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Jeurys Familia (and when you realize you don't follow baseball like you used to)


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First of all, this is a slightly different type of post. Not Hot Stove, not F'n Scioscia, not Troutgasms, or what-have-you. I want to talk about baseball fandom.

I must admit something: I don't follow baseball like I used to. I'm still a big fan, but it just doesn't hold as much mental space as it once did. Looking back over the last 15 years, I see several things that changed this, whether as causative factors or more correlating benchmarks. One was 2002. After following the Angels for over 20 years, and closely for about 15, this was a kind of salvation for us long-suffering fans. I became a fan in the very early 80s, but didn't really start following the team on a day-to-day basis until 1987, partially because I was out of country for the two years previous and this was before the internet (thus I thankfully missed the horror of the 1986 playoffs). So for me, "my" Angels were the crappy teams of the late 80s and 90s. I imprinted with players like Wally Joyner, Devon White, Jack Howell, and Chuck Finley. 1995 was a brilliant flash, the fulfillment of a talented and largely homegrown team, but then turned into one of the worst collapses in major league history. The late 90s were simply the worst.

But then 2002 happened, as if out of nowhere. I won't recapitulate it in any detail again, as it has been done countless times, but it was magical - everything from the incredible win streak that saw the Angels keep pace with the equally hot Athletics in the stretch run, to Troy Percival's winning save in game 2 of the ALDS when I first had an inkling that the Angels had a chance to go all the way, to the greatest game ever, game 6 of the World Series, and then finally Darin Erstad's final catch in game 7. But to add fuel to the fire, new owner Arte Moreno bought the club and seemed to mean business in 2004, which began (or continued) the strongest run in Angels history, from 2002-09, a veritable Golden Era of Angels baseball.

After 2002, I still loved and followed the team closely. But perhaps the edge of quiet desperation was taken off a bit. I also played in a long-running fantasy baseball league that started just before then, in 1999 or 2000, I think. For the first four or five years I was one of the top competitors, although sometime started to slip around 2003 or 2004. My focus on following the minutia of the game began to lessen. And then I had my first child in 2005, which also lessened the focus on baseball, if only in a second-hand way.

So we have the World Series in 2002 and then becoming a father in 2005. Maybe we can throw another one in there, when the team basically collapsed in 2010 after key players left via free agency. Perhaps it was also a long, slow whittling down from 2004 to 2009, as the team couldn't repeat the magic of 2002. Perhaps it was the disappointing prospects of the mid-Aughties, which at first looked to be the core of an extended Golden Age of Angels baseball, but then proved to symbolize a new era of futility which began in 2010. I think it is a bit of all of the above.

And here's where I'm a traitor to my fellow baseball fans. Starting around this time I started focusing more and more on my second favorite sport, tennis (I know, almost as "wussy" as soccer). I would say that by 2012, my interest in tennis was about equal to baseball. Sometime within the last few years, it has surpassed it, so that tennis is now the favorite of my "big two," with all other sports far behind. Given that Roger Federer is my favorite player of all time, 2017 has been particularly sweet so far.

So I enter the 2017 season both excited about baseball coming up, hopeful as always that the Angels will be better than expected, but also a bit...well, tempered. I'm still a big fan, just not as much as I was five, let alone fifteen, years ago.

So where did this all come from? I was doing some research for a post I just made in the Huston Street thread. I came across a thoroughly unfamiliar name: Jeurys Familia. Who is Jeurys Familia? Well, most of you probably know: he led the majors in saves last year with 51 for the New York Mets, and has accrued 94 saves over the last two years. What was shocking to me is that I never encountered his name before. This was not something that would have happened years ago. Actually, I think part of what has changed for me is that while I still follow the Angels closely--if a bit less so than 5/15 years ago--I don't follow baseball as a whole as closely as I once did. I frequently come across players with noticeable numbers that I had never heard of before. Who the hell is Khris Davis with a K, and why did he hit 42 homers for the Athletics last year? I had heard his name before, but what was imprinted on me was the 2014 Josh Reddick-esque version. Or Jonathan Villar and his 62 stolen bases? Or just looking at 30+ HR hitters of 2016, I had never even heard of Adam Duvall...and Rougned Odor hit 33?!

This is also why I no longer play fantasy baseball; 15 years ago I would have been the first to pick up Trea Turner, and I remember being the first in my league to take note of Christian Yelich back in 2013, but by that point it was a rarity. I don't think I can name a single player on the Phillies--unless Ryan Howard is still there, or Jimmy Rollins (which, after just looking it up, he's not hasn't been since 2014)--or the Padres.

So yeah, Jeurys Familia. Nice name, by the way.

Don't get me wrong: I still love baseball and the Angels. But I think I'm kind of like the 34-year old player who can still play, but whose best years are behind him, who has settled into a second half career plateau that is still very good (or in this case, interested in baseball) but not quite to the level of his prime in his mid-to-late 20s. I'll be cheering the team along with the rest of you, checking box scores and the minor leagues on a regular basis to see how Matt Thaiss, Jahmai Jones, Mikey Hermosillo and Brandon Marsh are doing. I'll even watch the occasional game. But the encounter with Familia's unfamiliar name just struck me, that my baseball fandom isn't what it used to be. No big deal, really, just reminiscing. It is the way of things, I suppose.

