January 28, 2011

Vernon Wells has a sense of humor

I have yet to have any interaction with Vernon Wells (something I hope to change at spring training), but I'm liking him already.


Well, thanks to an anonymous comment on my "Welcome to Anaheim Mr. Wells" post - I learned of a funny story involving Wells and some fans heckling him in Cleveland. Check out "V-Dub: Literate and Funny" from the blog "Drunk Jays Fans." Looks like Wells has quite the sense of humor.

By the way... I guess "V-Dub" is one of the nicknames that has been associated with Wells over the years.

I was thinking about a nickname for him myself along the same lines. There's a game that kids play (okay adults do it too) involving VW Bugs. When you see one, you shout out "slug bug red" (or whatever color the car happens to be) and give your friend/sibling/whoever a little slug.

I'm hoping Wells slugs more than his fair share of homers this year, so I think I'll be calling him "Slug Bug."


Okay, so you know how everyone loves to make predictions? Well, Mo from a relatively new Angels blog called "Mo's Angels" predicted the Angels would make a trade that would bring Vernon Wells to the Angels back on January 2.

Given all the hair-brain like trade proposals fans like to put out there - I think it's kind of cool that Mo got this one right (at least sort of).

Kudos to Mo... and a big True Grich welcome to the blogosphere! Mo is an active duty Marine currently stationed in Hawaii. So, he's got two good things going for him. He's serving his country and he's an Angels fan. Semper Fi Mo! And thank you for your service!

Be sure to check out Mo's Angels when you get a chance.

January 27, 2011

Feeling like my old self

I’m feeling like my old self today. In fact, I’ve been saying that all day long. There’s something about spring and baseball that puts a little extra pep in my step.

Face it, the Angels off season has been one of the most volatile in recent memory. I know, I ranted all the way through it. I was becoming frustrated and extremely aggravated. During that period of time I didn’t feel like myself. I found some release in ranting, but at the end of the day, I really didn’t feel all that great about it.

I’m not saying the ranting wasn’t justified because I think it was. I’m saying that much negative energy can take its toll.

When the Angels made the move to acquire Vernon Wells, something hit me. I got the news without all the filters that usually come with it. I wasn’t reading comments on a message board or listening to the radio. I just saw the report on mlbtraderumors.com and reacted. My initial thoughts were positive. I knew Wells had a good year in 2010 and my immediate thought was that this is a bat that will look good in the Angels lineup.

When I turned the filters on and saw all the negativity surrounding the deal, I grimaced. I even felt a little sick. I took a step back and thought to myself, I don’t have the energy for this.

And then it hit me….

I thought about what it was like when I was a kid and I heard about a big move my team made. I thought back to the time when the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul Jabbar in exchange for a boat load of other players. I remember how I just reacted to the deal with joy. Kareem Abdul Jabbar? Are you kidding me? There wasn’t any analysis of statistics or salaries or any of the stuff that everyone likes to do today.

I thought about how I felt when the Angels traded away Nolan Ryan and how disappointing that was. Again, it wasn’t about statistics – it was about seeing a player I had grown to love; leave.

Whatever happened to just being a fan? Why did everything have to get so complicated and over analyzed?

I’ll tell you and some of you aren’t going to like what I have to say very much.

I blame sabermetrics. There, I said it. Now, some of you might not want to continue reading because I’m going to do a bit of poking here. Then again, I know some of you just went into the defensive mode and are probably preparing for some sort of battle.

Whatever. I'm half kidding... but just half.

I’m going to start this discussion with some nice things to say about sabermetrics. I’m not going to say them to soften the blow; I’m going to say them because this is exactly how I feel.

There is a lot of value to what the sabermetrics community has brought to the table. They’ve made us look beyond the traditional methods of evaluating players and given us all some out-of-the-box things to consider.

Now, some of the folks in this community don’t necessarily want us to just “consider” what they have to say, but would rather we take it as gospel. If you’re not one of those people, don’t get upset because this doesn’t apply to you.

One of the things we often hear is that there is not one single statistic that can be used to fully evaluate a player… That’s usually followed by, “however, if I only had to use one stat, it would be Wins Above Replacement (WAR)” or fill-in-the-blank. The one statistic; whatever it might be, then becomes the focal point of evaluating a player’s worth.

You hear it all the time – that guy isn’t worth the money, his WAR was only “X” last year.

For a lot of the folks in the sabermetrics baseball is pretty black and white. For these folks, it’s all about the numbers and everything else seems to be irrelevant. There are exceptions, but I’m not talking about those.

These are the people that mock phrases like “clutch” or “gritty” and look at players like David Eckstein with disdain. They focus on his WAR or OPS and down play his intangible contributions on the field.


Some of you "stat folks" just made a face didn’t you? I know that you hate the word “intangible” because the intangibles can’t be measured or projected. Well, I love the intangibles. You want to mock me right now, don’t you?

Well, I should be mocking you. Why? Because the intangibles bring color to the game and I’m not going to let anyone take the color out of the game for me. When I look back at what Eckstein did in 2002, I don’t go back and look at his stat sheet. I go back and look at how he played the game. I appreciate things like “effort” and “hustle” and even “grit.” They’re as much a part of the game as any statistic; in fact, they make the game for me.

I know some of you are laughing right now and I'm not fazed at all.

Baseball is an emotional game. Most die-hard baseball fans are passionate about it. We get joy from it. We even experience disappointment and sorrow. The old expression “baseball is life” is not all that far from the truth.

