Next up in my 2010 picture series was my highly anticipated first trip ever to Boston and Fenway Park to see the Red Sox face the Angels on August 18, 2010.

Fenway Park. Nuff said.

After spending most of the day walking the Freedom Trail, my friend and I made our way to Fenway a couple of hours before game time so we didn’t rush our first experience there. This was one of the most iconic ballparks in all of baseball and one that I’ve seen on TV a million times, so I cannot tell you my excitement to finally walk into that ballpark as the green monster came into view. Basically the experience was everything I thought it would be. And of course, the game would be a hit fest that included 12 runs, 22 hits, four hits and oh yeah, a Red Sox victory. Click here to read a detailed account of the game and the trip.


Last month the Blue Jays dealt Vernon Wells to the Angels for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera. Looking at it strictly on paper in terms of talent, the deal looks great for the Angels, but it’s Wells ridiculous contract that is the key.

Wells is in the middle of a 7-year, $126 million contract that will pay him more than $26 million this season and $20+ million until 2014. Meanwhile in return the Jays get a serviceable offensive catcher in Napoli and a 31-year-old former prospect that really never lived up to expectations (only posted a WAR above 2 once in 10 major league seasons). Obviously, this is a straight salary dump for Toronto.

When the Jays signed Wells to the seven-year deal in 2007, he was 27 years old, in his prime and they had Roy Halladay to give them a chance to contend. Things have changed drastically in four years after the Jays struggled to keep up with the big boys of the AL East. Halladay was traded for prospects after the ’09 season and with Wells getting up their in age and the team giving the young prospects a chance to play, the Jays were ready to dump Wells.

The surprising thing is that they found a suitor to take his contract on. Insert the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California. Here’s a team that tried and failed to sign Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this offseason, losing Beltre to a division rival in the Rangers. The Angels obviously took some heat publicly for not signing either free agent and had some extra money to spend, but $23M? They could have spent less than that and still gave more money to Beltre than Texas did.

Let’s look at Wells to see if he’s worth that kind of money. His best seasons were 2003 and 2006, the latter when he hit 32 home runs and a slash line of .303/.357/.542. Following the 2006 season, he slumped the next three years producing a three-year slash line of .265/.317/.426. Which was right after he signed the long-term deal. Did he get complacent? That’s definitely a possibility.

At any rate, Wells rebounded last year with 31 homers, his highest since ’06, and a slash line of .273/.331/.515. But he’ll be 32 this summer, and he’s already shown signs of diminishing skills so I’m not sure what the Angels can expect from him the next couple of years. But I do not see how the Angels will get $23 million dollars worth out of him this year. Wells is one of the top five paid players in all of baseball, but he’s not one of the top five players out there.

The bottom line is the Angels panicked and searched for a deal that could bring in a name. They lost out on Crawford and Beltre while seeing Adrian Gonzalez go to Boston and Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, and they suddenly didn’t have anything to show for this offseason so they looked for a quick desperate deal. Did their team get better on the field? Yes, but at what cost and for how long?

On the other hand, the Jays will miss Wells production from 2010 but with the $75+ million they saved over the next four years, they can better spend the money to keep prospects like Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek among others around. Then again they could just dump that money into Jose Bautista for the next five years and pray last year wasn’t a fluke, but that’s another topic for another day.

With one week remaining in the 2010 regular season, the majority of fans are geared up to see who earns a playoff berth with five playoff spots still up for grabs. I’m obviously interested in that, but I’m also looking forward to those second place finishers that do not qualify for the playoffs. And why is that exactly? Because MLB awards teams for not making the playoffs as well! According to MLB’s postseason bylaws, it states that the four 2nd place teams (the non-wild card clubs) who do not make the postseason still receive 1% of the playoff shares.

I honestly didn’t even know this myself until a friend emailed me about it the other day. So even with some teams being out of the pennant race, they can still battle it out for a decent bonus paycheck at the conclusion of the regular season.

Take a look at 2008, where the Minnesota Twins received $511,593 for finishing in second place, which each player that received a share pulled in $11,078.97. Not a shabby bonus for finishing as the runner-up in the division.

