Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Future

The truly interesting part about the Angels October failures is what it means to the team in the upcoming years. The fact is that the Angels a are a good, but aging, baseball team. They play in a weak division. They have millions of dollars tied up in legitimately bad players. They have millions of dollars they expect to commit to various free agents who will undoubtedly underperform and result in the loss of draft picks.

So then what did that Rodriguez meatball to JD Drew mean last night? Well, a few things.

  • The single season saves record holder is leaving Anaheim and losing a couple million off his upcoming free agent contract for his inability to pitch in big games, 2002 excluded.
  • Guerrero is liable to play in Anaheim in 2009 and not beyond. He's old, and whatever switch turns to "off" in his head come the playoffs is a liability the team can't afford to carry any longer.
  • Mark Teixeira, frankly the only person on the team earning his contract right now, will still get a massive contract, but probably not from the Angels. He wants to play for a winning team in a capable batting the moment, the Angels are neither.
  • The Angels will probably have to miss the playoffs for a few years to restock the farm system. They will have to trade proven major league talent for unproven minor leaguers, and they will have to continue this process for longer than I find comfortable.
Really, the "wait 'till next year" approach is probably good for one additional year. Oakland and Texas are likely not serious contenders until 2010, and the Angels should decline less than the division improves for 2009.

Beyond '09, however, I expect a short run of relative mediocrity as the players acquired in the aforementioned trades develop and break into the majors. For all my criticism of Boston, their team has been run admirably over the last few years, with an emphasis on player development that stresses OPS over AVG and RISP2 hitting. The Angels have produced seemingly millions of slap-hitting outfielders, and in the American League, few teams are outslugged by the boys in red. Unless Moreno plans on extending the outfield walls to 600 feet away from the plate, the Halos will not win without more power. Too bad Teixeira is leaving.

The truly frustrating thing about all of this, though, is that I only started watching baseball to understand why people liked the Red Sox in Boston. It was 2005, the Red Sox were underwhelming, and the Angels were in the ALCS. The first game I watched was game 2 of the ALCS. Yes, the Doug Eddings game. I have watched the White Sox, Cardinals, and Red Sox win a World Series, and I still haven't seen the Angels win a postseason game.

I'm curious to see how the fans and ownership respond to this particular mode of failure. I pray that the days of throwing money at a problem are over, but I'm frankly not convinced. Hunter might be worth his $90 million for what he brings to the clubhouse, but Speier isn't, Matthews isn't, and Anderson isn't. The worst thing this franchise could do would be something like, oh, signing Manny Ramirez to a long term deal.

There were times during the 2006 season when I would flat-out stop watching baseball for various reasons, either in silent protest of questionable on-field decisions, or otherwise just because it's hard to watch 125+ games in a year. But what I remember most was watching the Angels finally succumb to the A's while sitting in a bar on Long Island. I don't remember how, but the A's had a runner at third with less than two out, so Scioscia brought in an outfielder to play behind second in the infield to try and save the game. Naturally, the next pitch was launched into the outfield, the A's won, and the Angels' season ended. That's probably the worst I've ever felt while watching a sporting event, and probably the worst I will ever feel, as the tragedy was new and uncomfortable.

These days, it's just standard operating procedure.

Go Rays.

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