When I think about Torii Hunter, I don’t think about his WAR. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what his WAR is without going to look it up. What I can tell you about is the time he hit a walk-off grand slam in his first year with the Angels or the time he robbed Barry Bonds of a homerun in the all-star game.

When I learned that he was coming to Anaheim, I literally jumped for joy. I couldn’t wait to watch him play the game. Some of you went right to his stat sheet and focused on that. Some of you are probably still doing that. Not me, I’ve loved every moment of his time in Anaheim.


Baseball is about creating memories for me. It’s not about numbers. Adam Kennedy doesn’t have overly impressive numbers for his career, but when I think about him – I think about the time he hit three homeruns against the Twins in the 2002 ALCS to help the Angels get to their first World Series.

I could care less what his WAR is, was or might be. I could care less where he ranks among other second basemen. I don’t feel the need to compare him to anyone.

Now, that being said, I will fully acknowledge that there is a time and a place to talk about a player’s numbers; however, that kind of talk doesn’t have to be a part of every stinking conversation. Don’t try to force that conversation down my throat.

A really outstanding blogger named Ken Arneson put some of what I’m trying to say in the perfect perspective. Back in September he wrote a piece called “First Rule of Sabermetrics Marketing.

Arneson makes his point by talking about the “Got Milk” campaign. He writres about how the success of the campaign wasn't based on why milk is good for you. Instead it appealed to its audience on a more emotional level.

Arneson wrote “The insight — that listing a bunch of facts about your product is not very effective; the best marketing campaigns make an emotional connection between your core values and those of your customers — is brilliant, but that’s not why I remember it so well. The insight itself is just one in a list of facts about marketing, and probably wouldn’t stick with me very long without an emotional connection.”

Arneson is on to something here. Sabermetrics definitely has value, but I don't get emotional about it at all.

It should be noted Arneson is definitely a member of the sabermetrics community and he’s an Oakland A’s fan to boot (go figure).

For me, statistics can be boring. I’m not interested in being bored. I know they can be very educational, but when it comes to baseball, I’m more interested in being entertained. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for education. Hip, hip hooray for education! Just don’t be surprised if my eyes glaze over when you start going on and on about statistics if that becomes the sole focus of our baseball conversation. Again, there's a time and a place.

So, getting back to the whole Vernon Wells thing…

I know that whenever a team makes a move of any kind; be it a trade, a free agent signing, etc. some of you have this incredible need to analyze the deal from a sabermetrics point of view. You’re going to try and arrive at a player’s value relative to his contract, etc.

If that’s you, go for it. Have at it all you want. Heck, I might even join you from time to time. Just know that at the end of the day, I’m going to think about the possibilities in an optimistic light more often than not. I’m going to romanticize the deal and raise my expectations from time to time. Yes, in the long run I might become disappointed, but I’m willing to risk that.

I don’t embrace everything the Angels front office does. I’ve done my fair share of second guessing and ranting for sure.

It’s just that with Vernon Wells, I’m willing to give him and the Angels the benefit of the doubt. I understand that his road splits weren’t impressive and I know he’s going to be paid a lot of money. I just choose to not focus on that. After all, it’s out of my control and I have a hunch that he’s going to help this team. I don’t need all the numbers to align with the stars. I choose to believe in his desire to succeed and in the Angels faith for him to do great things. I know some of you can't relate to that train of thought and that's okay.

You know what else? I feel good about having this kind of attitude.

When all is said and done – I suppose one of us is going to be able to say, “I told you so.” Personally, I’m not afraid of being wrong. I’m more afraid of being the guy who isn’t willing to take a chance, follow my gut or discount my instincts. I don’t want to be “that guy.”

I have a good feeling about Vernon Wells. And quite frankly, I’m feeling more like myself because of it.

January 26, 2011

Welcome to Anaheim Mr. Wells!

When I said I was all in on Vernon Wells, I meant it. I also knew that being “all in” also meant that I had to get to the press conference at the stadium today and I did exactly that.

I have to tell you, this is the kind of stuff I love to blog about because when it comes right down to it, I’m a fan first and I love writing about this stuff from the fan’s perspective.

It was a gorgeous day and it felt good to be at the stadium. It felt good to be around baseball players, Angel fans and baseball people in general. It just energizes me in a big way. Spring is here and we all know what’s coming… spring training, baby.

Today, the Angels ‘royalty” was out in force; Bobby Grich, Chuck Finley and Clyde Wright were on hand to welcome Vernon Wells to the Angels family. Also on hand for the festivities was none other than Torii Hunter. Hunter flew in just to be there for his new teammate. Who does that? Torii Hunter does that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s my favorite player and I love having him on my favorite team.

Hunter was joined by all the usual suspects - Arte Moreno, Tony Reagins, Mike Scioscia, etc., etc. Victor Rojas was the MC and the media was out in force.

The funny thing is the media missed the scoop of the day.

While they were all focused on Wells, the biggest news of the day came in a True Grich exclusive. That’s right – I’ve got the inside information you’re not going to get any where else, in true; True Grich style.

Let me ask you - are you ready for a new look in center field?

No, I’m not talking about Vernon Wells and I’m not talking about a Torii Hunter return there either. I’m talking about a brand new “look.”

Let’s go to the video for details…

That was vintage Torii. I came to see Wells, but what happened always happens when Hunter is in the house. Hunter always finds a way to steal the show. He’s just a great personality and he loves mixing it up with the fans. You can’t help but feel better about the Angels whenever you spend time with Mr. Hunter.