So with the final week upon us, people will be excited to see who pulls the AL East out. Please. I’ll be watching the Tigers-White Sox in the AL Central to see who gets the 1 percent shares. Or how about the AL West where the A’s lead the Angels by two games. Suddenly that battle for second place doesn’t seem as pointless. Hey, there’s money on the line. Hang on Oakland!

Ever since I started watching baseball on TV and learning the history of all the teams and ballparks, I’ve always wanted to visit and see a game in select ballparks like Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. I was fortunate enough to make the trip to Wrigley twice a couple of years ago when I was living in West Michigan, and it was fantastic. But that’s another talk for another day.

While I made it to Wrigley, for whatever lame reasons I could offer it wouldn’t make up for it—I simply blew it with Yankee Stadium. The old stadium is no longer in use. I wasn’t going to let that happen with Fenway Park and thus begins my logic for making an impromptu day-and-a-half trip to Boston last week. In my opinion, Fenway is the Mecca of baseball or what Lambeau Field is to the NFL.

A friend and I made the 9-hour plus trek to Boston Tuesday afternoon and arrived in town a good three hours before last call at the local pubs. After shaking off the hangover the next morning, we went out and saw as much as the city as we could. As a side and unrelated baseball note, Boston is filled with incredible America history at almost every corner all within blocks of each other that I highly suggest to anyone given the time and means to visit. Anyway by 5 p.m., it was time for Fenway.

My first experience with the atmosphere was turning the corner after parking and seeing Yawkey Way loading with people prior to the gates being open. The atmosphere was electric with street sellers, merchandise, food and a sea of Red Sox nation. Being that we arrived well before the gates opened, we walked around the entire outside of the ballpark and came across the former legends banners seen below. Any team that can put up a banner for Cy Young is a team that encompasses a very rich franchise history.

The brick and the green exterior blended right in with the neighborhood as one of the great things about Fenway is how it’s located directly in one street block and not out in the middle of nowhere parking lot outside out of the city. We finally made our way inside and walking up the steps to the concourse opening and seeing the stadium for the first team was amazing. Suddenly, the place that I had seen on TV my whole life exploded into my viewpoint and came to life. There was the massive Green Monster, Pesky’s Pole (the 302-foot foul pole which is the shortest in the majors), the John Hancock scoreboard, the center field triangle, the manual left field scoreboard and so on and so forth. No park in America has so many recognizable and historic aspects in it, and all of it came alive five seconds into the seating area.

The pillars holding the grandstand up and obstructing certain views also stands out. Our seats were behind one of these pillars so it was a constant bob and weaving to see the pitcher in his delivery, which is one of the drawbacks to old parks like this, but with everything else it has to offer who cares?

Another noticeable aspect is the stellar condition the place is in considering it was built in 1912. The crew does a really nice job keeping the place looking old school, but new at the same time. Also, it was nice to see there are no gimmicks at Fenway as you will probably see in the majority of other ballparks. They didn’t mess around pregame: here’s the national anthem, here are the lineups, let’s play ball. This was a very refreshing concept that I wish more teams would implement.

As for the game, it was just what we thought it would be, a slugfest between the Sox and Angels since John Lackey and Scott Kazmir were on the mounds for their respective teams. Neither pitcher was very effective as there were four dingers hit in the first five innings. The Angels held a brief 5-2 lead before the Red Sox rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth on a Adrian Beltre homer and two runs in the seventh inning (off a wild pitch and HBP) to complete the comeback. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth and struck out the side to slam the door on the Halos for a  7-5 Boston victory. Lackey somehow picked up the win despite allowing five runs on 10 hits (two homers). And what I thought was pretty fitting—the game ended with Erick Aybar…caught looking. Go figure!

Some other random observations from the Fenway experience:

– Dustin Pedroia is a god in that town. He had just come off the DL to play again, and the fans love him. He’s probably even more popular these days than Big Papi. Of course, Pedroia would hurt his foot again in the game, miss the next night and then shut down for the rest of the season. Tough year for him.

