(As he has in the past Thrice Drummer/podcaster/adult baseball league participant Riley Breckenridge has agreed to let us pry him away from his very busy schedule to ask him questions that, in theory, will allow you a little bit of insight into the state of the division rival Angels. Riley, as always, is a good sport, and while we hope his team loses absolutely every single game it ever plays for the rest of eternity, we wish him the very best and encourage you to follow Thrice as they continue work on their new project.)
LL: The general consensus among the Baseball Illuminati (a cabal consisting of Sam Miller, Dave Cameron, Jay Jaffe and numerous Goldsteins) is that the Angels as a franchise are a ruinous crater who are pissing away the prime years of one of the modern era's 1-2 best players. Mariner fans are no stranger to being the blunt end of the national joke, but often it can feel as though these opinions are, shall we say, lacking in nuance.
From the perspective of someone much closer to the team, do you feel as though the Angels' woes are exaggerated? Under-exaggerated? Perfectly ‘xaggerated?
RB: Oh, man. I'd say I fall right on the periphery of that cabal ... like, I could be the assistant to the vice-president of that cabal or something. Ugh. The Angels' situation is incredibly frustrating. In the their defense, I'm not sure they knew they had MIKE TROUT when they drafted Mike Trout (and the player he's become is far beyond anyone's wildest expectations) but they've made a shitload of poor financial decisions over the past five years, and those decisions are a big part of what is destroying them right now. Those albatross contracts (Pujols, Hamilton, Weaver, Wilson) and a godawful farm system (that they've actually traded away their best pieces of) is why they're where they are and why the future is GRIM.
LL: The Angels have had a multitude of geographic designations over the years: California, Anaheim, Los Angeles of Anaheim, the team with the monkey, etc. Is there one that the majority of Angel fans prefer over the others? Or is it as simple as anything but LAA?
RB: I was raised a "California Angels" fan. I still think of them as such. My favorite uniform iteration is the 80s capital A with a halo over it, with navy blue as a dominant color. I'd totally be down with the old V-neck pullovers and sansabelt pants as their everyday unis. Can you build me a time machine? Sure, ‘86 was heartbreaking, but things were so much simpler back then. I'm tired of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Which Is Almost Orange, But Not Quite looking like they're playing an intrasquad game with the Rangers 15 times a season. They had a cool identity and aesthetic and they killed it, and now that 2002 happened, I have absolutely zero faith that they'll ever ditch the red.
LL: Amazingly, after being one of the best baseball players any of us has seen in our lifetimes for almost half a decade, it still feels like Mike Trout is underrated. With the ascendancy of Bryce Harper, and Harper's much more, shall we say, hyper-bro personality, is their concern that the Trout isn't getting the recognition he deserves as one of the all-time greats?
RB: I agree about Trout being underrated, and think a big part of it is that he plays on the west coast and people just don't have an opportunity to see him do all of the amazing things he does every single night. Another part of it is that he's a really boring interview. He's never gonna say something offensive, he's never gonna open up and let people in, and he's never gonna talk trash or boast. He just fires up the old Baseball Cliche MachineTM and mixes in a few lines about how he just wants to have fun and wants to win.
Harper's got a slot in primetime on the East Coast almost every night, ridiculous eye black, wacky hair, a thumb ring, a shitload of confidence, gigantic balls, and will say whatever he wants whenever he wants. He's like clickbait media's dream come true, so I understand the recognition. (He's also very very good.)
LL: Faster average speed: Driver on the 10, or Jared Weaver's fastball?
RB: A driver on the 10, without a doubt.
LL: In California, do you just call it "Pizza Kitchen"?
RB: I dunno. Do you guys just call it "Best"?
I think the cool kids refer to it as "CPK" here, but I ain't got time for 30-grade pizza at 70-grade pizza prices.
LL: The Angels farm system currently resembles that freaky-ass scene in Mad Max with the dude's walking around on stilts. That said, are there any players at either the major or minor league level you feel like baseball fans that don't follow the Angels closely should pay more attention to?
Sean Newcomb was the last Angels prospect I was even somewhat excited about, but they sent him to the BARVES in a package for Andrelton Simmons. It's kinda hard to get fired up about anyone in a minor league system that is unanimously regarded as the worst in baseball. Their #5 prospect (Taylor Ward) projects as a decent backup catcher.
[throws confetti and runs into traffic]