And let's not forget, that if by chance Peter Bourjos shows up with a shaved head, you'll have this blog and Torii Hunter to to thank or blame, depending on your point of view.

Back to the reason for the press conference…

What can I say? Vernon Wells said all the right things. All the Angels brass said the right things. It was one big love fest. The OC Register covered the press conference in grand style and has a ton of material for you to read on their site.

Some interesting take a ways... Vernon Wells said this is the healthiest he’s been going into an off season in quite some time. He’s ready to play any position in the outfield to help the team win. He genuinely seems glad to be in Anaheim and called this place “paradise.” He talked about his appreciation for Angels’ organization and his friend Torii Hunter. He acknowledged the contract… you know that thing everyone seems to be focused on. He talked about giving back and talked about joining forces with Hunter both on and off the field.

He also talked about winning and doing the things that need to get the Angels back to the post season. He was looking forward to not going home in October.

Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it’s because spring is in the air. Regardless, I loved hearing everything he had to say and I want to believe he’s going to help this team in a big way. Like I keep saying, I’m a fan first and today was a good day to be a fan.

In some other interesting news - Tony Reagins let the folks know that the Angels may not be done with their roster and more moves could take place in the next three weeks.

Three weeks… that’s about all the time that’s left in this off – season before pitchers and Molinas report. Just saying.

January 25, 2011

I'm all in on Wells

It appears that the baseball experts, columnists, pundits and assorted fans are up in arms regarding the recent Vernon Wells acquisition. They’re practically falling over one another to get in line to take their shots. I’ve read or heard phrases like “worst ever," “laughing stock” and even “speechless” used in association with the trade that sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to Toronto for Vernon Wells.

How bad were the reactions? Check out Sam Millers’ blog in the OC Register.

All I can say is good grief. Some of these folks need to take a deep breath and relax. Let the man play some games before going off the deep end.

Vernon Wells is a solid baseball player that happens to have a contract that will over pay him to the tune of $20+ million a year. But let’s focus on the first part of that sentence – Wells is a good player. It seems to me that a lot of people are more concerned about the contract than say... oh, I don't know - those most impacted by it; namely, the Angels and Arte Moreno. Hello?

Here’s the question people should be asking: Is Vernon Wells a good ball player and can he help the Angels? This isn’t multiple choice; it’s yes or no and I think the answer is an astounding yes! You might not agree with me and that’s fine, but I choose to be optimistic about the deal and I don’t think I’m crazy for believing it either.

A lot of assumptions are being made that just don’t make any sense. Some assume that Wells contract will prohibit the Angels from extending guys like Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales. Really? I’d like to know how those making those assumptions came to that conclusion. What kind of insight do they have into the finances of the Angels? Does anyone really believe the Angels don’t want to resign either player and would take steps now to ensure neither one stays in Anaheim?

Sam Miller of the OC Register puts it this way: a) you want your team to win games, b) getting good players helps win games, c) overpaying for good players hurts your chances of getting more good players or better players. So if (C) hurts (B) and (B) promotes (A), then (C) hurts (A). Bad contracts make you sad.

What if Wells helps the Angels get into the post season and beyond, what’s it worth? Can you really put a price tag on it? What if he helps them win a World Series? What’s that worth? What if Wells has an MVP type season? Out of the question? I don’t think so. What if having Wells in the lineup helps Kendry Morales have an MVP type season? Even though I understand the argument about acquiring good players in the future; I’m glad to see my favorite team taking its shot right now. I'll let the Angels worry about what they can and can't afford down the road.

If you want to project doom and gloom, go for it. At the end of the day, the games will still be played. Cliché? You bet – but it’s still true.

Let me also point something else out. Guess how many position players (not pitchers) are signed beyond 2012?

Bobby Abreu? Nope. Torii Hunter? No again. I’ll tell you. Just Vernon Wells. Some of the rest will be eligible for salary arbitration but that group isn’t necessarily impressive. It includes Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Jeff Mathis, etc. The lone stud in the group is Kendry Morales.

In fact, if we include pitchers signed beyond 2012 – the only guys signed beyond next year are Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi. Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have club options for 2013.

So… how exactly is Vernon Wells’ contract going to handicap the Angels? A lot of salary will be coming off the Angels books in the near future.

Besides, the team could look completely different in 2014 when Wells’ contract runs out. And… Wells will only be 35 in his final year; not 38 or older like some who recently signed long term deals in this off season. No matter how I look at it, I like it. I like it a lot.

In fact, I love this acquisition. Someone please tell me when the Vernon Wells t-shirts are in the team store and I’ll run down and buy one for Cheryl and myself. I’m betting that Wells thrives in Anaheim. Check out the piece by John Morosi of Fox Sports. You’ll see that a lot of Wells’ former teammates agree with that idea.

I can’t wait to see Wells in Anaheim. Heck, I can’t wait to see him Tempe. I'm all in on Vernon Wells.

Look, all the pundits out there are just trying to make a living. I understand they have their opinions, but what if we held them to the same performance standards as they hold the players to?

What am I talking about?

The pundits are wrong a lot. We’ve had nine different champions in the last eleven years. In a lot of those cases, no one saw them coming. The Diamondbacks in 2001, the Angels in 2002, Marlins in 2003, etc., etc. and even the Giants in 2010.

I’ll take it a step further – even as the play-offs unfold – most of the pundits still get it wrong when they only have to pick among eight teams. That should give everyone some hope.

