finals. The first half was a series of runs. Down 6-4, the Aces went on a 12-0 spurt, only for the Sun to follow with a 9-0 run that took us into the second quarter. Las Vegas responded with 9 straight points of their own, only for Connecticut to score 10 straight to tie the game at 25 with 1:21 remaining in the half. The Aces then outscored the Sun 5-3 to make it 30-28 at the break. As you can probably tell from the score, this was not a shooting clinic.

The second half was better however, and there were four ties, but Connecticut could not establish themselves with regularity and we went to the fourth with Las Vegas up 53-49. The Aces maintained the lead through the quarter and were up 67-61 when an inexplicably bad call gave the Sun the momentum. Kelsey Plum was called for a flagrant foul on a three-point attempt that was anything but flagrant. If this had happened in an NBA game, Twitter would have exploded, but as far as I could tell, there were only six tweets decrying the terrible call. Anyway, DeWanna Bonner sank all three freebies and then the Sun kept possession due to the flagrant and Jonquel Jones drained an easy basket and that six-point advantage was down to just one. The Sun tied it on a free throw and when Las Vegas turned it over on a shot clock violation and Courtney Williams added two points for Connecticut, it seemed like Game 5 was assured. Riquna Williams made a trey for the Aces, only for Brionna Jones to sink a couple from the charity stripe to make it 71-70 Connecticut with 1:50 to go. But the Aces did not fold; Riquna made another three and then the Sun missed three straight shots on the ensuing possession, with the last blocked by Chelsea Gray. After a timeout, Riquna made another shot and suddenly it was 75-71 Aces and the Sun had to call timeout. Coming out of it, Bonner threw the ball into the hands of A'ja Wilson and the Aces killed 20 seconds before Plum drained a basket to make it 77-71 with jut 25 seconds remaining. Some fans started to leave which amazed me because even if your team loses, you should stay to watch the ceremony.

The Aces added a final point to win 78-71 and the celebration began, and some fans supporting the Sun stayed, because they know that history was made and even though they didn't win, to witness a trophy presentation is not something that many can brag about.

The trophy was held up high to the cheers of the visiting fans (below), most of whom seemed to be family. ESPN was broadcasting the game and Holly Rowe interviewed owner Mark Davis (who missed his Raiders collapse), MVP Gray and coach Becky Hammon. It was a relatively quick ceremony compared to other sports but still very meaningful and I am glad I had a chance to be there.

Congratulations to the Las Vegas Aces for bringing a title to a town that had no pro sports teams just five years ago. And make no mistake, both the NBA and MLB team will have teams there in the next five years, so you know I will be back.

Notes

The Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame is also located in the Casino of the Sky and displays old posters, hard stubs, and other memorabilia that shows that the state has had its share of top-notch boxers. It only takes a few minutes to peruse everything, but should not be missed by any fan of the Sweet Science.

The Aces social media crew is vicious, posting the following on Twitter: 

They're fast with the banners at Mohegan.

This was my 26th championship witnessed and it never gets old. No matter the level, a championship means something and to see the Aces players so emotional after the victory is something I will not forget. Rookie coach Becky Hammon, who played in the league for 16 seasons and then spent seven seasons as an assistant with San Antonio in the NBA, won her first championship and I'm pretty sure she won't take any guff from anyone about it. The Aces won the first pro title for Las Vegas and owner Mark Davis was pretty proud of that fact. If you disagree, please take it up with him.

Best,

Sean


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Why Quality Starts is a Stupid Statistic

I attended the Mets-Cubs game last night and although the Mets lost, Jacob de Grom pitched 6 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. This resulted in the following stat being broadcast across the internet: "Jacob de Grom has tied the MLB record with his 39th consecutive start allowing 3 ER or less. Jim Scott did it in 1913-14."

Statistically, it is true that de Grom has not given up more than 3 earned runs in a start since September 3, 2019, when the Nationals scored 4 against him (in a game that is remembered more for having 12 combined runs in the 9th inning). But neither he nor Scott holds the record. Instead, that honour goes to Ryne Stanek, a reliever who started 56 games for Tampa Bay in 2018-19 and never gave up more than 3 earned runs. Now, I can hear you protesting, "But Stanek is an opener, he shouldn't count". Fair enough. But in de Grom's streak of 39, there was a game where he pitched just 2 innings and gave up 3 earned runs, leaving with a hamstring spasm. And lest you think that Jim Scott, having pitched when complete games were the norm, had no such blemishes in his 39 starts, think again. On June 14, 1913, Scott started for the White Sox against Walter Johnson and the Senators and was removed after 1 inning, yielding two runs (one unearned). A similar outcome occurred on September 1 of that year, another single inning with 3 runs given up (two unearned). If these games count as part of the 39-game streaks, then so do Stanek's and he is the rightful record holder. 

