A few months ago, I blasted other Angels fans for ripping the front office for not pulling a dumb move. For enjoying what we had as a great team. To appreciate our success. Not spending millions on lousy players or selling out the whole team during the season, selling out Mike, and so on, in order to be an evil empire.
I still believe this.
So I am looking through the lens of trying to figure out this perfect combination of terrific players, personalities, Angels loyalty, hometown hero factor, relating to fans, and of course, trying to win.
Recent events have me re-thinking some issues though.
I'll start with the "positive."
Letting Chone Figgins Go:
I love Chone Figgins. I enjoyed watching him develop from a pinch runner in the 2002 World Series run, to a utility guy to an everyday player to playing at the All-Star level despite his physical limitations. Great spark, got a team and crowd energized. He could relate to kids, to your regular fan. Not to mention he was a model citizen and a role model to minorities especially African American kids.
But I also couldn't stand watching him choke in the playoffs. He couldn't buy a hit in the playoffs and while guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter could lead off with a homerun or a double, you don't get that with a Figgins. You hope for a lead-off walk and a steal.
So you have to look at it this way. Do they Angels pay more money and lock down more years with Figgins in the same role, when in the regular season he has been at a high level (All-Star once), but then falls apart in the playoffs? The answer is obviously, no. Why pay more for the same consistent result for the following 5 years?
Here though, the Angels have a clear back-up plan. They have Brandon Wood, another organization product and a guy who has star potential all over him. Of course, we said that about Dallas McPherson. And other prospects. And we have seen Wood flame out. He was not an instant success like a Evan Longoria or Gordon Beckham at the same position whom Wood had a higher rating. But there is a chance, and quite frankly, a risk to take given Figgins' overall results.
Opinion: Good Move
Now for the bad moves
The Lackey/Halliday Fiasco:
John Lackey is important to us because he was the key to our lone World Series. He pulled it together as a rook. Then, he has continued to pitch well and has since won over 100 games, has been the face of our pitching staff for years (even when Colon was pitching John was the face of the staff). He reminds us of Chuck Finley, and really seems like an Angel. But he couldn't nail it down like a Josh Beckett, John Lester, CC Sabathia. John has been getting injured lately. Hes started off the season too late and helped the Angels get to a slow start.
Was paying Lackey the money for AJ Burnett, really over paying a guy that you know what you're going to get? Sure, he has had some troubles, and he will start to possibly decline based on injury. But do you not feel Lackey is not better than Burnett? Has Lackey not deserved the benefit of the doubt? Do you feel better knowing that Lackey won't be on your staff?
Maybe you are not convinced but lets look at it in this way. Last season the Angels traded for Scott Kazmir who will make $11 million. The Angels could have had Lackey for something like $16 million a year. Do you feel better with Kazmir than Lackey for $5 million less? How did that go over in the playoffs? What about knowing that Kazmir has been on the decline since two seasons ago, and got shelled by the Sox and Yanks?
To compound the issue, the Angels clearly had no viable back-up plan. They were in the running for Halliday. Now sure maybe Roy did not want to come. But at least give it up before you put Joe Saunders and Eric Aybar out to burn. Now, you did not retain Lackey and do not have a #1 starter. Then you do not get Roy Halliday to replace an Ace for an Ace. And then you let Saunders know that you are trade bait despite all that you have done for the organization and you let Aybar know that he is also a possible goner and not to get too comfortable with the Angels. Great thing to tell him after you know that his hero Vlad Guerrero is a goner too. In other words they not only ruined the pitching staff (which is why the Angels did not want to go after Bay--need more pitching) but ruined the chemistry of the team.
Opinion: Near Season-Killing
Re-tooling the outfield
The first move of the year was to resign Bobby Abreu. Yes he was incredible in runs and RBIs and helping Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins, Eric Aybar and Kendry Morales get better. Of course, Vlad and Figgins are goners now. Aybar was nearly traded. Hmm.
The deal for Bobby was also right after he came down to earth and choked yet again in Yankee Stadium. New one or old one, Bobby in NY during the playoffs is not impressive. And they signed him for nearly $10 million. Is the money you saved by not resigning John Lackey what you want for Bobby Abreu and Scott Kazmir?? Hmm. A guy who couldn't hit a homerun until a month into the season?
A guy like Bobby looks a lot better, especially at his age, with another big hitter in the line up. Too bad the Angels won't get one. Since the Angels basically will not sign Jason Bay because they wanted that money for pitching (oh wait) they are settling for Hideki Matsui. Great signing...if it was 2004.
Actually, it is STILL not a great signing if it was 2004 Let me see here. Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui..and of course Juan Rivera would make up 2/3 of the outfield on a rotating basis. You know, the Yankee castoffs from failed years in the Bronx. Except now they are just old.
Matsui also does not fit into the mantra of going from 1-3 his hamstring delicate, his back weak, and yes good for some knocks in batter friendly Yankee stadium. He will cash in based on getting protection from red-hot AROD, Jeter and the threat of Texieria.
So let's add this up: $8 million for Abreu and $6 million for Matsui...which for you math majors is like $14 million...which you could have used for Jason Bay and leaving space in your line up for a budding minor league hitter.
Opinion: Bury that stake knife!
My Final Word: In other words, I do not believe the Angels should sell out their franchise for mega-deals or players who over-value themselves, or GMs that get into Boston-Yankee bidding wars. But if you are going to spend money, which the Angels are, at least do it wisely, in which this case, they haven't.
That, and I am really depressed going into this season. When are Conger, Trumbo, and Reckling ready again?