I mean I’ll go out on a limb right now and say that we will not see a Red Sox/Phillies World Series in 2011. I know they look like the early favorites, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet the field over those two every time.

Let’s just say that these experts have a lousy batting average. I'd really like to show up at some of the places of work and boo them as they write some of the garbage they spew. Just saying

By the way... new developments in the Napoli to Toronto deal.... Napoli has since been traded from Toronto to Texas. Yeah, that's right.... Texas. One more reason to hate the Rangers, don't you think?

In any case - the good news is that if Mike Napoli is as bad as Mike Scioscia seems to think he is, he'll really do a number on the Rangers' pitching staff. Again, just saying.

January 21, 2011

"Let's do this"

Vernon Wells has made his first public statement... well, he tweeted the following today "To my new home...LA! Winning is all that matters!! Let's do this!!"

The deal is still soaking in for me. The Angels are sending a fan favorite in Mike Napoli and a tub of goo, I call Juan Rivera to Toronto in exchange for Wells.

Pundits are blasting the deal and I couldn't be happier. The way I see it, the talking heads of baseball are often wrong and when this many of them are so sure the Angels did something horrible, it just makes me smile.

I'm smiling because I won't have to watch Juan Rivera resemble a penguin in quick sand while trying to catch routine fly balls. I'm smiling because Vernon Wells just might bring a little swagger back to Anaheim.

I'm smiling because I am putting my rose colored glasses back on and looking at this addition as a step in the right direction. I know some people have issues with his contract, but right here, right now - I'm only focusing on the fact that the Angels just got a little bit better offensively and defensively.

I've been ranting and complaining all off season and I'm ready to do a little cheering. No pundit is going to rob me of my joy right now.

Winning is all the matters. Vernon Wells said it and I'm going to keep on repeating it. Let's do this Mr. Wells. Let's do this.

Vernon Wells is coming to Anaheim

I have a really cool season ticket rep named Arthur. He’s so cool that when he read about the Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells trade on mlb.traderumors.com, he emailed me with the news. All I knew from the email was that Napoli had been traded and I had to go to mlb.tradeurmors.com for the details. The details are that Vernon Wells is coming west... to Anaheim!

My gut reaction? I gave a slight nod of approval with my head and then I went surfing. So, here’s what I know…

Vernon Wells is 32 years old. He is signed through 2014; however, he can opt out of his contract after the 2011 season. He’s due to earn $23 million this year and $21 million in each of the following years. Those are big numbers and I have to believe he’s not likely to opt out of this contract. Wells also has a full no-trade clause (which he waived to come to Anaheim).

What about his numbers, right? After all, it’s all about the numbers. Wells rebounded in 2010 after a disappointing 2009. He smacked 31 homeruns with an .847 OPS. I’ll take those numbers any time.

What I like about the deal…

This is the kind of “out of the box” deal I thought the Angels should make. The deal comes from a position of strength in that they have some depth at catcher. Wells will provide some protection for Kendry Morales and plays solid defense. He hasn’t won a Gold-Glove since 2006, but given what we saw in the outfield last year, he has to be an upgrade. If he ends up in left field with Torii Hunter in right and Peter Bourjos in center, the Angels will have three center fielders patrolling the outfield. Kind of cool.

I also like the fact that Wells wants to come to Anaheim. Given the way some free agents have shunned the Angels of late, this is a welcome change.

What makes me skeptical?

He’s going to earn some big dollars, the kind of dollars that Angels were reluctant to give some of the marquis free agents on the market. It just raises some questions for me, but I have to wrap my head around all that a little more before I blog about it.

At the end of the day, I think this is a move in the right direction. We still need to see all the specifics in the deal, as there are reports that Juan Rivera could also be a part of the deal. In any case I’m optimistic at this point.

It’s actually nice not to be ranting for a change. Just saying.

January 13, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it

The recession must be over. It just has to be. Why else would the Angels hand Jeff Mathis a 30 per cent raise? Yeah, that’s right – the Angels came to terms with Jeff Mathis on a 2011 contract, avoiding arbitration. Mathis goes from earning $1.3 million to $1.7 million. Wait, did I say "earning?"

It’s mind boggling.

How bad is Jeff Mathis? Well, I don’t want to rehash how bad he is statistically. I’ve already done that. Heck, a ton of people have done that. It’s not pretty. To say he’s one of the worst players from an offensive stand point in the history of baseball (with 900+ at bats) is not an under-statement at all.

Let me put it to you the best way I know how.

How bad is Jeff Mathis?

If he was standing on a one-lane highway with a truck coming at him, he wouldn’t be able to hit it with a bat.

He could be in a canoe in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and not be able to hit the water with a rock. If the canoe tipped over, he wouldn’t even get wet. In other words, Jeff Mathis couldn’t be Tony Reagin’s “big splash” even in this scenario.

He’s so bad; he couldn’t catch a fly with dog poop.

His career batting average is only slightly better than that of the peanut vendor or any other vendor in any stadium in the world. In fact, your average peanut has a better batting average than he does.

Even his on base percentage (OBP) is horrible; especially his 2010 OBP (.219). How bad? Glad you asked.

Tommy John could still get Jeff Mathis out. In fact, Dr. Frank Jobe who did the “Tommy John surgery” could get Mathis out. Heck, Bob Feller could still get Jeff Mathis out and Feller passed away last year.

Like I said earlier. the recession must be over. Either that, it's the end of the world as we know it.

