December 2011

Will Four Aces and a Wild Card Red Bird Turned Red Angel, Give the Halos the Winning Hand into the World Series?

I am still trying to process everything that has gone on the last 24 hours, the Texas Rangers must have really left a bad taste in our collective mouths for the Angels’ organization to react this way. I guess seeing someone in your division represent the American League in the World Series two years in a row can do that to a team.

Since the big-splash signings of Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar before 2004,  Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Paul Konerko and in trade talks for Roy Halladay and Miguel Cabrera; free agents, Carl Crawford, and Cliff Lee.one would think this would be a list of all stars, but they have all been failed acquisitions by the Angels.

Now they have signed both Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson to long-term contracts essentially changing landscape of not only of the American League West, but of the entire American League. My little brother knocked on my bedroom door this morning and said, “did you hear the news?” Half asleep, I thought he was talking about Wilson. He goes on to say “I think they overpaid, but we have him for 10 years.” Slowly waking up, I thought to myself, “CJ Wilson for 10 years? I only remember the Angels offering five.” Then it dawned on me that he wasn’t talking about CJ Wilson at all, he was talking about Albert Pujols.

 

For those of you that have read my blog on a regular basis, you know I have brought this up as a possibility since the beginning of last year, but I myself didn’t believe that this was actually a possibility especially after the spectacular rise of Mark Trumbo, but truth be told it makes sense both from a team perspective and a business perspective as well.

 

For the last two years, the Texas Rangers have dominated the American League West, with the Angels coming in at a close second, this is a team that was used to trading division titles with the Oakland Athletics. We’ve always had a good team, but never a team that could compete with the American League East, the Yankees, the Rays and the Red Sox, particularly. We needed to make an impact move that would help the team get past the Rangers while at the same time help us compete with the rest of the power divisions in baseball such as the aforementioned American League East.

 

From a business standpoint, it also makes a lot of sense the Angels have always competed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the Los Angeles area market, with the Dodgers in the middle of an ownership transition this was the perfect opportunity for Angels owner, Arturo Moreno to take advantage of this opportunity. What better way than to ink the best player in all of baseball of the modern era?

 

People are concerned about the length of Albert’s contract, but one of the advantages of Albert Pujols coming over to the American League is towards the back of his contract the Angels can now use them as a designated hitter. Extending his offensive influence on this team.



One has to wonder, what the Angels are now capable of doing, with a rotation that is arguably now one of the best in all of baseball with Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, C. J. Wilson and Ervin Santana. Offensively, we have the guy the heart and soul the offense Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, and hopefully a resurgence from Vernon Wells. We would definitely be a team with a lot of depth, yet limited flexibility.

 

I am also concerned for the accessibility of Angels tickets to the average fan given this shocking news, next year will be my 30th anniversary as a loyal Angels’ fan and I just hope that tickets can still stay somewhat affordable so that future generations can enjoy the game of baseball just as I have over the years. For me it’s no longer a “Winter Wonderland” it now has become “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

 

-ICE

Are the Angels and Rangers Becoming the Yankees and the Red Sox of the American League West?

This blog has truly become my sanctuary when talking about the Angels. I tend to write about this team’s successes, shortcomings, and my own personal reflections as a fan. It’s these types of entries that I enjoy writing about the most. They help me personally explore my own relationship to this team that always will have a special place in my heart.

The Angels have always had a special and ongoing rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who we locals call their Freeway series; referring to Interstate 5 which separates Anaheim and Los Angeles. All we have to do is travel north on Interstate 5 and 35 minutes later you’re there. (Barring any traffic, which almost never happens; traffic is a way of life here) in the American League West, the Angels have had an ongoing rivalry with the Oakland Athletics. For almost a decade the Halos and Elephants have exchanged American League West Championships, culminating in 2002 when the A’s won a major league record 20 games in a row and finished their season winning in American League West title; only to have the Angels capture the American League Wild-Card which eventually led them to win the 2002 World Series. Personally, the Athletics are the team that I will always love to hate a little bit more than the Rangers simply because of my time spent in the Bay Area during my college years as well as a trading of division titles during that decade.

This rivalry was temporarily put on hold however in 2010 and 2011 when the Texas Rangers won back-to-back American League West Championships. Both times they eventually reached the World Series themselves. This budding rivalry between these two teams have created an interesting dynamic in the American League West. As we are not battling solely during the season, but were now also battling during the off-season. As the Angels are trying to court CJ Wilson away from the Texas Rangers. This rivalry is starting to feel much more intense come not only because I over Wilson but also the various connections between our two franchises.

In addition to Wilson, I believe that genesis of this rivalry in my opinion began with the trade of Mike Napoli who eventually ended up with the Rangers. Any team that loses a excellent player to a division rival feels the pain, however this one stings a lot more because of the success that Napoli had in this past World Series. It’s interesting to see how this rivalry will develop in the future, especially if the Angels or able to pry CJ Wilson away from Texas. The Angels would be taking away the Ace of the Rangers. Which would probably leave a bad taste in Rangers’ fans collective mouth. For Angels’ fans, it would represent the ultimate coup and be a form of retribution for the loss of Mike Napoli to division rival.

Add to that a compounding factor, Rangers’ Executive Vice President, Nolan Ryan who is a very important part of Angels’ history. Many, myself included still consider him a valuable and vital part of the Angels family. He has never denied using dual career but the fact that he now is part owner of the Rangers, eats at your stomach.