– Not gonna lie, singing “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning was pretty cool. It might of even given me goosebumps

– It’s ridiculous to watch a game there and start thinking about the amount of history that was played in this baseball landmark. The fact that Babe Ruth and Ted Williams called the playing field their home was enough to amaze me.

– Red Sox games are looooooooooooooong. It’s really noticeable when you’re there. I can see the argument of game length by people when the Sox and Yankees meet up. I obviously love baseball, but at some point it’s unbearable with how slow they are. It’s obviously attributed to the fact that it’s a hitting park, they take a lot of pitches, but the amount of time wasted in between pitches with time being called and batters stepping out of the box is ridiculous.

– Despite the ballpark being completely sold out, including hundreds of standing room only tickets, the bathrooms and concession stands never appeared to be overly packed. Maybe this is due to people not leaving their seat more in Fenway than other places, or maybe there’s just a good number of concessions, but down the third base side was not bad at all for concourse traffic. I actually really noticed it more when I attended the Mets-Pirates game Saturday night and thought the concourse was too crowded at PNC Park. Something this old ballpark also has on new ones perhaps?

– While taking pictures down by the Angels dugout during pregame, I started chatting with two guys who were in the midst of a baseball park tour. They were hitting 10 ballparks in 10 days with the cities being as far as I can remember: Boston, New York (Yankees), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago (Cubs and White Sox). They were actually heading to Pittsburgh on Friday, so I gave them some tips about what to check out and food and drinks to find once there. They used Jay Buckley Baseball Tours website, which I was not familiar with, but visit the website to see a number of tours (that range in time and number of parks) this summer that you can pay for in one price and ride a bus around to all of them. This is something I know I will check out in the future as possible great roadtrip next summer.

All in all, what a great trip it was even though I was only there for one game and in Boston for less than two full days. I can’t compare it to Wrigley and say that it was better or not because both were classic parks that exceeding my expectations each time. They were different experiences, but still gave me that nostalgic feel that this is way baseball was meant to be played. I only wish I had gone to an afternoon game. The pictures (all taken by me by the way) filtered throughout this text and below in no way does justice for this ballpark. I recommend Fenway Park to anyone who has never gone or even if you’ve made it to a game before. I know that I plan on returning to Yawkey Way to experience the classic feel again.

Dan Haren, who was coveted by many teams this month, found himself a new member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a trade that came about Sunday afternoon. So much for all those rumors about how he was going to be a Yankee. See why trade rumors are dumb?

The Angels literally came out of left field to make this deal happen and are sending a message to Texas that they are ready to concede the division title to them just yet. Though after another loss to the Ranges today, it’s looking very bleak for the Halos.

The Diamondbacks picked up major league starter Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez and young prospect Patrick Corbin. This is a great deal for the Angels because even if they can’t make up the 7.0 game difference in the division this year, they set themselves up nicely for next season by holding the rights to Haren for 2011 and 2012. Saunders is the most notable pickup for the D-Backs, but the lefty owns a 4.62 ERA this season.

With so many other teams interested in Haren (Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers, Phillies, Cardinals), I have a hard time believing this was the best deal they could find for him. There wasn’t a major prospect sitting in Double-A/Triple-A they could have acquired? Arizona has made some suspect deals in the past couple of seasons that I may get into in a separate post, but this deal has me scratching my head from the D-Backs viewpoint.

While this deal obviously makes the Angels a better team, does it make them better than Cliff Lee and the Rangers? Probably not, but it does send a message to its fan and to the Rangers that they plan to stick around in the hunt this year and the recent future.

Everyone can always use a little Calvin and Hobbes, especially on a Sunday. This is just one of my favorite baseball comics in the series. Anyway, let’s get into some links on this lazy Sunday.

In what was looking like a must-win game for the Angels, Ervin Santana mowed down the Rangers for a huge Halos win. I’m not sure the Angels will have enough in them to catch the Rangers at this point, currently down six games in the AL West, but they certainly couldn’t afford another loss to drop eight back. You can consider tonight’s game just as big.