I really don’t know what else to say. Excuse me while I visit my human resources department to talk about instituting a similar system for merit increases. Do you think they’ll laugh at me when I give them this example?

January 6, 2011

The 2010 Angels Off Season (not suitable for the faint of heart)

Defeat is a bitter pill to swallow. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the 2005 ALCS loss the Angels suffered to the Chicago White Sox and the 2009 ALCS loss to the New York Yankees. In each case the Angels were so close and yet so far. Sometimes there is a fine line between victory and defeat.

One play can change the momentum and ultimately the outcome of an entire series.

Losing those two series’ hurt more than usual because in each case, the Angels were knocking on the door of another World Series appearance. On top of that the Angels failed to make the play-offs in each of the following seasons.

In 2006 they won a very respectable 89 games, but finished second and not quite good enough for a wild card spot.

They followed up 2009 with a disappointing 80-82 record and a third place finish.

I usually deal with disappointing seasons by looking forward to the next one. My enthusiasm is usually fueled by what takes place in the off season. That didn’t happen in the winter prior to 2010 and it certainly isn’t happening this off season either.

I keep coming back to the statement Arte Moreno made to Bill Plaschke of the LA Times: "We know where our weaknesses are, we know where we are thin, we know where we have to go to market," Moreno said. "It's going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we're committed to winning."

I’m still waiting Arte.

He followed that up (via the LA Times) later on with this: "The fans want a competitive team, a winning team, and I'm committed to doing that, but I have two choices, either take a huge [financial] loss or start raising ticket prices. You look at the economic risk and the franchise risk. The reality is, can I write a check for the player? Yes. But is it smart business in the long term? I don't think so."

Funny, you haven’t raised ticket prices and you haven’t taken a huge financial loss either. You’ve basically done a lot of talking. Well, I’d rather watch a winner than listen to one.

What’s next? Are you going to lower beer prices again? That might buy you some good PR in some circles, but since I don’t drink it doesn’t hold a lot of water with me.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this was the first time things didn’t go our way, but there’s a pattern.

Take 2005 (off season prior to 2006) when Paul Konerko used the Angels to set his price for resigning with the Chicago White Sox. We heard stories that he was shopping for homes in So. Cal and how he liked the idea of being reunited with Mike Scioscia who knew Konerko from his days as a minor league manager in the Dodger organization. When all was said and done, Konerko returned to Chicago and a pattern of falling short had begun.

In 2006 (off season prior to 2007) the Alfonso Soriano sweepstakes even got out of hand. Moreno later admitted "We got so fond of one player, and then the market moved away from us."

While it was a good thing that they didn’t sign Soriano who hasn’t been worth the 8-year, $136 million he signed with Chicago; it also showed how badly an off season can go when you don’t have a viable backup plan. The Angels ended up signing Gary Matthews, Jr., Shea Hillenbrand, and Justin Speier. Good times.

In 2007 the Angels fell short in the Miguel Cabrera trade talks. Remember that? Remember this… "I've felt we had a deal with them twice," Moreno said of the Marlins, who apparently cut bait and decided they needed more in exchange for the 24-year-old slugger.

The Angels front office appeared confused... which has become a common perception. Just saying.

That being said; that was almost a happier time...

During the Cabrera negotiations in 2007 (off season prior to 2008) Moreno was also quoted as saying “"If you're looking at straight budget, we're over budget," Moreno said. "Yeah, I would [lose money] if I need to. It would be short-term. "We did that in '04. We were losing $20 million and people thought I was the stupidest guy on Earth when I signed all those guys (Bartolo Colon, Orlando Cabrera, extending Vladimir Guerrero). You have to believe long-term it's going to be a good investment. We felt we needed to step to the next level."

That was then, this is now.

Arte has been living off lowering beer prices and the signings he made in 2004 for quite a while now. He made a little splash with the Torii Hunter signing in 2008, but there have been plenty of times when Moreno and his GM’s (Tony Reagins and Bill Stoneman before him) were left at the negotiating table wondering what just happened.

It happened again in the off season prior to 2009 when Mark Teixeira and his agent Scott Boras left the Angels high and dry. Moreno went to $160 million, but came up $20 million short. Stories leaked out about how frustrated and angry Moreno was with Boras and the process. Once again, the perception that the front office operated in a state of frustration/confusion surfaced again.

Time after time, Moreno and whoever the GM at the time happened to be were left behind and seemingly stunned by what happened. You’d think they’d learn from past experiences. After all, they have plenty of experience in this arena….

Let’s recap how the Angels did in achieving the #1 goal in each off season (years are listed for the season in which they played on the teams they signed with).

2004: Angels sign Vladimir Guerrero. Some claim this deal fell in the Angels lap after the Dodgers failed to get the deal done.

2005: Carlos Beltran signed with the Mets (Angels sign Steve Finley and Orlando Cabrera). Finley was a great back up plan wans't he? *cough*

2006: Paul Konerko resigns with the White Sox. (Angels fail to sign any significant free agents).

2007: Alfonso Soriano signs with the Cubs (Thankfully). (Then again, Angels ended up with GMJ)...

2008: Miguel Cabrera traded to the Tigers (from Florida Marlins). (Angels sign Torii Hunter - a move made necessary by the poor 2007 signing of GMJ).

2009: Mark Teixeira signs with the Yankees (Angels sign Bobby Abreu and Brian Fuentes).

2010: John Lackey signs with the Red Sox (Angels sign Hideki Matsui, Joel Pineiro and Fernando Rodney. Angels also lost Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero to free agency, but they weren't part of the team's plans).