But let's be honest: any record involving starting pitchers that does not include innings pitched is garbage. Given the proliferation of stupid statistics, it is not surprising that sports media tries to find any sort of streak and hype it without doing proper research. So what is a more meaningful record? How about 5 innings pitched? The record is 36, held by Jack Chesbro (from North Adams, MA), who did so in 1904, though one of those games was called after five innings. (The modern record is 29, held by Greg Maddux and Jake Arrieta). Still, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings isn't that good, so let's take 6 innings and 3 earned runs or less, which is also known as a quality start. The record belongs to Jack Taylor, who pitched 28 consecutive quality starts in 1901-02, completing all 28. You might have heard about Framber Valdez and his current streak of 24, that is the record for quality starts in the same season.

Which leads to the main point of this post: how quality starts are really not quality. Giving up 3 earned runs in 6 innings leads to a 4.50 ERA. As of this writing, the ERA across baseball is 3.99. So how is being below average considered "quality"? To make my point clearer, out of 2,125 games played this season, 1,559 (73%) were quality starts. This is just too many to be worthwhile. Quite obviously, quality starts is a statistic that merits no attention whatsoever (just like OPS).

To me, a true quality start (TQS) is 7+ IP and 2 ER or less. Even then, there are 531 (25%) of those so far this season, a surprising number. Perhaps starting pitching is not as abysmal as I thought. To compare however, in 1968 there were 1,410 TQSs out of 1,619 games (87%). The next year, when the mound was lowered and four expansion clubs joined, there were 1,397 TQSs out of 1,943 games (72%). In other words, the percentage of TQSs in 1969 is almost the same as quality starts this season. So yeah, times have changed.

For interest's sake, let's consider 8 innings and 1 ER or less (call it an exceptional quality start or EQS). This season has seen only 94 EQSs (4.4%), with Sandy Alcantara accounting for 8, while Aaron Nola has 6. No other pitcher has more than 3. Looking back once more, the numbers in 1968 were 750 EQSs (46%) and 721 (37%) in 1969. 

In the end, the quality start statistic should be abolished and replaced with true quality starts. Giving up 2 runs in 7 innings pitched is equivalent to a 2.57 ERA, which is certainly a number that most starters would be happy with. By the way, the record for consecutive TQSs is 16, held by Felix Hernandez, who did so in 2014, though he finished none of those games. The record for consecutive EQSs is 11 by Bob Gibson in 1968, he completed all 11, pitching 8 shutouts and allowing 1 run in the other 3 games for an ERA of 0.27 over that span. Safe to say we won't be seeing that kind of dominance again.

Finally, all of these numbers are courtesy of Baseball Reference's Stathead tool, which I highly recommend if you want to research sports stats and discover what the media isn't telling you.

Best,

Sean


Thursday, September 8, 2022

MLB Standings After 135 Games


The 162 games of an MLB season can be divided into six 27-game parts, with each part generally corresponding to one month of the campaign. Now that each team has completed five of those six parts, I thought I would post the standings after 135 games, along with the 81-game standings I posted two months back. Again, these are in playoff format:

AL                   NL
HOU 87-48 (53-28,2)  LAD 93-42 (52-29,1)
NYY 81-54 (58-23,1)  NYM 85-50 (50-31,2)
CLE 70-65 (40-41,7)  STL 79-56 (44-37,6) 
TB  77-58 (44-37,5)  ATL 84-51 (47-34,4)
SEA 76-59 (39-42,8)  PHI 74-61 (43-38,7) 
TOR 75-60 (44-37,6)  SD  74-61 (47-34,5)
-------------------------------------------
BAL 71-64 (37-44,11) MIL 71-64 (46-35,3)
MIN 68-67 (45-36,3)  ARI 65-70 (37-43,10)
CWS 68-67 (39-42,9)  SF  65-70 (41-40,8)
BOS 67-68 (45-36,4)  COL 57-78 (35-46,11)
LAA 59-76 (37-44,12) CHC 57-78 (33-48,13) 
TEX 59-76 (38-43,10) CIN 55-80 (28-53,15)
KC  55-80 (30-51,14) MIA 55-80 (39-42,9)
DET 51-84 (34-47,13) PIT 50-85 (33-48,12)
OAK 50-85 (26-55,15) WSH 48-87 (29-52,14)
Substantial movement in the American League, with Cleveland pushing in front of Minnesota and Seattle going 37-17 to look like a solid contender in place of Boston. The Jays continue to hold the last playoff spot, while Houston has leapfrogged the struggling Yankees for the #1 seed; the Orioles are also a surprise at 34-20 since the midway point.

