The 2012 Angels vs. the 2011 White Sox

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The 2012 Angels vs. the 2011 White Sox

It's a scenario White Sox fans are all too familiar with: team makes a splash in the offseason, is picked by nearly everyone to make the playoffs, struggles out of the gate early and never recovers.

The Angels have hit three of those first four points in 2012, just as the White Sox did in 2011. At 16-21, Los Angeles is two games ahead of the White Sox pace through 37 games in last year's disastrous All In campaign. It's far too early to bury them, especially with a second wild card at their disposal.

There's still plenty of time for players to turn around slow starts. Pitching isn't the Angels' problem -- sound familiar? -- and the rotation will only get stronger as Dan Haren's 4.41 ERA improves. The bullpen has been a little shaky in the early going -- again, sound familiar? -- but it has enough good arms that it'll probably be okay.

The real concern here, though, is offense. The Angels are on pace to be shut out more than any team in baseball history, which, by the way, includes the dead ball era. There's little chance the Angels will actually be shut out 36 times this season, but that about one in every five contests has seen Los Angeles' offense fail to score is, well, awful.

The Angels have scored 134 runs, the third-lowest total in the American League behind the paltry offenses of Minnesota and Oakland. By any stat, the Angels have a below-average offense, with a few high-priced culprits shouldering the blame.

Frustrated with Brent Morel's slow start to the season (.178.214.196)? He has some company in the offensive depths of baseball, as Angels shortstop Erick Aybar is hitting .187.213.228. While Aybar is mainly known for his defense, he started the season as the Angels' leadoff hitter and signed a four-year, 35 million contract extension on April 19. That's not the kind of money you shell out to a No. 8 hitter, which is where Aybar has hit in all but one game in May.

Vernon Wells is making 21 million every year from 2012 through 2014, and he's proven to be little more than an expensive roadblock on Mike Trout's path to the majors. Since joining the Angels last season, he has a .251 on-base percentage -- 21 points lower than Morel's OBP since the start of 2011.

And then there's Albert Pujols, who's doing a spot-on Adam Dunn impression through his first 36 games with the Angels. The smart money is on Pujols pulling out of his malaise at some point -- unlike Dunn, there was no rushed return from an appendectomy to mess up his swing -- but until he does, stats like this are going to keep being brought up:
Players with more home runs than Albert Pujols

Gordon Beckham
Jose Altuve (note: he's listed as 5-foot-5)
Mark Ellis
Chone Figgins
Miguel Olivo (in 17 plate appearances)
And many more!

Pujols' .536 OPS is bested by Beckham (.576) and Dayan Viciedo (.591) and, if it doesn't improve, would be topped by the 2011 OPSes of Dunn (.569) and Alex Rios (.613). And, currently, Juan Pierre is out-slugging Pujols by about 70 points. Juan Pierre.

The Angels are not this bad. Pujols is not this bad, Aybar probably isn't this bad -- although Wells may be this bad -- and as a team, they can't seriously be this bad as we near the 14 mark of the 2012 season.

But hey, we were saying the same things about the White Sox last year.

Robin Ventura praises ex-teammate David Ross after night of ovations

Robin Ventura praises ex-teammate David Ross after night of ovations

On June 25, 2004, Robin Ventura took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth inning of a 13-0 loss to the then Anaheim Angels.

It was Ventura’s lone pitching appearance in his big league career, one that ended that season after 16 years.

And who was behind the plate? Current Cubs catcher David Ross, who’s in the final season of his own lengthy major league career and who experienced quite the moment on Sunday night. In the Cubs’ final regular-season home game, a packed Wrigley Field stood in recognition of the backup catcher and his career ahead of each of his three plate appearances — the second of which ended in a solo home run — and then again when manager Joe Maddon lifted him from the game in the seventh inning.

The roaring ovations were unusual for a backup catcher who’s batting .233 (after hitting just .176 last season on the North Side), but according to Ventura — a teammate of Ross’ in L.A. in 2003 and 2004 — they were absolutely deserved.

“It’s great. Anything he gets I think is great,” Ventura said. “Not often do you see a backup catcher with such a response. But he’s a different guy, and he’s earned that. They wouldn’t do that if he didn’t deserve it. Inside their clubhouse, that’s probably where it comes from, and then it exudes outside, spills over outside of that. I’m sure I’ll talk to him in the offseason.”

Ross hasn’t received a city-by-city sendoff the likes of which Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and even White Sox legend Paul Konerko have received in recent years. But he sure has enjoyed his final season in the big leagues. And he might enjoy it further as the Cubs have the best record in baseball and World Series expectations.