2011: Carl Crawford signs with the Red Sox and Adrian Beltre signs with the Rangers. (Angels? Well, we're still waiting)...

So… basically, the Angels signed/acquired their top priority in only two out of the last seven off seasons; which means they're hitting .285. Woo-hoo.

Let’s not forget the Angels also signed Steve Finley for 2005, Jeff Weaver for 2006, and just because I can’t mention it enough – GMJ for 2007. Oh the memories.

To be fair, the Angels have made some good trades over the past few years acquiring Dan Haren and Mark Teixeira. They also Acquired Maicer Izturis and Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen prior to 2005 and that proved to be a good move as well. Then there’s the deal for Scott Kazmir, which may work out… right? Anyone? Anyone? I would even say that signing Matt Palmer in 2009 was a nice little move.

Now, I know that no front office is perfect. Every team makes good and bad moves. I just happen to be of the opinion that the Angels front office isn’t performing at the level we expect. I also know they’ll ultimately be judged by the product on the field. I really and truly appreciate all that happened between 2002 and 2009.

I freely admit that until last season, Angel fans didn’t have much to complain about (even 2003 was acceptable because we were all still giddy about 2002), but that’s all changed in a big way. Our confidence in the front office has been shaken; in fact, it's been rocked like an earthquake.

There's a perception that has developed over time that Reagins and Moreno are stubborn, inflexible, ego-driven and hard to deal with. Wait, there's more... at times they appear to be baseball's versioin of the Keystone Cops (chasing free agents they can't catch) and to make matters worse, they make statements that are incredibly funny - even if they're not meant to be.

Once the darlings of baseball; the media and the blogosphere is now pounding Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins and rightfully so.

What are they saying? Let's take a look...

Danny Knobler (CBS Sports): “So Adrian Beltre is headed for Texas. Anyone want to hear what Arte Moreno has to say now?”

“I don't.”

“It doesn't matter, because now not only have the Angels shown they're not prepared to compete financially with the big boys, but they've shown they can't even compete financially with the big boys in their own division.”

“There's still more than a month to go to spring training, which means that theoretically there's still time for the Angels to salvage their winter. But while there's still time, the shelves are now bare.”

Tom Krasovic (Fanhouse): “Even if they were shopping in a sellers' market, this seemed like the offseason for the Angels to gulp and commit the biggest contract in Angels history. Their farm system isn't as good as the Texas farm system and may not be as good as the Oakland farm system. On the trade market, the Angels are known for being overly rigid. All the more reason to go after Carl Crawford hard and fast.”

Also from his column: "If they're being scared off from premium players in the market, they're in big trouble," said the AL executive. "They don't have a lot of talent coming up. They are known for being difficult to trade with. They are going to have to spend wisely in free agent to make up that difference, but that's getting harder and harder to do with what's out there."

Jon Morosi (Fox Sports): “The Angels can be excused for not lavishing $142 million on Crawford. This is different. The price for Beltre was nearly $50 million less. The fit was even better. I’m beginning to wonder if O.C. stands for Oddly Comatose.”

"The Angels must put together a more potent lineup than they did last year, when they barely produced more runs than the Kansas City Royals. Morales will help, but he can’t do it alone. And I doubt general manager Tony Reagins is enamored with the external options at third base. The remaining free agents are unexciting, and the trade market features . . . well . . . Michael Young."
Jon Heyman (Sports Illustrated): “There's still plenty of shopping for several teams to do, and not just for the Angels, who have taken the collar so far this winter and are up to plan D. Or is it plan G or even plan M?”

“Whatever it is, it doesn't look like they've had their heads in the game this entire winter.”

“They claim not to have made any offer at all to top target Carl Crawford, disputing reports they offered an absurdly low $108 million for six years and other reports they were prepared to go to $140 million or more, if only they'd gotten their act together in time. They did offer Adrian Beltre $70 million over five years, and apparently they set a short three-day deadline that wasn't taken very seriously. "I don't understand their ultimatum strategy,'' one competing executive said.”

David Saltzer (AngelsWin): “As a fan, I cannot recall ever being this frustrated and disappointed in the team as I have been this year. While losing Nolan Ryan may have been the worst offseason decision ever, and losing Wally Joyner hurt more, both of those off seasons pale in comparison to 2011.”

blithescribe (MLB blogs): "So Adrian Beltre is a Ranger and the Angels missed the boat again. I understand that the free agent market got outrageously expensive again this year. Under normal circumstances, I think sticking to one's principals is laudable but, right now, claiming to stick to their principals just looks like the Angels front office is making a piss poor excuse for terrible performance. We didn't strike out this off season, we barely even bothered to step up to the plate."

I'd say the natives are restless. I wonder how Arte is sleeping these days? I've said it before and I'll say it agin... time to get to work.

January 5, 2011

Colonel Jessup where are you?

I’m a little dizzy today and I’m not sure if it’s because of all the spin I’ve been reading about the Angels off season so far or it it’s from watching the extraordinary contracts being handed out by teams around major league baseball sky rocket out of this world.

I need to steady myself long enough to make sense of it all and while I’m at it, blog about it.

So… let’s recap a bit, shall we?

The Angels had a dismal 2010 season. I think that’s putting things mildly. Granted, Pirates fans would probably see an 80-82 season as somewhat acceptable, but we’re not in Pittsburgh. We’re in Los Angeles or is it Anaheim? Anyway, how dismal was 2010? It was so bad that Arte Moreno went Jack Nicholson on us (as in Colonel Jessup of a “Few Good Men”) to let us know he wasn’t going to take this kind of showing lightly.

