Photo by Eric Notti
Angels Still Not “Big” Market
By Adam Dodge - Angelswin Senior Writer
From the moment the Boston Red Sox recorded the final out of the 2007 World Series, and the off-season officially began there was a strange vibe surrounding the Angels and permeating amongst Angel fans. This was to be a different off-season. One which would see the Angels finally land a superstar to compliment, even supplant Vladimir Guerrero.
With two premier King Kong power bats on the market we debated whether or not the Angels should acquire Alex Rodriguez or the younger, slightly less dynamic, Miguel Cabrera. The Angels were to be major players for both. When Rodriguez promptly opted out, then resigned with the Yankees the only debate which remained was what the Angels should offer the Marlins for their star slugger.
Other than aggressive whispers about the Dodgers’, no other Major League team seemed interested in matching Florida’s perceived price. Cabrera was to be an Angel. Admittedly, my skepticism that the Angels would actually pull off a trade for a player of Cabrera’s ability was matched by just a few. After all, the Angels had concluded each of the last several off-seasons without completing a trade of any significance. And despite the thoughts that new General Manager Tony Reagins’ aggressive approach would be the difference, it was hard to believe that trend would change. But after weeks of hearing and reading the countless reports about the Angels’ continued talks with Marlins’ management and the lack of reports about other viable suitors my skepticism faded and my hope became faith. I believed. The only questions which remained were when the trade would be completed, and which players would be leaving the Angels organization.
When yesterday it was announced that the Marlins had reached an agreement with the Detroit Tigers to send both Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Motor City, the sting I felt was as great as I had felt after any Angel regular or post-season loss. I was absolutely crushed emotionally.
At the beginning of the off-season I was certain that any interest in acquiring such a player was just that…interest. It had not entered my mind that the Angels would actually pull the trigger. But something had happened over the past month. Chips began to fall. The Angels shockingly traded gold glove shortstop and team leader, Orlando Cabrera. Jon Garland came in return, giving the Angels a surplus of starting pitchers. Certainly one (or more) of those remaining were to be traded. But another surprise was about to occur. When the Angels signed centerfielder, Torii Hunter to a 5 year, $90 million mega contract my previous notions about Angels’ owner Arte Moreno immediately changed.
I had always believed that the Angels, though not economically challenged, would never reach a payroll level close to the Boston Red Sox, the league’s second richest team. The organization to me, was always going to be an upper mid-market franchise, able to improve the team through free agency when necessary, but more reliant on their farm system than the big market teams. But with the signing of Hunter, more of a luxury than a necessity, the impending contract extensions of Guerrero and John Lackey, and the what seemed to be inevitable acquisition of Cabrera, who himself would be extended to a mega deal, I quickly changed my view. Arte meant business. The Angels were going to do and pay whatever necessary to win now and in the future.
But that mirage disappeared immediately when the Angels failed to land Cabrera. It was Detroit that meant business. What a sucker I was. I had never felt more gullible in my entire life. Because a team and owner that “meant business” would have never let that happen.
Let me be clear. I am not indicting the Angel franchise. I am not questioning their desire to win. I am simply questioning their desire to win at all costs, which I had been duped into believing had become the Angel philosophy sometime between Manny Ramirez’s walk off home-run in game two of the 2007 ALDS and the complete embarrassment that was game three.
But the Angel philosophy had not shifted. If it had they would have overpaid for the one player worth it. They would have included Brandon Wood and two pitchers to make the deal happen if that’s what it would have took. They would have taken on Willis as the Tigers did.
I am not complaining that the Angels are not in the economic class of the Yankees or Sox. I’m not suggesting that Angels mortgage the future to win for a season or two. My only demand is that the Angels choose and stick with an identity. And unlike some, I don’t care which.
If you’re going to talk like a bully and push like a bully then you had better fight like a bully. The Angels are still punchless, unwilling to take the necessary steps to back up the “talk.” It’s the misleading rhetoric and supplemental actions which are the primary cause of my disappointment.
By making us believe that the organization’s intentions are on par with those of the Red Sox ,Yankees and Tigers, the unsettling feeling of being the fourth or fifth best American League team (on paper) is all the more difficult to swallow. In contrast, a forthright declaration that the Angels will NEVER approach that class, would make winning an AL West title more valuable than currently perceived and would allow the fan base to embrace the underdog role with more ferocity.
Granted, the off-season is not over and though the Angels failed to acquire the superstar they coveted, there is still a possibility the team will be improved. In fact, my impression that Arte is suffering from an identity crisis may be false. He could acquire Eric Bedard and Miguel Tejada from Baltimore, further increasing payroll. A deal completely off the radar could be made. But if the manner in which the Angels failed to land Cabrera is any indication, the Angels will be outbid or unwilling to alter their methodology drastically enough to consummate a major deal.
If so, Arte and the Angels should admit as much. As fans we could once again be grateful for what we have rather than whining about what we don’t.