In the National League, not so much change, with Philly moving up in place of Milwaukee. The Mets went 35-19 and are considered to be scuffling, but it is Atlanta's 37-17 record that is the reason the Mets are not running away with the East. Based on the last 54 games, a Mariners/Braves World Series prediction would not be outlandish.

There are 27 games left from this point, though most teams have played a few of those already. The only real questions are who will win the AL Central pennant (the losers are not making the playoffs), whether Baltimore can catch Toronto or Seattle, and whether Milwaukee can catch Philadelphia or San Diego. I'll post the final standings here in a month.

Best, 

Sean

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Real Salt Lake 0 at LAFC 2 (MLS) - September 4, 2022

The third and final stop of our Los Angeles tripleheader was Banc of California Stadium, home of LAFC. The drive from Carson took about 20 minutes and the car was left at the hotel at which Andrew and Peter were staying, a short walk from the stadium. This eliminated the need to find street parking, always tough in downtown LA even without a sporting event, and we arrived at the stadium a few minutes before the scheduled 7:30 kickoff. We approached from the north east and along the path to the entrance are dozens of small food carts selling hot dogs and other comestibles, as well as water that you can bring into the stadium. Note the space in the entrance in the photo below; you can get a good shot of the L.A. skyline through this "keyhole" when you are inside the venue.

The facility opened in 2018 and is built on the site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, which was demolished in 2016, four years after I had the good fortune to attend a game there. It was the first open-air sports venue built in Los Angeles since 1962. Capacity is just 22,000, which means tickets can be rather expensive when the team is doing well. The game was sold out with an additional 199 fans making their way in, so we had to resort to the secondary market, where prices were usually in excess of $50. I found a slightly cheaper option using Reddit of all things, and was happy with my location 10 rows up in Section 109, facing the box that LAFC would attack in the first half.

This also happened to be close to the "3252" supporters section, which is so dubbed because that is the number of spots in the standing area. This is a very steep incline (34 degrees) and the place is jumping all game long. They really give the stadium its atmosphere and I enjoyed sitting next to them.


Before the game, I wandered around a bit to take some pictures. There are two levels on the other three sides of the stadium. As you can see, the seating bowl is very close to the pitch, the way it should be for soccer; the closest seats are just 12 feet away. As more and more teams move into soccer-specific venues, the league becomes that much more enticing for a full-season road trip. Of the 28 clubs in the league, 21 now have their own stadium, with six others sharing with the NFL, while defending champion NYCFC plays second fiddle to the Yankees and hence has to play games at Citi Field, Red Bull Arena, or even here. Yes, NYCFC played a CONCACAF Champions League match in Los Angeles back in February, in front of just 100 fans. Now that would have been interesting.


Anyway, I had enough time to get to the upper deck and take the requisite photo from midfield. Below is a shot from the same position, looking back to the supporters' section.



And looking the other way (southwest), with the large scoreboard above the seating area. And yes, that is a falcon on the scoreboard.


One of the pre-match traditions at LAFC is to have a falcon fly around the stadium in search of a lure with the opposition logo on it. If you rearrange LAFC, you get FALC, so why not? It is unique, works well, and gets the fans going. Below is the falconer about to release the bird; there are sometimes honourary falconers who are mostly celebrities from the entertainment world.


Given the tight schedule, I didn't have time to tour the whole venue, and was not interested in concessions, preferring to take my seat and enjoy the show. And the supporters put on quite the show, singing and dancing from start to finish. 


Overall, Banc of California Stadium is what a soccer venue should be: minimal distance between the seats and the field, strong supporters' section, and some unique and interesting touches. Along with Cincinnati's TQL Stadium, this is one of the best venues in the league and well worth a visit for any sports fan.

The Game

LAFC came in leading the West and in a tight race with Philadelphia for the Supporters' Shield, while Real Salt Lake was in 7th, just in front of the LA Galaxy for the final playoff spot. LAFC boasts some top international talent including Giorgio Chiellini (Italy), Carlos Vela (Mexico), Gareth Bale (Wales, with the man bun below) and keeper Maxime Crépeau from Quebec. Both Vela and Bale were substitutes, showing how strong the squad is.


The first half was mostly dominated by LAFC, who had a goal correctly ruled offside in the 36th minute. That's Cristian (Chicho) Arango (Colombia) below with the ball taken in an offside position; the red circle is none other than myself.