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Ventura had his own final season in the bigs a dozen years ago, and he was the manager during Konerko’s final year in 2014.

“I know a little bit of what he’s going through. But when a guy is at the end and he knows he’s at the end, you can have a little more fun,” Ventura said. “Paulie had some of that his last year where you can exert some energy elsewhere. And it’s still fun, and you spread it around the clubhouse a little bit more than you do just as a player.”

It might be difficult for fans who haven’t closely followed the Cubs over the past two seasons to figure out why Ross has become so beloved. But as Ross’ former teammate, Ventura understands.

“Numbers-wise, he’s not going to jump out off the page to you. But the guys that play in there understand what he brings to it,” Ventura said. “It’s hard to sit there and for people to understand that, as grueling as the season is and the personalities are in that clubhouse. But when you’re talking about a guy that’s played as long as he has, been on some winning teams and continues to bring the enjoyment and really the boyish stuff that he brings. And that’s part of his charm is there’s still a kid in there, even at 40 — what is he? — he looks like 48. There’s a kid in there, and that comes out when you see him or you’re around him.”

So back to that pitching appearance. Ventura fared just fine, giving up just one hit in a scoreless ninth inning. Ross must’ve been calling a good game, right?

“He never put down a signal,” Ventura said. “I didn’t throw hard enough for him to put down a signal.”

Adam Eaton still out of White Sox lineup, recuperating from crash into wall

Adam Eaton still out of White Sox lineup, recuperating from crash into wall

Out of the White Sox lineup the last two days after he crashed into a wall in Cleveland, Adam Eaton remained sidelined Monday, with manager Robin Ventura saying the outfielder needs more time to recuperate.

Of course, Eaton being the kind of player who crashes into walls to make catches, he wants back out on the field in the season’s final week.

“Feeling good,” Eaton reported to reporters ahead of Monday’s series-opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. “I hope to be in there tomorrow. I'm going to test the body parts today. Individually, I want to play until the end and finish strong. That's kind of my outlook as of right now.”

Eaton assumed he was held out of the lineup for the first of the four-game set on the South Side due to Monday’s pitching matchup. Ventura made it pretty clear, though, that that wasn’t the case.

“Yeah, he doesn’t feel that good,” Ventura said when informed of Eaton’s self-assessment. “He’s always going to tell you he feels good. Even if he’s getting better, tomorrow’s going to be a better day for him.

“He’s not playing because he’s physically still banged-up. He will be here, but he’s not going to play today. He’s still recuperating and getting better. But in talking to (trainer Herm Schneider), it’s just best that he doesn’t play today.”

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Eaton needed to be helped off the field by Schneider and teammate Carlos Sanchez on Friday after he made a catch on a deep fly ball off the bat of Roberto Perez and then crashed into the center-field wall at Progressive Field. Getting the wind knocked out of him, Eaton took and passed concussion tests, perhaps preventing a shutdown for the remainder of the season. But he’ll sit out his third straight game Monday.

Despite the concern over a possible concussion, Eaton said the most-affected body part was his hip.

“Biggest thing was my hip, to be honest,” he said. “I think that's what hit first and then kind of a whiplash. I hate to continue referring to a car accident but just kind of a jolt. Taking inventory and making sure everything's aligned again. The doctors there in Cleveland were great. They came over and did all the concussion protocol, making sure I didn't get any dumber, which I'm sure I did. I guess realigning some things and making sure all the body parts are functioning correctly.

“Feel much better today, every day's been getting better. We're going to test some parts out today and if all goes well, my hope is to be in there tomorrow. Hopefully I didn't get Wally Pipp’d and get replaced. I hope I can squeeze back in there.”

Taking a positive out of things, Eaton said he’s happy the crash illustrated the way he hopes to play the game, full go on every play, and that kids might see the catch and want to play the same way.

“As I’ve said the last couple days, it’s how I play and I'm proud to play that way. I've been brought up since I was a little kid to play hard. I hope a little kid at home sees it, that it is cool to make a catch for your team and take a double away, and they want to do that. Of course not getting hurt by any stretch of the imagination. But I was always that kid trying to rob people and taking two extra steps to make a diving play as a 12-year-old or 13-year-old. It’s fun to do it, but you pay the price for it of course.”

The catch might’ve looked pretty cool on the highlight shows. But Eaton wanted to make one thing clear.

“One of my buddies in Michigan said it looked epic,” Eaton said. “I told him it didn't feel epic.”