Thursday, December 25, 2008

By David Saltzer - Columnist

When I was a child, I remember one holiday season when I really wanted an electric Hot Wheels car set. It was fast. It was sleek. It had sound effects. It was the “it gift” of the year before they kept track of “it gifts”.

I told EVERYONE about that Hot Wheels car set. I just knew I was going to get it and was giddy with anticipation.

I remember that year well because that was the year I didn’t get the Hot Wheels car set.

Let me tell you, I was angry. I didn’t understand. How was it that I didn’t get it? I told everyone that I wanted it. I did all my chores, all my homework, helped out wherever I could, and anything else I could think of to try and earn it. And, to make matter worse, my friend Andy got it that year (along with several other cool toys) and he loved showing it off to me.

What I got that year was something totally different than I had ever gotten before. I didn’t understand it and I definitely didn’t like it. I got a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and a check with explicit instructions on how to contact a stock broker and what specific stocks to buy.

On top of that, the card for my gift said that I had to keep a daily log of the stocks I bought and learn about them. After 6 months, if I kept my log complete, I would meet with my parents and grandparents and could do what I wanted with the stocks including selling them to buy the Hot Wheels car set.

To me, that just sounded like one big homework assignment to start on my Winter Break! They knew what I wanted and didn’t buy it for me. That sucked!

For the next six months, I kept my log. And, at the end of that time period, I found that my investment had nearly doubled. Not only was I simply opening the Wall Street Journal in disgust just to do my log, I was skimming the headlines to find articles relating to the companies that I owned. I started making new plans for my investments.

When the time came for my meeting with my parents and grandparents, I found myself saying something that would have shocked me 6 months earlier: I didn’t want to sell my stocks to buy the Hot Wheels set.

You see, in the intervening months, a few things happened. First off, I had my birthday, and got new things. At the same time, I got to see the Hot Wheel set for what it was—it was fun for a while, but in the end, it’s wasn’t that great. The cars didn’t stay on the tracks like the box said they would, and the sound effects definitely were annoying.

Over those 6 months, I found that I really liked my investments. While some of them didn’t perform as the broker suggested, others had exceeded my wildest expectations! Instead of dreaming about the Hot Wheels set, I found myself dreaming of bigger and better gifts to buy with the money I was making on my investments.

As a season ticket holder, I will admit, I was angry and frustrated when we pulled out of the Teixeira sweepstakes. When the final deal was announced, I thought that if all that separated us from our #1 priority for the offseason was about $2.5 million/year then we should have stepped up our offer. After all, Teixeira was the player who our hitting coach identified as the exemplar for our younger players. I especially didn’t like losing Teixeira during a down economy and in a year when my season ticket prices went up, again.

But, as I thought about it, losing Teixeira this Christmas won’t be as drastic as some would have us believe. Let’s take the worst case scenario: we don’t make any more moves this offseason and go entirely with internal options. Pessimists would call this scenario a “rebuilding year”.

Well, if this is a rebuilding year, then I’d like to present the following scenario for 2009: our offense will be better next year than it was pre-Teixeira in 2008. How can I say that? Well, for one thing, the biggest hindrance to our offense last year was Vlad’s injuries. Hopefully with his offseason surgery, he’ll show more of his second half than his first half.

At the same time, we’ve gone from GA’s anemic pre-All-Star 690 OPS to Juan Rivera’s career 799 OPS. While Kendry isn’t as good with the glove as Kotchman, I believe that he will contribute more offensively than Kotchman did in the first half. With the pitching being the same, and the rest of the AL West not doing enough to overtake us (although Oakland will give us more of a challenge), we should still win our division. Not many teams can win their division in a so-called “rebuilding year”.

If that’s the worst case, what’s the most likely case? Most likely, much like my birthday, there will be intervening events that will bring new players to the team. The team’s opening lineup is not set and much can and will happen between now at Opening Day. For example, if this economic crisis continues, there may be far more opportunities available throughout the season as other teams struggle to make payroll.

Management knows that the offense is weaker without Teixeira than with him and they saw the impact that an additional patient slugger had on our team. They know that having Teixeira in our lineup affected Vlad’s and Hunter’s offense. And, they are working on a solution. We may not see it for a while, but, I have no doubts that they are working on one.

At the same time, I believe that management has realized a few things from the whole Teixeira ordeal. Firs, they have properly concluded that there’s no need to second guess the decision to trade for Teixeira. While it didn’t work out as planned, it was the right thing to do at the time and hopefully it won’t prevent us from making future deadline deals.

Second, management has hopefully learned that developing players like Teixeira is cheaper than trying to sign them to long-term deals. A new focus for our scouting and player development is in order. Many scouts consider plate discipline a 6th tool, and hopefully we’ve seen the results of having a player with that tool in our lineup. With all our draft picks next year, we should be able to pursue a new philosophy to improve our player development.

Finally, I hope that this whole ordeal causes our management to join the growing sentiment that baseball needs some kind of salary cap and floor in its next player agreement. With the Yankees committing more money this offseason to a few players than entire teams can afford to spend on an entire team’s payroll, the sport is out of balance. If a salary cap is imposed, we will be better off than the Yankees to survive in such an environment.

Look, I’m not Pollyannaish about the 2009 season. We most likely won’t win as many games as we did in 2008. But, I still believe that this team is capable of winning the AL West and is still just as capable of getting hot in the post season as we did in 2002.

If winning the AL West is a bad year is in the Arte Moreno years, as an Angels fan, I’m not that bitter. I remember teams that were destined to lose from the start of the season and where hope was nowhere to be found. It’s time to let the current crop of kids play and see how our investments pan out. Some will not perform as promised, but others will exceed our wildest dreams. And, it’s time to have some faith that management will continue to do what it can to improve this ball club. 2009 isn’t even here yet, and there are 162 games on the season left to play.
Love to hear what you think!


Anonymous said...

I never got the hot wheels set but then again, I didn't get the Wall Street Journal either. Here's the hoping the Angels have that "wall street journal" plan hanging in the balance. I agree the Angels have a team that can win the AL West. Frankly, building a team to win in the playoffs is completely useless. As long as we have a best-of-five division series, ANYONE can win at any time, just as the Angels did in 2002. Whichever team has the hot pitchers and batters can win it all. This lineup has power potential from several guys and with Vlad in a contract year and healthy knees, he's going back on a tear. He's turning 33, not 38. The Angels aren't done dealing yet, just you wait and see. The hot wheels set just didn't arrive in time for Christmas but it's on its way!

Chuck said...

After watching the borass games, I am glad the angels pulled out. So much for borass being local and showing the local team favor. I hope every game borass shows up for he has to purchase a ticket like the rest of us. I am disappointed in texiera for being so greedy. how many millions do you need. Now he is playing in a town that will be scrutinizing his every AB and move. I thought he said he enjoyed playing in Anaheim, talk is cheap. So is it where you can make the biggest dollar or where you are ost comfortable playing. I guess it is all about the money. I look forward to the season I think we have a very good team as it stands, give some of the young guns a chance that's why we develop them. How would you like to be a young player in the yankees organization? Knowing you will unlikely get an opportunity to play because they would rather bring in a high priced free agent.

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