A minute later, LAFC had a shot saved by a defender, which doesn't seem to count as a save in general, looking at the stats board at halftime. 


The second half saw LAFC challenge early and they were rewarded in the 49th minute when a cross was punched away by RSL keeper Zac MacMath, only for the ball to fall to Ryan Hollingshead, who drove it home for his fifth marker of the year to lead all MLS defenders.


In the 68th minute, Vela found Chicho with a perfect touch pass and Chicho had no problem slotting past MacMath to double the lead. RSL had a couple of chances but Crépeau was equal to the task, while LAFC earned a late penalty only for Vela's attempt to be parried away by MacMath.


The final was 2-0 in a fairly dominant performance by LAFC, who outshot RSL 20-8 (though shots on target was a more equitable 7-5). The MLS playoffs are always a crapshoot, but LAFC looks like a good bet to win the West right now.

Notes

The stadium also hosts the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club Angel City FC, who lead the league in attendance with 18,755 per game, almost three times the average. In fact, they had an exhibition game the next day against the Mexican National Team that sadly I could not attend.

The naming rights were terminated in 2020, but the name continues as LAFC look for a new partner. SportsRoadTrips Field? Just need about $100 million over 15 years. Anyone? Anyone?

Next Up

I'll be attending a few Mets games as the season winds down before heading over to Berlin in early October for my first international trip since 2019. The schedule is still coming together, but I should see four games over three days. Check back for recaps next month.

Best,

Sean


Monday, September 5, 2022

Sporting KC 2 at Los Angeles Galaxy 2 (MLS) - September 4, 2022

After watching the hapless Angels get hammered by Houston, Andrew, Peter, and myself headed northwest to Carson, home of Dignity Health Sports Park. This would be the second of three games on the day with the Los Angeles Galaxy hosting Sporting KC. It took us about 30 minutes to get here from Anaheim, and another 30 minutes to get through the extremely poorly designed parking area. I rarely drive to events in the Big 4 because of situations like this; the fact that they charge you $20 just adds insult to injury. This has to be the worst parking setup in all of sports, even more frustrating than Dodger Stadium. And for MLS no less! I don't know how season ticket holders deal with the traffic; the surrounding neighbourhoods generally restrict event parking, but we saw some people walking up, an option we could not use, as we had to head to LAFC immediately afterward.

Coincidentally, we all visited this stadium back in 2017 for the Chargers, when it was known as StubHub Center. It has since returned to its soccer-only configuration, with the temporary bleacher seats in the far end zone removed to reveal a lawn area that some fans used as a very relaxing spot from which to watch the game. Opened in 2003, this is the oldest soccer-specific venue in the league and there certainly have been advances in the past two decades, as we would discover later in the evening.

Our seats were in Section 236, which is just above the nearest UP! in the photo above. The team uses AXS as their ticketing app, and that is the best place to get secondary tickets as well, with fees slightly less than most other providers. I paid $24 for my seat, picking up the ticket while I was at the Angels game.

In the corner near here is a standing area above one of the supporters' sections. There is another supporters' section at the far side and at times, they would alternate cheers (LA! GALAXY!), which was quite impressive.

The club has had some success over the years, including a record five MLS Cups and two US Open Cups, with titles shown on the facade of the suites above one end zone. That first MLS Cup came in 2002 and at halftime, there was a ceremony honouring the 20th anniversary of that achievement with many of the players returning to be feted once again.

The view from our seats facing west is above; the sun was shining on us for most of the game but at least it was cloudy, so it wasn't that bothersome. The lack of shaded seats was one of my complaints during my last visit; the 5 p.m. start time on this day meant that about half the stadium was in shade at kickoff, and more at halftime as you can see below.

We did the walkaround at halftime, noticing plenty of overpriced concessions and not much else. I didn't particularly enjoy this place when I saw the Chargers here, and I didn't particularly enjoy it this time either. The parking fiasco left a bad impression and nothing after that did anything to ameliorate the situation. Oh well, I have no reason to return here and doubt I ever will.

The Game

The Galaxy entered the match in 8th spot in the West, just outside the playoffs, while SKC was 12th. It was steaming hot day with the on-field temperature approaching 40C, but that didn't stop LA from taking an early lead as Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez finished a perfect pass from Victor Vazquez for his 200th career club goal just four minutes in. The heat did stop either team from doing much after that, with a Sporting goal called back for offside the only event of note in the first half.

