Yesterday, we looked at the underrated tenure of the Angels' sixth-greatest acquisition ever, shortstop Jim Fregosi.
Today, we take a look at a rather shocking choice for the Angels' 5th-best acquisition ever--the most recent selection to place in the top 15, but for good reason.
2011 was a disappointment. The team wasn't really expected to be phenomenal. Of course, we as fans still expected the team to contend and make the playoffs, as the capabilities were there. However, several players chose to play subpar in 2011 to one varying degree or the other. Most notably, Vernon Wells, the team's "big splash" in the offseason when many expected a Crawford or a Beltre to come on board, was atrocious, and given the offense the team gave up to get him (Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera), this left general manager Tony Reagins with egg all over his face, and nothing to do but turn tail and be forced into fetching cinnamon rolls and Del Taco for Dennis Kuhl. New GM Jerry Dipoto came in prepared to make some changes. He said the team didn't need "great" changes, but man, what a great job putting a poker face on. Because on December 8, 2011, Dipoto came in out of nowhere and, likely with much influence from Arte Moreno, snatched up THIS future Hall of Famer to a team-record contract. For 10 years and $240 million, we signed Albert Pujols.
ALBERT PUJOLS, FIRST BASEMAN
.285/.343/.516, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 50 2B, 141 OPS+, 4.6 WAR (4.6 average, 1 season)
Pujols' first month and a half was a sick reminder that the honeymoon was over, but after hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was fired in mid-May, Pujols--and the rest of the team--took off. After hitting .243 in the first two months of the season, Pujols, from June on, hit .307 with 22 HR and 77 RBI. The April has been mostly dismissed as a rough adjustment period, which he won't go through in 2013. With a career-average month of April, Pujols would've gone from hitting .285 to .301 in 2012. Imagine what happens if he turns it on in 2013.
Clearly, it's NOT Pujols' numbers that propelled him to the number-five rank in our countdown. His signing is here largely for the reason Reggie Jackson's was impactful: it revived the fans after a disappointing season. 2011 disenchanted many fans, and the start of 2012 didn't help things, as the team barely eked their way above the 3,000,000 mark for the tenth straight season. But the Pujols acquisition clearly revived fans during the offseason, and gave a reason for people to get excited after the Angels had spent offseason after offseason swinging and missing at the big names. Pujols' acquisition was a sign that the team was NOT going to put up with being outspent, and that the free agent market was the better venue for "high-risk, high-reward" than the draft.
In voting, Pujols received one first-place vote, one second-place vote, two third-place votes, one fourth-place vote, two fifth-place votes, one sixth-place vote, three seventh-place votes, and one tenth-place vote, for a total of 78 points.
King Albert. Phat Albert. The Machine. AFP. Call him what you want. We call him the fifth-greatest acquisition in Angels history, and in time, his numbers may very well propel him higher on the list.