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.


  1. Adrian Beltre is a good player about to be paid as though he were a great one. Despite your commentary above, he's been over 6 WAR only twice in his career, and both times were walk years. The rest of the time he's been a 1-3 WAR player. I'm absolutely not sad that the Angels didn't pay full retail for a Boras client.

  2. VERY well put... I LOVE THE ANGELS, and I'm trying my hardest to stay optimistic, but come on!!! Give me something to look forward to Arte!