 

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I think last year was an odd year in finding random players you never heard of doing well. I can't say it applied to me since I'm still in full baseball mode and follow the sport pretty intently all around but last year there was an abnormal amount of players hitting at least 20 HRs. Players like Jean Segura, Brad Miller, Jedd Gyorko, Marcus Semien, Ryan Schmipf, Jackie Bradley Jr., Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Schoop, Maikel Franco, Miguel Sano, Tommy Joseph, Eugenio Suarez, Christian Yelich, Freddy Galvis, Didi Gregorious, etc...

 

So a lot of players that a more casual fan, or just someone not obsessed may have either never heard of or at least never figured would hit as many HRs as they did. There were 110 players that hit 20+ HRs last year, and nearly 40 of those hit 30+ HRs.

 

Compare that to 64 players with 20+ in 2015 and 19 of those with 30+. Last year was definitely a year that could make someone seem out of touch.

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2 hours ago, fan_since79 said:

The Phillies' (my team besides the Angels, as I grew up there) prospective lineup, except for Howie Kendrick, is almost totally unknown to me.

I followed the Braves for decades. Until 1966, the Cardinals were probably the closest thing that we had to our own team in the south. When I moved to the midwest, the team being on TBS still made them easy to follow even though I had moved out of the region. Then Ted Turner sold the team, the Superstation went away (at least in a baseball sense), and I wound up in the west without a team (at least not one that I could easily follow). In 1998 I went to a three-game series at the Big A against the Yankees with the wife (a Yankee fan). I hate the Yankees, the Angels (at least at the time) beat them more often than anyone else, and I thought "Why not?" I still have the cheap winged A cap (that was shortly afterward replaced with a fitted one) that I bought at Wal Mart in Buena Park when I first signed up for this gig. The team tailing off the way that they have in recent years is partly responsible for me not following quite as closely as I once did, but there are other reasons that I can't quite pinpoint.

Right now, I can name maybe two or three players on the Braves roster.

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Angelsjunky -- you are certainly not alone in your progression from an avid fan to a more casual one.

Many of the circle of my long time baseball fans feel the same way.

If I did not attend a game this year at the Big A, it will mark the third season in a row that I have gone to ZERO, count 'em ZERO regular season Angels games.

Also, this year, I am not going to Spring Training - Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Glendale, Surprise etc. The teams and the Arizona vendors (hotels, restaurants, rental cars etc.) have priced things out of reach, seemingly making it their 'Christmas season" month to make all their profit for the year.

And then, there's the changes to the game.........there was a story (on ESPN I think) the other day listing the top 10 active players who have played the most games with one team.. The top of the list guys entered the league in 2011 and 2012.......We've come a long way from Yaz of the Boston Red Sox, Ernie Banks of the Cubs and Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre, among others......now players switch teams so often and team line ups change constantly it's hard to keep up.......

MLB doesn't seem to concern but what they should be concerned about is that the participation of U.S.kids in youth baseball leagues (Little League) is declining. The NFL (which until 2016 season has been just a jaugernaut of commercial success of skyrocketing proportions dominating the market share of advertising dollars spent on sports -- but even the NFL -- even before the slowing down of its incredible success (which continues -- 2016 season marked the first time viewership ratings and perhaps overall attendance - was down a bit) is concerned about the declining numbers of kids playing youth football (Pop Warner etc.) due to parents concerned about the concussion issue and other health risks.

Angelsjunky --- not only do I think your views shared above are becoming more commonly held -- I also think that as avid fans like us start to reduce our participation in attending games / watching games/ just generally following baseball -- the millennial folks coming up behind us are not replacing us as we sort of 'fall away' -- they are busy with extreme sports, video games and other activities with a larger number of the population having little to no interest in spectator sports of any kind.........it's a different world from the one many of us grew up in when every kid played little league baseball, a lot played football - certainly high school football -- and there was fair participation in youth basketball as well.  Now soccer is all the rage for kids -- (and has been for quite a while  now) and that's great -- but it does not lead to lifelong 'soccer' fans the way the other sports do.

One major positive trend (thanks Title IX (that's 9) is that women's sports at all levels have expanded in quality and quantity over the past three decades which provides for not only more opportunities educationally and professionally but also has expanded the market for sports fans -- the NFL ratings show that female fans make up a significant portion of its fan base --I would attribute much of this to the increase in participation of female student athletes in a wider array of sports programs -- a societal change for the better over the at least past three decades.

 

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You're not alone, AJ.

went to a Halos home game this past year for the first time since 2011. It's fun to watch a stud like Trout, but overall this team hasn't been very interesting or successful. Both of those factors matter. Maybe this year will be different, for them and for me.

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I have never participated in fantasy baseball, because it seems too much like a part time job. Fantasy football can be pretty much set it and forget it, until one of your stars gets hurt or hits a bye week. That said, some of my most fun years have been when I started with a weak roster and had to find value on the waiver wire in a ten-team league.

