Angels' Mike Trout celebrates with Howie Kendrick after scoring… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
It's another hymn of an evening down here in Anaheim, the French Riviera of freeways. Took a mere two hours to drive from L.A., which exceeds the capacity of many bladders. Fortunately, the kid in the back seat fell asleep in Azusa of all places, or the trip might've verged on the unpleasant.
So on this perfect May evening when everything smells of grilled meats and mowed grass, the Angels had me at halo.
What's to make of these Angels? Is there a better lineup in baseball? Is there a bigger disappointment in all of sports? (And don't say Lakers — too easy.)
I still like this Mike Scioscia, I still like his lineup, but keep in mind that half of all marriages don't work out. This may be one of them.
By his very girth, Albert Pujols appears to still be the team's main event. A very big man, he resembles something Burger King serves with a side of fries. Brilliant swing, funny stance. Like a carnival ride setting up. Like a spider taking a swing at his proctologist.
To me, it's always a little dark down here in Anaheim, and I can't quite figure out if it's the orientation of the stadium toward the setting sun, a bad lighting system, or all those dark green seats, but it's as if the lights here are on some sort of dimmer the grounds crew forgot to crank up all the way.
The sound system works, though. I mean it really works. Am I yelling? Sorry. Ridiculously loud rock music will not be the downfall of baseball; it's too grand for that. But ridiculously loud rock music can ruin an otherwise splendid fan experience. In the second inning, I lost two fillings.
By the way, Thunder Sticks. I hereby offer a $12-billion reward for the capture of the person responsible for Thunder Sticks, the single most annoying sports development since Chris Berman. Bring this madman to my doorstep.
For, you can rail all you want at genetically engineered foods, or the way cable companies bundle things, but if you want to make a difference in the world, win the Nobel Peace Prize for instance, or just leave the planet better than you found it, taking a solid stand against Thunder Sticks is the best way to start.
Before you spend that $12-billion booty ahead of time, please keep in mind I'm bankrupt, fiscally and morally. But don't let that deter you in your quest for greatness.
At the Trout Farm, the new fan seating area, they call these horrid noisemakers Fish Sticks, which is actually fairly clever, if you're into clever.
The Angels now have this special section, down by the left-field foul pipe, where you get Fish Sticks and a Trout Farm T-shirt with your ticket. It's in celebration of their boy wonder, Mike Trout, the best thing to happen to baseball since hot dogs met mustard.
The night we were there during the Orioles series, Trout was actually in center field. We could barely see him, except at the plate, where after a typically brilliant at-bat in which he drew a walk — but still, a baserunner in Anaheim these days almost merits a call from the White House — he forgot to slide into home.
You might've seen the photo the next day, of Mr. Baseball not sliding into home on a tight play, and being tagged out by the Baltimore catcher. When you look back on this season — what went wrong, where we might have done better — you can look at that moment when the grittiest Angel failed to do what most 8-year-old baserunners do spontaneously: fall down and stick your sticks out.
My man crush on this Trout may have to wait another season.
Of note, meanwhile, down in can't-get-there-from-here Angel Stadium is a plethora of family-friendly food choices, all priced about two bucks less than anything the Dodgers offer. There is a children's hot dog: $2.50. There are peanuts: $3. A beer for $4.
A $4 beer at a ballpark? What is this world coming to?
"You get what you pay for," you're probably saying, and yes, our Dodgers do have a few high-end expenses these days, hence the higher prices.
But "you get what you pay for" doesn't carry as much weight as it used to around these parts.
Because here, in the nation's most free-spending sports market, lately you really don't.