Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Angels Will Fly Anyway

OK, you win. I lose.

The one time I pick Boston to rise, the Sox flop. To the retched Royals, who haven't won anything since clickers had cords.

And when I call an Angel sweep of the Yankees, New York suddenly finds its bullpen. And wins two of three in Anaheim.

So there went my brilliant scenario of Boston winning the American League East, letting L.A. skirt the Sox in the playoffs' first round.

Now the Angels are stuck with Fenway. And they have one monstrous problem winning there.

Not that they won't do it. The Halos are headed for their second world title since 2002. They just face more turbulence.

Beating the Yankees in the first round would've been a breeze. Just like the last two times the Angels and Bombers met.

Beating the Sox is a code red proposition. The Angels could've done it 1986, but pulled Mike Witt. They could've done it in 2004, but served one up to Ortease. They could've done it in 2007, but pitched to Mannroid. They could've done it last year, but squeezed right out of it.

That's not a trend. That's history. These Angels have new orders: beat Boston, win the pennant, capture the World Series.

Too upbeat for guys like that grouser calling Angel radio after the loss to the Yanks Wednesday, saying Jeff Biggs' optimism made him throw up?

Tough. Just as Biggs pulled the plug on that downer, I'm flicking they of little faith. That too biblical for you? So what; they're the Angels.

The right tone: While at Angel Stadium recently, 'twas marvelous hearing the organ. Never noticed it before, and even griped that the park could use that old baseball feel of Dodger Stadium.

This time, the player tickled the keys to Gershwin's 'S Wonderful. All Angel Stadium has to do is play a second verse of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and I'd say 's paradise.

What? Too bad broadcasters and baseball writers get sucked in to using command to describe how hurlers spot pitches.

The word is control. That was part of the lexicon for eons. Don't know when it morphed into command, but that word needs a beaning.

Speaking of terms: Heard a cool one today. During the Angel radio broadcast, Rex Hudler said of taking a pitch, "Spit on it."

Last call: Shaking off that debacle mentioned above, I'm going with this doozy for Sunday:

The Redskins hand Detroit its first victory since Bobby Layne.

Serves Washington right for cutting fellow Mizzou Tiger Chase Daniel.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Jets' Pilot; The Angels Will Yank It Out

Now we know.

Remember when Pete Carroll bitched about the flight of Mark Sanchez to the NFL?

The Southern Cal coach knew:

1. Sanchez is an ace of a quarterback. The Jets also spotted that rocket arm and drafted him faster than an F-16 flyover. They look brilliant after On The Mark manhandled New England Sunday.

2. The Trojans had the equivalent of a corpse behind Sanchez. At least that's what Aaron Corp looked like in that burial in Seattle Saturday.

And do I care about USC's demise? No. It's only that we get radio blitzed in L.A. over all things Trojan. And I haven't been so stoked about my Jets since the '60s. As a Mizzou guy, I say to USC: Bite On.

Halo heat: The stretch, the pitch will start any minute at Angel Stadium.

Which leaves time to declare: The Angels will batter their punching bags, the Yankees.

Which leads to this: New York will soon enough turn into a little apple, or wild card. That will come to fruition when Boston follows the Angels’ sweep with its own broom job of the Yanks.

Which means good news for Angel fans. They won’t have to bother with the Sox in the playoffs’ first round. In other words, Los Angeles’ American League contingent has a chance to reach the second round.

The Angels own the Yankees. Especially in the playoffs. Now they’ll duplicate 2002 and 2005 and expose New York as the bullpen-less, Mr. June Rodriguez team that it is.

That Round 1 triumph will have the Angels flexing their confidence for a bashing of Boston in the pennant series.

And a six-game finishing of Philly in the World Series.

Want another tip? Rivera. He’s the Juan, all right. The Angels’ big bat in left field is a postseason MVP waiting to happen.

Focus, blue. What can the umpires possibly be seeing? A pitch goes right down the middle. And the guy behind the catcher calls balls.

The other day I'm watching the Angels' Jered Weaver firing pitches perfectly. Ball three, ball four.

Where else should he have thrown? One millimeter higher?

I'm hardly nitpicking. This is an epidemic. Umps simply let batters get away with watching pitches in the meat of the strike zone. Ball two, ball three.

Batters foul off everything else, making for snoozeroo baseball.

Message to the men in blue: Tighten the strike zone. Make batters do what Doubleday drew up -- swing.

Speaking of delays: These replays to decide football calls are killing the sport.

Where's the flow? Gone the way of the head slap.

Sideline catch. End zone dive. Fumble. Stop the game for five minutes so the refs can watch 15 angles.

Good thing for the clicker. And for MLB Network, which fills the gaps with old World Series games.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When Air Force Football Soared In Europe

Ah, the great '80s.

Darryl Strawberry.

Steffi Graf.

The Berlin Wall.

Wait a minute. What was great about the bloody wall?

Nothing philosophically. It kept millions of Germans prisoners. And stood for the evil empire that Ronald Reagan tore down.

Yet when the Berlin barrier crashed with two months left in the '80s, one group saw the downside. That would be the American military.

For our GIs in Europe, the party simply stopped in the twilight of the '80s. Suddenly vibrant American communities from England to Turkey had no reason to stay in business.

Soon enough, our troop count shrank from 375,000 under Reagan to 100,000 under Clinton. With that disappearing act, bases, barracks, commissaries and schools vanished.