It is these ongoing connections between these two franchises that makes this an important rivalry between these two teams. The fight over CJ Wilson personifies the evolution of what clearly has the potential to become a very intense rivalry between these two teams in the American League West. Whether it’s Wilson, Napoli or Ryan the Angels and Rangers have a bright and bitter rivalry to look forward to.

-ICE

“Walking in a Winter Wonderland”

It seems like it’s going to be a busy off-season for bloggers like me, either one of two things have happened, either the Angels have been intensely reading my blog, or Jerry Dipoto is shaping up to be a very valuable magician pulling rabbits out of hats that I didn’t even know existed. I believe it’s the latter.

 

Today, Saturday, he traded Jeff Mathis a player who had virtually no trade value for Brad Mills of the Toronto Blue Jays. For those who read my blog regularly, I’ve been calling for the Angels to move Mathis in some way, shape, or form for a while now. The Jeff Mathis “error” (era) as most Angels’ fans call it is officially over. I prefer to call it an era simply because it’s a segment of history in Angels baseball that can’t be dismissed as an error. I prefer to call it the Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis saga, because one can’t talk about one player without talking about the other, and it is how these players relate to each other that made an impact on Angels’ history.

 

When they were both still with the team, I myself questioned why Mike Scioscia opted to play Mathis over Napoli, yet I understood Mathis had virtually no trade value even then, at that time, the Angels were shopping Napoli around because the Angels needed an offensive constant. Mike Scioscia wanted Jeff Mathis to get acclimated with the team since the trade of Mike Napoli was a very probable one. Mike Napoli at the time was a very streaky hitter. He had the most trade value so it made sense to trade him away when the Angels acquired Vernon Wells, whether that was a good trade is a totally different story, but from a logical standpoint the Angels made the most logical move. Vernon Wells’ contract aside, the Angels felt that they were getting a much more consistent power hitter in Wells then Napoli. There was no way the Angels could’ve predicted that Wells would struggle in Anaheim his first year.

 

When Mike Napoli was traded to the Blue Jays, there was no way that the Angels could’ve foreseen that the Blue Jays would turn around and trade Napoli to the division rival, the Texas Rangers. Before I stir grumblings among Angels’ fans, let’s take a look at the situation with some perspective, there is only one main reason that Napoli had a career year in Texas and a stellar World Series; the Rangers home stadium.

 

Angel Stadium, “The Big A” is a bigger stadium in its dimensions compared to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.”The Big A” is a hitters park during the daytime, but becomes a pitchers park during night games. The ballpark in Texas has smaller dimensions than Angel Stadium couple that with the warmer temperatures in Arlington and the ball carries even for evening games. Thus, when one combines the warmer temperatures at night with the smaller ballpark it creates an artificially inflated statistic when it comes to power numbers such as Home Runs.

 

In my opinion that’s the case with Mike Napoli if he were still in an Angels uniform, Angels’ fans would still be complaining about how streaky of a hitter he is. I for one I’m just glad that the Angels’ organization came to their senses and trading away Jeff Mathis. If I had to pick between Mathis and Napoli of course I would’ve picked Napoli, who wouldn’t?

 

It’s important for Angels’ fans not to confuse the business and logic of the game with a passion for a team. As a fan, between the two; Mike Napoli is bar none the better choice, but from a business standpoint since Jeff Mathis had no trade value, it made sense to trade Napoli.

 

The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings begin this coming Monday; I have already received an early Christmas present, the Angels trading away Jeff Mathis. Ladies and gentlemen this is the magic that is the Christmas and holiday season, I can’t wait to see what magic Jerry Dipoto does next to make this truly a Winter Wonderland.

 

-ICE

The Delicate Balancing Act

In my previous entry I talked about bad contracts and how a bad contract can handcuff a team. I also talked about how potential means nothing if it’s not develop properly, but there is also the other extreme; giving up a player via trade that has promising potential for a player who is not necessarily an impact player, he fills a need that the Angels have, but will also be a free agent at the end of the year, bad decisions…

The Angels acquired veteran catcher Chris Iannetta from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Tyler Chatwood, I myself am not too happy with this transaction simply because it seems that the Angels are trying to turn themselves around through “patchwork” rather than addressing the needs of the organization overall and as a whole. Iannetta is an offensive upgrade from Jeff Mathis, relatively speaking since Mathis is a sub .200 hitter. However, I think paying for a player who is in the last year of his contract, for a 21-year-old promising prospect like Chatwood is too much of a risk.

I strongly believe that the Angels gave up entirely too much for what looks to be a short-term “patchwork” solution. The Angels would have been much better served by courting Yadier Molina, who is a career .400 hitter who is a defensive phenom behind the plate as well is a great hitter.

I’m aware that Mike Scioscia likes defense of catching, however Molina provides more of a balance between offense and defense. I fear that this new acquisition will be just more of the same, on emphasis on defense of catching while sacrificing offensive production, yes, Iannetta has a better on-base percentage, I just feel that the organization should bring about balance instead of using a “patchwork” method.

The Halos need to balance their short-term needs with the long-term future, the acquisition of Iannetta merely masks the more systemic problem with the organization. They way they do business needs to fundamentally change in the sense that they must avoid going to extremes. There must avoid long-term contracts that don’t make sense, well at same time stay away from the short-term contracts that put them in a position to give away more than they get in return. They need to find its equilibrium relatively soon.

What happens if Iannetta decides to walk away from the Angels at the end of the year? Then they basically give away Tyler Chatwood for free, with nothing in return. The Angels are thin in starting pitching prospects to begin with, overall they need to balance their short-term competitive health was at the same time continue contending for the long-term future.

-ICE

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