All the early reports had the Angels as the favorites to land Carl Crawford and possibly Adrian Beltre and/or Rafael Soriano. Word was out that the Angels were talking like they already had Crawford on their roster. It seemed like a done deal.

Then the winter meetings came. Tony Reagins headed out to Florida and showed up late. By the time he left Carl Crawford had signed a whopping 7 year, $146 million contract with Boston. To top things off, we later learn from Arte that the Angels never made an offer. Huh? What? Wait, wasn’t Crawford their #1 priority?

Colonel Jessup where are you?

All of a sudden, Arte Moreno started singing a different tune. He wasn’t going Colonel Jessup any longer; he was going Private Benjamin instead. He started moaning about the huge contracts being handed out and his desire to keep ticket prices down, etc. In other words, he was back tracking and basically telling Angel fans that even though his team had Los Angeles in its name, it was still just a team from Anaheim and Anaheim can’t really compete with New York or Boston.

You can see why I’m dizzy, right?

December came and went.

In comes the New Year and yesterday we learned that the Texas Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to a 5-year $80 million deal with incentives that could make the contract a 6-year $96 million deal. Apparently, Anaheim can’t compete with Arlington either.

Texas basically got Beltre for $2 million more per year (5-years $80 million) guaranteed than what the Angels offered (5- years $70 million) and were creative enough to put in some safe guards for that sixth year.

Meanwhile back in Anaheim the Angels are looking at a 2011 roster that looks like Swiss cheese.

What happened?

Did Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins misjudge the free agent market? Did they get caught standing flat footed? You be the judge.

All I know is that Texas is making its play and their fan base has to be excited. They’re looking at their window of opportunity as being now and doing whatever they can to reach for the brass ring. They’ve gone "all in" and regardless of what you think of Adrian Beltre’s contract, they just improved their team in a variety of ways.

You can also say what you want about Beltre’s offense (btw - if you think it’s sub-par you would be wrong), but don’t even question his defense. The left side of their infield just went to the elite level with Beltre and Elvis Andrus. Guess what? That makes their pitching staff better.

Some people are focusing on all the wrong things when it comes to Crawford and Beltre. They’re focused on the cost and what the ROI (return on investment) will be down the road. What they fail to realize is that both Boston and Texas are looking at the opportunity to win a World title now; as in this coming year. They’re taking their shot and I applaud them for going for it.

Face it; getting to a World Series is difficult. Winning one is next to impossible for most. A lot of things have to go right for a franchise to win it all. When that opportunity presents itself, you have to go for it. Texas is going for it. So is Boston. They might not be that good in five or six years – but they’re good enough now and rather than focus on what might be down the road – they’re going for it. Why? Unless you’re the New York Yankees these opportunities don’t present themselves very often.

The Angels reaped the benefits from winning it all in 2002. The residual effect of that title lasted for years. Winning it all pays off in big ways.

The reward is worth the risk.

Think about it. Remember how incredibly awesome it was when the Angels won it all in 2002? What would you risk to see that again? Would you risk the possibility that your team might be mediocre for a few years after that? I would. 2002 seems like a million years ago.

The Angels went for it in 2009 when they made the big trade to rent Mark Teixeira. Yes, that effort failed, but they gave it a shot. It was worth the risk. It’s okay to fail. It happens. It’s the not trying to do whatever you can that is the biggest failure.

The way I see it, the Angels have the pitching staff that is capable of getting to the biggest dance in baseball, but it doesn’t have the offense to back it up. Adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre would have given the Angels a shot. That’s not to say that the Angels don’t have a shot in 2011; but in my opinion, the window for such a goal is getting smaller and smaller.

If the Angels don’t improve their offense, it’s going to put too much pressure on the pitching. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Now some people will say, let’s wait till 2012 and go after the best free agents then. Have you seen the free agent pool for 2012? There are two big names on that list. One is Albert Pujols. Given the Angels track record, do you really believe the Angels would be players in the Albert Pujols sweepstakes? Never mind that he probably won't even make it to free agency since he’s discussing a contract extension.

The other name is Prince Fielder. Do you believe the Angels are willing to over pay for Fielder? That’s right, I said “over pay.” That’s the market for top tier free agent these days. I don’t believe the Angels are willing to do that based on recent history. And what about the fact that he plays the same position as Kendry Morales?

The rest of the free agent pool doesn’t impress. Even if it did, it’s become clear that the Angels aren’t willing to go swimming in that pool. Signing top tier free agents has become a spectator sport in Anaheim.

Some people will say, well let’s wait on the kids. After all, “Mike Trout is coming.”

Well, the expectations being put on Mike Trout to be the “savior” aren’t fair and it’s certainly not realistic. He’s just one guy and it’s going to be next to impossible for him to live up to the hype that’s being thrown around.

Now there’s always the “if the Giants can do it, anyone can” argument. Please… catching lightning in a bottle is all well and good, but it’s not something you can count on.

The time for the Angels is now. The Angels need to compliment their excellent pitching with something more than a bee-bee gun of an offense.

That being said, I’m not conceding the season to the Texas Rangers or the Boston Red Sox because I know as well as you do that anything can happen in baseball. What I am saying is that as we stand here today (okay, so I’m sitting at a computer) the Angels don’t look like contenders.

Sure some people will try to convince you otherwise, but will they look you in the eye with a straight face when they spew that nonsense?