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Fantasy makes a huge difference in how many names a fan comes in contact with. I played for a few years with Cub fan friends and then in Fozzy's league for a couple. I was familiar with many more players in those days. Being both an Angels and Cubs fan I stay in touch with both leagues but nowhere near as mush as I did while playing fantasy. I've been much more focused on the Angels this winter and spring...and I think that has everything to do with the Cubs finally winning last year...so there is something to the World Series, that once won it takes some of the pressure off to be as intense and intent. 

I've also become a somewhat serious tennis fan, and play in the AW fantasy golf league...but the only football game I watched this past season was the Superbowl. So sometimes interests just change or broaden with the passing years.

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Fantasy definitely helps with familiarity.  I was just perusing a fantasy magazine that rated the best 25 moves of the offseason.  While I acknowledged these things happening when they happened, I then completely wiped them from my memory.  It was weird seeing some of the transactions (like the Chris Sale trade).  Had to check myself for a moment and figure out if this was deja vu or something.  I've moved out of the market so don't see many games in person or on the t.v.  Baseball watching has definitely changed for me and owe a lot of what I know about Angels baseball to Angelswin.  Thanks Chuck and all who post/contribute here.

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AJ - interesting insight.  Consider this though.  You are a stats guy like me.  Did you know that Hanley Ramirez had 111 rbi or that Jose Ramirez from the tribe had the 12th highest BA last year t .312?  But I bet you'd be much better at telling me about a bunch of the WAR leaders from 2016.  

For me, I still have the same passion for the game, it's just been displaced to other areas.  Advanced metrics and prospects.  Granted, I used to have more time to play fantasy baseball and look up all the necessary stats that would get me a win.  Now that I'm not doing that, I certainly have less specific knowledge across baseball in regard to random individual players, but I feel like I know more about the game.  

BTW, Ettin's offer to play fantasy baseball was very tempting but I just know I don't have the time for it.  

I'm still a baseball junky.  Maybe I'm not the kid who used to memorize the box scores posted in the LAT, and I haven't cracked out my 100 greatest players of all time book since I was 14.  

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2 hours ago, Dochalo said:

AJ - interesting insight.  Consider this though.  You are a stats guy like me.  Did you know that Hanley Ramirez had 111 rbi or that Jose Ramirez from the tribe had the 12th highest BA last year t .312?  But I bet you'd be much better at telling me about a bunch of the WAR leaders from 2016.  

For me, I still have the same passion for the game, it's just been displaced to other areas.  Advanced metrics and prospects.  Granted, I used to have more time to play fantasy baseball and look up all the necessary stats that would get me a win.  Now that I'm not doing that, I certainly have less specific knowledge across baseball in regard to random individual players, but I feel like I know more about the game.  

BTW, Ettin's offer to play fantasy baseball was very tempting but I just know I don't have the time for it.  

I'm still a baseball junky.  Maybe I'm not the kid who used to memorize the box scores posted in the LAT, and I haven't cracked out my 100 greatest players of all time book since I was 14.  

When I read the original BP many years ago I became interested in the new ways to assess the game and I actually spent a lot of money getting books shipped to me overseas. But I always found myself more interested to know what actually happened than what share of a win it might be.

I like knowing who got the big hits or made the key defensive plays in a specific instance as opposed to who was having the best saberseason. I think it's great that there's so many ways now to enjoy the game but my primary passion will always be the actual events in the actual games and I've always preferred well-rounded players over specialists. 44 years later I still dislike the DH. 

But I still watch or listen to as many games as I can

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I can relate.  Back in the day I do not recall ever hearing even a minor leaguer that I had never heard of.  I spent hours and hours and hours scouring minor league statistics.  By the time a guy got to the Majors I actually found the introductory media coverage of the player annoying since I had already been following that player forever.

Now I often see major leaguers I never heard of who have been in the Majors for a couple years.

Busy job, married, very active kids. . .it's a matter of available time.

Life is good.  But baseball now plays a totally different role than it did before. . .

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I can relate.  Back in the day I do not recall ever hearing even a minor leaguer that I had never heard of.  I spent hours and hours and hours scouring minor league statistics.  By the time a guy got to the Majors I actually found the introductory media coverage of the player annoying since I had been following that player for

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I am as much a baseball fan as I've been my entire life. Probably even more so since I started playing fantasy regularly (back in 1995). Fantasy has actually helped my enjoyment of the game. To be successful in fantasy baseball, I have to pay attention to players throughout both leagues, as well as the minors. I probably was unable to do that before, as I was first and foremost a fan of the Angels. Plus, with the advent of the internet and 24/7 coverage and news cycles, it's hard for me NOT to follow the goings-on in baseball.

Added to this, baseball is an escape. Whenever real life becomes depressing or mundane, I have baseball to fall back on. It gives me something to talk to my father and brother about, when there isn't much else. I look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting, I look forward to the start of spring training games, and to the regular season.

Besides, I don't follow basketball, only follow hockey somewhat, and really only follow a couple of NFL teams. The only other game I pay any attention to is poker.

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