One big league followed them into the ether. When the wall came down, it took Air Force football's heyday with it.

What a stud league it was. Teams competed all over England, Germany, Holland and Spain. Fans packed base stadiums. And I had one fun ride covering the action for Stars & Stripes, the GI newspaper.

The other day, a bunch of former players huddled in Las Vegas to relive those glory days. The group invited me to speak at the reunion, and I was honored. I was also ready with points:

With so many Air Force guys in the room, I felt as safe as Brink's.

Reporting for Stars & Stripes was the dream job of the '80s. First, my boss was Bob Wicker, an MVP of a sports editor. Second, my beat was Air Force football.

That was my ticket to traipse around Europe covering America's finest. Up to England's bases at Upper Heyford, Mildenhall, Lakenheath. Over to Germany's fields at Bitburg, Ramstein, Rhein-Main.

OK, it could get ugly. The Chicksands base in England hanged me in effigy. My sin: picking the other team to win.

They all added up to our boys in blue playing a great American sport. In Europe.

Simply a ball on the west side of the wall.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Friday, September 4, 2009

Angels Will Take It; Jeter Is MVP; Who's That Man Posing As A Chick?

If you have one anymore, bet the mortgage. This lock will keep you in your house forever:

Angels over Philly in six.

Yes, L.A.'s other team will win it all for the second time since 2002. And in the process beat baseball's defending champion Phillies.

I've been picking the Halos all season. While friends scoffed. The team had so many weak links to strengthen without using steroids.

First, the Angels lacked power. Then they started jacking them out while trotting out the first all-.300 lineup since the Depression.

Second, the Angels couldn't hold a lead. Then they discovered a juicy righty in Kevin Jepsen to set up slam-the-door lefty Brian Fuentes.

Third, the Angels hurt for starting moundsmen. Then John Lackey and Ervin Santana revived to supplement Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders.

Fourth, the Angels searched all over for a fifth starter. Then along came Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay. Along with his Boston-strangling resume, which the Halos need to finally beat the Sox in the playoffs.

Shazam! Quicker than you can spell Scioscia, the Angels have managed to emerge as MLB's best.

With Erick Aybar sprinting, Juan Rivera slugging and Torii Hunter snatching every shot near the wall, Anaheim is on course to reach the stratosphere of Disneyland's Space Mountain.

MVP: Give it to Derek Jeter.

He's on target for a .330 season. Playing a solid shortstop for the Yankees. Sparking them to MLB's best record right now.

Jeter is simply the face of baseball. And what an ambassadorial mug that is. He's the coolest dude this side of Kobe Bryant, without Kobe's obvious arrogance.

And what a career. Four World Series titles. On the verge of 3,000 hits.

Jeter should've won the Most Valuable Player trophy in 2006. The man murdered the ball at a .343 clip to lead New York to the American League East title. He was the cog in the league's main machine.

Yet he finished second in MVP voting to a faceless Minnesota first baseman, Justin Morneau.

Now Jeter faces another Minnesota barrier. This time it's Joe Mauer, which is German for wall. The Twin catcher is a brick of a backstop outslugging Jeter in all batting areas.

Can Jeter hurdle that dam and claim his first MVP Award? He has a month to close the numbers. And to rally the voters. He already has me.

Road rut: Talk about hitting a red light. The Angels pack their home park every night to the tune of 40,300. That's the fifth best average in baseball.

Away from home, it's not so sweet. The Halos draw just 26,400, the worst road mark. In all of MLB.

What? More fans around the country want to see the Royals? The Pirates? The Nationals?


An old Angel radio guy who now lives in the East was a guest recently with Jeff Biggs on KLAA. I called in to ask what gives with this Halo road rejection, but gave up while on hold for what seemed extra innings.

The way I see it, the Angels lack pizzazz with the rest of the country.

I mean, who glitters on this team? Maybe Torii Hunter. At least he speaks engagingly. And in English, something sluggers Vlad Guerrero and Kendry Morales shun in public.

Otherwise, the Angels are a team to the nines. No I guys. Not many national fans either.

Stan the man: Kudos to Stan Isaacs for his recent column on how to give sports a kick.

He proposed on this site that soccer drop the goalie.

That's exactly what I've been saying for years. Even when I lived in Germany. You can imagine what that idea did to local faces. Turned them into sneers.

Here's one for baseball: Limit foul balls to five per batter. The fifth would be an out, just as a two-strike bunt foul is a strikeout.

Fouls are doing their darnedest to make baseball boring. Ever since Bill James spelled out how fouling off balls tires the pitcher while drawing better offerings, batters hit 'em backward eternally.

So now every guy faces 10 pitches. Zzzzzzzz.

Keep the fouls to five, and you zip up the game.

Man, is this easy: You hear about the guy posing as a gal in track?

He cast himself as Caster Semenya. I guess that's a chick name.

And captured the 800 meters at the world championships last month in Berlin.

He won gold for one simple reason. He ran against girls.

Look at him up there. Caster is about as much of a woman as Ron Artest, for whom the South African is a dead ringer.

Semenya is South African. If you believe anything he says.

And he might get away with this flimflam. You should hear the track officials squirming about pee, DNA, who know what tests.

Here's the test they should give him quicker than he can run:

Pull his pants down.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs