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.


  1. Barbara SchriebmanJanuary 06, 2011

    Great column. I, too, am a "longtime" Angel fan. I am horrified so far and I don't expect much to be done(fringe free agent), rather than a good deal or two.
    I think, that perhaps Mr. Moreno has lost money in the recession. But the lack of a major trade has me thoroughly confused.

  2. Time to start the youth movement. Get Trumbo in the outfield in left...Willits as a leadoff DH. Trade away Rivera and Abreu if they have any value left. Hopefully we will be able to then convince Weaver to stay and then go after someone big in the next offseason or two. If anyone thinks we will compete with the Rangers this year they are crazy.

  3. James, this is very good work. I can't really find anything about which I'd disagree. I will say that the Finley signing, at the time, looked like a decent backup plan, as Finley had just basically put the Dodgers on his back to win the NL West in 2004... but he certainly fell apart quickly.

    I'm curious what your opinion is for the Angels' plan going forward. Do they bring in some B or C level talent (Cantu, Podsednik)? Do they bring back Vlad to make fans happy? What's your plan of attack?

  4. RyanV... the problem with the Finley signing and signing older players in general is that with every added year, the risk of them regressing is huge.

    My back up plan? Oh well... that's the topic for another blog, don't you think?

    I will say that Scott Podsednik would be an acceptable piece and he would certainly fit a need. Then again, Pods will soon be 35 so I'm reluctant to make that move. I would like to think the days of the Angels signing players past their prime is over, but that doesn't seem to be the case lately.

    I'm not a fan of Cantu - but he is the kind of player you might catch lightning in a bottle with. His career stats aren't all that different from Callaspo's - save the two years he hit more than 25 HR's.

    I'm still thinking about what my plan would be. I'm usually not that good with this stuff though and don't mind admitting it. I dont' pretend to believe I could do a better job than Tony Reagins. I just don't like what I've seen so far.

  5. I forgot to respond to your question about Vlad... He's another player who is due to regress because of his age. Playing in Arlington was kind to him and I don't believe he would repeat those numbers in Anaheim.

    It sure would be a popular decision with the fans.

    The Angels do need to replace Matsui's bat and Vlad may be the best option... although some would like to see Jim Thome (who is also not getting any younger).

    The options aren't all that great, are they?

  6. dont yall see whats happening Arte is saving his money up as soon as his lease with Anaheim is up hes going to move the team,he hasnt wanted to be in Anaheim since he purchased the team, hence The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sorry Mr. Autry we are going to lose your beloveded Angels and this really saddens me cause I have been an Angel fan since 78' at ripe age of 8 RIP Lyman Bostock,and I enjoyed the 79'and 82' seasons with my dad God rest his soul. All I can say is YES WE CAN how great it sounds is a distant memory destroyed by Arte.

  7. A. Soriano has played to his contract at this point. '07-10 he has made 56mil, fangraphs puts his valuation at 59mil. Yeah the next 4 years will likely not look as good at 18mil per. Good article. What frustrates me is that mngmt puts on this dog and pony show for the fans prior to this offseason, and then falls flat on its face when it comes time to do the nitty gritty.