Play Ball: Thrice Previews Los Angeles Angels’ 2014 Season

Drummer Riley Breckenridge also talks his baseball-themed side project Puig Destroyer

April is upon us and that means the return of Major League Baseball. To preview the new season, spoke to a panel of baseball fans from around the music world for a team-by-team preview of their favorite squads.

The musician: Thrice drummer Riley Breckenridge takes his baseball fandom to the next level. He runs a baseball blog and podcast with Ian Miller (bassist of Kowloon Walled City) and also plays in a baseball-themed grindcore band called Puig Destroyer, with Miller and several others. Thrice are currently on hiatus, so he has plenty of time for baseball-related endeavors.

The team: The Angels spent an awful lot of money to finish in third place last year. Albert Pujols is in the third year of a 10-year, $250 million contract and Josh Hamilton is in the second year of a 5-year, $125 million pact. Both sluggers underperformed last year and with a topsy-turvy pitching staff, the Angels went only 78-84 after some predicted them for the World Series. They still have loads of talent, and with one of baseball’s best managers (Mike Scioscia) at the helm, a turnaround is certainly possible.

Previously in this series:
Dropkick Murphys Talk Boston Red Sox
Hold Steady & Baseball Project Talk Minnesota Twins
Jimmy Eat World Talk Arizona Diamondbacks
Yo La Tengo & So So Glos Talk New York Mets
New Found Glory Talks Miami Marlins
Asher Roth Talks Philadelphia Phillies
Asher Roth and the Baseball Project Talk San Francisco Giants
Joan Jett Talks Baltimore Orioles
Pete Wentz & The Mountain Goats Talk Chicago Cubs
R.E.M.'s Mike Mills Talks Atlanta Braves
David Nail Talks St. Louis Cardinals
City and Colour Talks Toronto Blue Jays
The Get Up Kids Talk Kansas City Royals

I read your league-wide predictions for this year. You’ve got your Angels for 84 wins.

Riley Breckenridge: When it’s a team I follow, I tend to be extremely conservative, so if they exceed expectations I’m actually happy. Since the mid-2000s, projections have been so high with all the big name players, so you expect it to be better than it’s been the past three years.

Their biggest competition in the A.L. West is the Rangers and A’s. What do they have to do to beat them out?

RB: With the Angels it’s the same out story — pitching. That’s why it was kind of disappointing when they didn’t really address that need this off season. Their top three starters are Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards and then you got Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, so there are a lot of questions there. Last year, they picked up Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson and neither of those worked out. The Ryan Madson signing they had last year didn’t work out and the Sean Burnett pick up didn’t work out or hasn’t worked out thus far. Seems like they take high risk moves and hope for them to pan out and when they don’t, they’re just stuck in the same spot that they have been in the last three years, which is not having the pitching to compete.

What did you think of trading Mark Trumbo to Arizona to get Tyler Skaggs?

RB: I’m actually a friend of Mark’s so it’s hard for me to comment on it without being less objective than I should be.

He grew up in Orange County. He grew up an Angels fan and to get drafted and broke into the big leagues with his favorite team. That has to be a thrill and then to get traded has a be a bummer, so I was bummed to see him go. I’m a fan of him as a player and a person but I understand it was a move the Angels needed to make. They needed pitching; they had too many outfielders and first base types and Mark was a guy that they could get a fairly good return on. I like Skaggs a lot; I think he has a lot of lot of upside but probably still has some growing to do.

Musicians Throw The First Pitch: Photos

What do you think are the chances of Josh Hamilton returning to his old form?

RB: I don’t’ think he’ll be freakishly good like he used to be, but I think a bounce back is in order and with him it all comes down to health. He seems to get banged up fairly often and easily and if he can stay healthy this year I think he’ll be able to do what the Angels want him to do, which is driving in a lot of runs, getting on base and hitting bombs. With him and Albert Pujols, I don’t think that either one will bounce back to the level he was at before, but if you have a couple of 30 home run, 100 RBI guys who hit .280, .290, then the lineup has the potential of being really good. But those are a lot of “what ifs” and a there’s a lot of money riding on those “what ifs.”

What was it like when they won the World Series in 2002?

RB:I watched it as much as I could. It was tough; I think we were on tour with Hot Water Music and Coheed and Cambria. And our sets were always right in the middle of Angels games, so I’d run to a sports bar to try and catch a game if it was televised. And then as soon as the set was over, I’d pack up my stuff as quick as I could and run to catch the end of the game. But I remember catching the end of the 2002 World Series when they won it all — we were in Salt Lake City and I ran to a sports bar after the set and watched it by myself and lost my mind. My dad was at the game and I called him and got to share that moment. I would have rather been at the game but it was definitely cool.

Tell me about this band Puig Destroyer you have.

RB:  I have a baseball-specific Twitter feed, blog and podcast with my friend Ian Miller who plays in a band called Kowloon Walled City. We’re doing this podcast and we were talking about (Yasiel) Puig (I think he had just signed or just gotten called up by the Dodgers) and one of us said, “Oh, there should totally be a grindcore band called Puig Destroyer,” because there’s a grindcore band called Pig Destroyer. After that Ian emailed me right away and he was like “We need to start that band” and I was like, “Okay, I guess we could do that.” I wrote some crazy fast grindcore songs and I sent him those that same night and then he got all fired up and started laying down bass tracks. We enlisted our friend Mike Minnick (who is also a huge baseball fan), who we does vocals for a band called Curl Up and Die and then he got the guitarist from his band to play guitar. We started sharing files and we put together an EP. At the same time, Puig was kind of going insane, hitting .400 or .500 in his first forty games. The timing was right was for our little joke of a grindcore band and we got some pretty good publicity for not having a label or a publicist or any of that stuff, so we made another EP and we’re working on a full length right now.

Check back on tomorrow when Switchfoot preview the San Diego Padres’ season.