The Angels season ended in earnest only 10 days ago, but the team had been out of contention for seemingly the entire season. An embarrassing season-long performance from the bullpen, a disturbingly bad offense, aging outfield defense, and frustrating injuries sealed the Angels' first sub-.500 season since 2003. Considering my first season as a fan commenced in the waning days of 2006, this was unknown territory for me, although par for the franchise.
From the first game of the season, a win over Texas, the problems were already evident. I wrote, "The bullpen was pretty poor[...]Rodney managed to throw more than twice as many balls as strikes." From that game forward, the Angels would struggle to get to and stay above .500, allowing a weak Texas team to emerge from the West and subsequently punch their ticket to the ALCS.
The failure of the team is directly attributable to the failure of the front office. I have whined ad nauseam about the constant misjudgments and stupid ideas put forth by the front office, and many of them seemed to coalesce into a terrible season this year.
- The completely screwed up development of Brandon Wood. Last season, Wood had a fantastic spring training and looked primed to make the team. He needed to make the team. He was sent down and has failed to live up to even the most pessimistic expectations. I think it's important to note that he had a terrible spring training this year.
- The completely screwed up approach to bullpen construction. Brian Fuentes was replaced as Colorado's closer when he started blowing saves. The Angels looked at his save totals and signed him to a bloated contract. Fernando Rodney was nearly replaced as Detroit's closer when he started blowing saves. The Angels looked at his save totals and signed him to a bloated contract. Darren Oliver had a great couple seasons and showed no signs of regression. The Angels released him. Bullpen construction needs to be kept simple: cheap veterans derived from and combined with cheap young farm players. Importing bullpen talent at above-market rates is a recipe for disaster.
- The love affair with old outfielders. The Torii Hunter signing was mediocre. He's been great thus far, and his contributions in the clubhouse and the community ensure he's still worth the money when he's hitting .250. But signing Abreu was foolish, signing Rivera was and Matsui doubly. That the Angels looked at a player who had needed several knee surgeries in the previous season, had a single good postseason series after a season of mediocrity, and was going to be 36, and thought "Hey, we should sign this guy!" is a great microcosm of the small-mindedness in the Angels front office.
- The emergence of rookies Bourjos, Kohn, and Walden, and the introduction of Conger and Trumbo. Bourjos, in particular, has been an exciting player to watch, and if he's able to fully adjust to major league hitting in the next 300 at-bats or so, he'll be a mainstay in center field for the foreseeable future.
- The trade for Dan Haren and the precision of Jered Weaver. This year's starting pitching, outside Scott Kazmir, is the best rotation in baseball. Replacing Kazmir with a league average starter gives the Angels the best 1-5 in either league.
- Kendry Morales is coming back.