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T.J. SIMERS

Angel Stadium is more like a dull house than a playpen

The team is in first place, but its clubhouse feels more like a library.

September 09, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

Stopped by Angel Stadium on Tuesday night because I thought it would make a nice backdrop while watching the Dodgers game on TV.

The Dodgers are so much more interesting than the Angels, the Angels players handcuffed and muzzled by their manager, a foregone conclusion every year they're going to win in a subpar division and then lose to the Red Sox in the playoffs.

I had some time to kill waiting for the Dodgers game to start, so I visited the Angels' clubhouse to see whether anyone had developed any charisma the last few months.

Most of the pitchers were reading books, maybe the only team in baseball with so many players who can read, the whole place, though, feeling more like a library than a clubhouse.

Brian Fuentes' locker was on the opposite side of the room, the other pitchers apparently not liking him. Or maybe this side of the room is for those who can't read.

Whatever, I asked what it was like playing for a boring team, figuring it has to be exciting after playing previously for Colorado. I was nice too, never letting on that I knew he had lost his job as closer when the Rockies went to the World Series.

"I don't know what to tell you, man," huffed Fuentes, while quickly grabbing his stuff. "I got some other stuff to do."

And then he was gone, a little worrisome, I would think, for the Angels if they've got a closer who is going to be counted on to deal with big-time pressure in Boston, but can't handle a Page 2 or 3 columnist who drops by once or twice a year.

Still rattled, later he couldn't even keep Seattle from tying the score before getting yanked. Just think if I talked to the guy every day.

Gary Matthews Jr. declined to speak, of course. For most of the season he has also declined to hit, so I didn't take it personally.

I noticed a vial in his locker, well, more like a bottle, the vials of HGH still missing, as you know. The bottle had the initials "NSF" on it, and checking the Internet to see if it might be a steroid, I found NSF might stand for the National Sanitation Foundation,the National Socialist Front or the NS-Frauenschaft.

I'm not surprised he's not talking.

Almost everyone in the media here talks to Torii Hunter because the Angels don't have anyone else interesting. He's so interesting he'd fit right in in the Dodgers' clubhouse.

"We're policed good by our manager," Hunter said, a little surprised he wasn't whispering -- knowing the manager probably has the room bugged. "He's still our boss and whatever the rules are, we've got to abide by them."

The Angels, of course, are under orders to show no personality, which explains why the Rally Monkey is more popular than any of the players here.

It shouldn't be surprising, though, the Angels deal in cliches, Mike Scioscia the catcher in "Bull Durham" who tells "Nuke" LaLoosh how to best answer the media's questions.

Chone Figgins and John Lackey have personality, but that probably explains why both aren't expected to return next season. I gave Maicer Izturis a try, but he's probably not going to appear on Conan O'Brien any time soon.

"We can only be what we can be," said the manager, and he really does talk like that.

Scioscia won't even admit to looking at the standings to see how far the Angels might be ahead, which tells you how dull he likes it around here.

No sense listening to what he had to say, so I did what he'd do if given the chance. I opted to eat.

I didn't have enough money to buy the media meal, though, because as you know our newspaper is bankrupt.

Charlee Rodieck, who oversees the dining room, said I could eat for free. Smelling salts, please, for Mr. & Mrs. McCourt, who are thinking right now -- there but by the grace of God goes our worst nightmare.

Game time, and it doesn't get more exciting than this around Angel Stadium, the Dodgers ahead, 1-0, on the scoreboard.

The Rangers were playing too, but Scioscia said he doesn't care what they're doing, so scoreboard watching for Angels fans isn't the same as everywhere else -- Scioscia taking all the fun out of September.

The Diamondbacks clobbered Chad Billingsley, and what has happened to him? It's a much more interesting question than anything having to do with the Angels.

Wouldn't you agree, Bobby Abreu?

"I don't watch baseball," Abreu said, and playing for the Angels will do that to a guy.

The Angels scored one run on three walks and a sacrifice fly, another on an error. People pay money to watch this? It's supposed to be the No. 1 fan-friendly place in sports, but they sure were quick to boo Fuentes -- everyone upset, I guess, they might have to hang around for extra innings.

Nine innings of an Angels game is too much.

Up on the scoreboard, things were much more interesting, Colorado winning, the Giants losing, the gutty little Dodgers fighting back to win, and I'm sitting in Angel Stadium like everyone else just trying to stay awake.

I know now where I'm going to be Friday night -- in San Francisco with Manny and the Dodgers for the weekend, the excitement unbelievable. After all, the Angels are probably best watched these days on a scoreboard far away.

OHIO STATE Coach Jim Tressel talked about last year's USC game in the Coliseum with the media. He said one day his players will tell their grandchildren about playing in such a storied place.

What nonsense. How many players do you think are going to jump at the chance to tell their grandchildren they got their butts kicked, 35-3, in a dump?

PETE CARROLL also spoke to the media, but had nothing interesting or memorable to say.

When you've gone 6-0 in games against Big Ten opponents, winning by an average score of 36-15, what's to get excited about?

NOW THAT I'm thinking about it, funny that Matt Barkley would show more poise than Fuentes when meeting Page 2 or 3.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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