Midway through the second stanza, a deflected ball hit the errant hand of LA defender Derrick Williams, resulting in a penalty for SKC. Johnny Russell took the shot and went right, but Galaxy goalie Jonathan Bond guessed correctly and got his fingertips on the ball, only to see it bounce in off the post. Tough luck for Bond and a 1-1 draw with about 25 minutes to go. Just past the 75th minute, we had to leave to get to the next match, and of course, a goal was scored immediately as KC took the surprise lead. As Andrew sped north, I followed the rest of the game online, as Chicharito scored a penalty to tie things up late. He had another penalty in extra time but his cheeky chip was easily saved by Jon Pulskamp and the match ended with the spoils shared.

There were nearly 10 minutes of stoppage time, so staying for the entire match and getting to LAFC on time was impossible. I don't like leaving early, but sometimes, you have to sacrifice when the scheduling gods are not kind. Generally, each team sets its own schedule in conjunction with TV partners and the league, and doubleheaders for traveling fans are not a consideration, even in the same league. To be fair, I doubt anyone else tried to see both games as Galaxy fans would not leave early to see their hated rivals, nor would LAFC supporters bother to travel and risk missing their pregame show. As for neutral fans, as far as I can tell, Andrew, Peter, and I were the only ones and we did make it to LAFC on time, but more on that in the next post.

Notes

Leaving early means that this was not a true tripleheader, as all three games were not seen start to finish. And no, seeing three games in the same venue doesn't count either, you have to see three entire games in three different venues. In all of my travels, I have only seen one true tripleheader, 2/22/20 in Chicago for college basketball.

Best,

Sean


Saturday, September 3, 2022

Houston Astros 4 at Los Angeles Angels 2 - September 2, 2022

Both the Dodgers and Angels were home over Labor Day weekend, and having visited Dodger Stadium just last year, I decided to stay in Anaheim as I had not been to Angel Stadium since 2010. A lot has changed since then, including a regional transit center that opened in 2014 and allows for easier access to the stadium for those without a car (and plenty of time). It is called Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) and they should have added Consolidated in there to make it ARCTIC, an ironic appellation in Southern California. That's it below; it took about three hours for me to get there from my airport hotel on a Friday afternoon (though there was a long wait for Metrolink which allowed me to have lunch at a nearby fast food establishment). From here, it is a very short walk to the outfield entrance of the stadium.

I stayed at a hotel at Stadium Promenade a large open-air mall with a cinema and several restaurants, including Lazy Dog and Tilted Kilt. From there, it is about 15 minutes to the stadium, a nice walk when the weather is reasonable but tough when the temperature reached 40 degrees as it did on Sunday.

But things were much cooler on Friday night, which was Ducks night, a nod to the other pro team in Anaheim. There was a giveaway of a Ducks/Angels beanie that is unlikely to ever be necessary in Southern California but will serve me well when winter strikes NYC. As well, there were some promo booths with free hats and a couple of mini hockey games that you could play. I did give them my email address to get a hat and was subsequently signed up to 27 (no joke, 27) email lists. Fortunately, you can unsubscribe to all at once, but still, why do you need so many email lists to begin with?

Anyway, I picked up a ticket at the box office for $12 and made my way inside, walking past the bullpens and around to the concourse near home plate, where I stood for the first inning.

It is there you will find an extensive display of recent Angels memorabilia, with most of it dedicated to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, who are the only two players of note on the team these days. 

Ohtani's MVP award from last year is on display here along with many other awards and mementos.

Of course, giant bobbleheads of both Ohtani and Trout can also be found.

To be fair, the Angels have a solid history including that 2002 World Series, and the club's Hall of Fame is filled with names from my youth. When I lived in Vancouver, the Canadians were the Angels AAA affiliate and Anderson played two full seasons there before going on to a strong MLB career.

And there are awards on display from players from that era; among these are several Gold Gloves including one for Bengie Molina, who won in 2002 and 2003. 

In the main plaza behind home plate is a statue of Gene Autry who founded the club back in 1961. Current owner Arte Moreno is looking to sell the team, so if you have an extra billion or two in your back pocket, please contact him.

Around the third inning, I made my way down to the good seats, which are mostly unguarded, and watched the game from there. It was a great night for baseball, but the Angels did not do their fans any favours. In particular, Jose Marte replaced starter Reid Detmers with the bases loaded in the fifth and proceeded to walk in two runs that made it 4-0 Astros.

Naturally, the Angels got those two runs back and nothing more, losing 4-2 to fall to 57-75 on the season. It must be tough for Trout and Ohtani to be surrounded by so many stiffs.

Notes

I went back on Sunday as part of an LA tripleheader (with only one game actually taking place in LA) and took the traditional picture from the upper deck behind the plate, with the Honda Center in the distance. The Angels lost that one 9-1 with a Trout homer in the 8th breaking the shutout. 

Best,

Sean