The excuses are already out there.

We are starting to hear a lot of spin and misdirection. We are hearing about how having Kendry Morales back and Dan Haren for a full season is going to be all that. I say stop it. And don’t start telling us how you expect Erick Aybar, Juan Rivera and the rest of the underachievers to rebound in 2011.

A lot of things have to go well for the Angels to be serious contenders in 2011. A lot of things have to go right that didn’t go well in 2010. Too many players have to rebound or have career years. And then there's Jeff Mathis... ugh. The odds simply aren’t good.

Now I know the off season isn't over yet and that championships aren't won in December or January. In fact, I've said those very things myself in past years. This year is just different and those phrases seem empty to me now.

I’m usually very optimistic. You could even call me a homer. What changed? The 2010 season did and more specifically the off season prior to it. The Angels had some big holes to fill last year. They needed to add a bat to protect Kendry Morales and they needed a leadoff hitter. They addressed those needs with a combination of stop gap measures and wishful thinking (hello Erick Aybar) and the results weren’t pretty.

A year later, they’re still looking to fill those holes. Crawford and Beltre are gone. That doesn't spell the end of the world, but what's next? The offense is still sub par at best.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving up. I’ll still support my team to the fullest. Cheryl and I will still be at the stadium more than any sane couple will admit to. That’s not going to change.

Let’s just say the front office hasn’t given me any reason to be hopeful. The honeymoon with Arte Moreno is over. It’s time to get to work. Make me believe again.

January 4, 2011

Happy Deja-vu Year!

The Angels went into this off season with huge needs on offense. I’m talking about holes big enough to drive a truck through. They had to find an impact bat and a leadoff hitter. They also needed to upgrade the defense (to put it mildly) in the outfield; hopefully with players that would address those offensive needs at the same time.

Arte Moreno knew it. Mike Scioscia said it. Tony Reagins just hasn’t done it.

As we enter 2011 it sure feels like 2010 all over again. I really had hoped to start the New Year with something other than a rant, but when I read that the Texas Rangers are on the verge of signing Adrian Beltre to a contract, I don’t feel like doing much else; unless you count screaming.

That being said, the Angels are in a no-win situation. If they don’t sign Beltre, they’re going to be hammered by the media and their fans... If they sign him to the ridiculous contract the Rangers are rumored to be proposing (6 years and $96 million), they’ll get hammered.

Let’s not forget how many experts, analysts and pundits predicted the Angels would be the favorites for Crawford, Beltre and even Rafael Soriano. Let’s not forget how often those experts are wrong in their predictions and how often I like to remind readers of that.

Reagins is in a tough spot, but that’s the kind of thing that comes with the job of a GM. After the 2009 season ended, the Angels lost a middle of the lineup hitter in Vladimir Guerrero (even though he struggled in 2009) and a lead-off hitter in Chone Figgins. How did they respond? They found a stop gap in Hideki Matsui and misjudged Erick Aybar’s abilities.

2010 has come and gone and the Angels find them back in the same position. This is unacceptable. Okay, Crawford wanted to go to Boston and Beltre apparently wants to simply go to the highest bidder. I get t hat. I understand that.

That doesn’t excuse the fact that Reagins has yet to do anything to improve the offense. At this point in time – it’s looking like the Angels will have to find some stop gaps for yet another season. It’s looking like Scott Podsedik and fill-in-the-blank might be the best option. There’s even talk of the Angels bringing Vlad Guerrero back.

While the idea of Vlad back in Anaheim might have some PR appeal, it makes absolutely no practical sense. The Angels have three DH’s in Bobby Abreu, Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera who are cleverly disguised as position players when in reality they’re little more than DH’s. Even staying at a Holiday Inn Express isn’t going to improve their defense any time soon.

What happens after this season? Well, let’s just say that unless you think the Angels can sign either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, things don’t look great. The free agent class of 2012 is not impressive.

Mean while, the window is closing for the Angels. Torii Hunter is not getting any younger and Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales are not too far removed from free agency. The time to improve the offense is now. Why now? Because a solid offense matched with the current pitching staff could be a dynamic combo.

If we have to sit through another season where the offense is dependent on “frenzy” hitting and not the long ball or at least doubles into the gap, it’s going to be a long one. A lack of offense puts pressure on the pitchers. That didn’t work out so well last season.

Again, the Angels are in a tough spot; more specifically, Tony Reagins is in a tough spot. He has a farm system that needs to provide depth and right now that system only has a hand full of top level prospects. Trading any of them would be detrimental to the long-term health of the organization. The free agent pool is dwindling and time is running out.

It’s time for some big boy moves. It’s time for some real strategic thinking and creativity. Is Reagins up to the challenge? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Note to TR and Arte: Things look bad. Fix it. And while you’re at it, please don’t show us any fancy dance moves… where you dance around the issues with some cockamamie speech about how getting Kendry Morales back and a full season of Dan Haren is all the team needs. You can’t really sell that with a straight face, so don’t’ even try.

And just so I can feel a little better about my post today – I have a few things to say about Adrian Beltre.

Adrian – you’d be a great fit in Anaheim, but if you really want to come back to So. Cal then the ball’s in your court. If you don’t want to come and play in Anaheim for five years and $70 million – which is a very fair offer, you’re a fool. Yeah, I said it; a fool. You can sweat your brains out playing next to Ian Kinsler in that Texas heat for all I care. If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you. Have fun playing in front a half empty stadium in the sweltering heat.