Are the Angels finally proving that you can't build a winner by signing expensive free agents to long term, guaranteed deals? In a word ... maybe.
As I contemplate what I'm going to do with all this newfound free time since I've given up hope for this team ... two wins forward, three wins back ... I began thinking about the core, fundamental problems with this team. Aside from the obvious, well documented and much commented issues facing this team ... abysmal bullpen, non-existent situational hitting, ill-timed hit-n-run plays, base path blunders and underperforming big names ... it's the last topic that has perplexed me most. We've talked about poor coaching (my personal pet peeve) environmental changes, habitual first pitch swinging and the pressure of big time contracts taking their toll, I think it's the pressure that is the most damaging.
The size and scope of these contracts has a cancerous effect. Whether it's to the psyche of the player, struggling to live up to the expectations, to the fans expecting great things, or to the "boat anchor effect" these deals have on the ability of the club to react; the net result is these deals wreak havoc. (Let's not also forget the too comfortable, "we'll get 'em tomorrow" attitude the money enables) Yes, one could argue that the bidding wars for the services of these FA's is what drives these contracts into the stratosphere. But perhaps GM's should take a closer look at the evidence in front of them ... the Angels' struggles over the past four years, the Yankee's struggles to perform, Boston and Miami shedding expensive free agents ... and decide it's best to pass on the big name and build your team through smart acquisition of talent and developing prospects. Perhaps they will decide it's time for a change.
It's my opinion that Arte may be doing baseball an unintentional "solid" over these past few years by proving there is almost no value in signing big name free agent players to guaranteed long term deals worth big dollars. (This goes DOUBLE for signing your manager to long term, guaranteed deals!)
Clearly I'm not saying something new here, Its often said that no one re-invents baseball. Perhaps, but we can certainly re-invent how players contracts are built. It's time baseball joined the rest of the free market and finally structured performance-based deals. The Angels have bet big on upside potential with no regard to downside risk. Everything had to click into place in just the right way for this to work. Now we've got a manager we can't fire, two big name free agents who aren't remotely living up to their "legends" and no room to make changes except to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Hope springs eternal. I sure hope we see this turnaround when we get some pitching back from the DL but I'm not encouraged. It may be a long, cold summer for a few years to come. Just my two cents.