The Braves rallied to defeat the Marlins 10-5 Saturday and hold a 6.0 game lead on the Phillies in the division. I guess it’s only fitting that in Bobby Cox’s last hurrah and what is probably Chipper Jones last year of his career, the Braves would find themselves making one more run at the NL East pennant and postseason. Six games or more leads just don’t get blown very often once you reach August, so we’ll see if the Braves continue to roll on ahead of the Phils and Mets.

Speaking of pennant races, this could be the straw that broke the Tigers back. Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle sliding into home plate tonight and is out 6-8 weeks. Magglio has been a Godsend to the Tigers offense this year as he was enjoying a great bounce back year. First, it was Joel Zumaya, then Brandon Inge and now Ordonez. This loss will  hurt immensely, leaving only the rookie Brennan Boesch to protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. I’m not sure that’ll work too well. The Tigers are in the thick of a three-team race in the AL Central, and I just don’t see how they continue to keep up with the Twins and White Sox. Also, it will be interesting to see what Dave Dombrowski does at the deadline and see if he panics and trades away too much to acquire a hired gun in the outfielder. This is obviously bad news for the Tigers, but even worse for Mags, who is on the hook to lose his $15 million option.

Rolling right along in the terrible time for an injury department, it’s time to go ahead and mark down the A’s pick up of Ben Sheets in the offseason for $10 million a horrendous idea. Sheets, whose name was swirling around in trades this past week, will miss the rest of the season for elbow surgery. The only fallback investment for Billy Beane in the Sheets signing was that they weren’t in contention, they could deal him at the deadline for a couple of prospects. Well, scratch that idea. The A’s will just have to eat this move. Sheets didn’t provide much help all year, going 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts for the A’s.

Before you Cubs fans out there jump on the “We’ll have to win when Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg is managing the team” train, consider what could go wrong and already has for that particular scenario via Big League Stew.

And last, but not least—ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Hall of Fame inductees. John Kekis writes about the Class of 2010 on Yahoo Sports as well.

Scott O’Leary has officially given up on his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates franchise and has embarked on an adventure this summer in the inaugural “Random Fandom.” The idea is to pick a team at random to root for from now until the end of the season in hopes that this new team will win before the Pirates finally do. Read about his new favorite team below. For a full detailed recap of the Ran Fan, check out the full rundown here.

The day after the MLB All-Star Game is significant because it’s the only day on the calendar in which there’s not a single sporting event contested by the big four leagues. Since that day only occurs once a year, there’s something strangely relaxing about it. Having been a Pirates fan, the day after the All-Star game is especially nice because it gives you another day off from losing. This year however, I didn’t want a day off. This year, I’m excited for baseball. This year, I have a better than even chance at winning. This year, I’m not a Pirates fan.

Thanks to Random Fandom, I’ve been given a new lease on my baseball life. The idea is simple: I randomly chose a new team to follow and attach my loyalty to, leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates and their lifetime of failure in the past. During the 7th inning of the All-Star Game Xander and I conducted a random drawing to determine which MLB team I would heap all my baseball hopes and dreams upon. To give me a bit of an edge, we took the 17 MLB teams that are above .500 and in contention for their own division or the wild card, assigned those teams random numbers, then drew a random number from The Random Number Generator decided upon number 17, and with that, I became a fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Me, Scott, an east coast National League guy becoming a fan of a west coast American League team? Right off the bat, it certainly will be an adjustment. 10:05 P.M. (EDT) first pitches, Rally Monkeys, the Designated Hitter?! However, the biggest adjustment will be winning, which I’m looking forward to.

Scott (not pictured) joins Alyssa Milano (pictured) as a fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Random Fandom

I do have one reservation: Currently the Angels are in second place in the AL West, coming off three consecutive years of winning the AL West. When I started following the Pirates eighteen years ago, they too were coming off three straight years of winning their division. We all know what followed. Hopefully, that’s where the parallels will end.

So, tonight at 10:05 P.M. when my new Angels take on the Mariners, I embark upon a journey I once thought unthinkable: I’ve abandoned the team of my formative youth in hopes of finding something to cheer about again. I feel like I have much to learn, and am looking forward to every minute of it. So, for the first time, Let’s Go Angels!