December 10, 2011; Anaheim, CA, USA; (From R-L) Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, general manager Jerry DiPoto, pitcher C.J. Wilson, first baseman Albert Pujols, and wife of owner Arte Moreno, Carole Morene pose for a photograph after a press conference at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Next week is baseball’s All Star break. We’re a little more than halfway through the season and I’ve been thinking about what has lead us to this point: the turtle-like start that the Angels have gotten off to again, the complaining from fans, and the Angels team and staff in general, and I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes team management just can’t win. Maybe it’s just the complainer fans that I’ve heard so much from, but it seems like they’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t.
There were a string of years when fans got all excited about possible pick-ups in the off-season, only to be disappointed when nothing came of it. Starting in mid-2008 when the Angels got Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman (who had started the season as the Angels’ first baseman) and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek, then lost him to the Yankees after courting him after the season ended, up until December 2011, when they signed Albert Pujols to the second biggest contract in baseball.
In 2008, the same year the Angels failed to retain Teixeira after he spent half a year with the team, they also let Francisco Rodriguez, the closer, walk and he signed a deal with the Mets. With names like C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, and Adam Dunn available, there was disillusionment when the only signings the Angels made were Brian Fuentes and Bobby Abreu.
More discontent came in 2009 with the outgoing class of Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, and John Lackey (AKA Horseface) opting to go to rivals Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox respectively, meanwhile our Halos brought in Joel Pineiro, Fernando Rodney and Hideki Matsui (or Godzilla) to try to shore things up. 2010 brought us Scott Downs, and he’s been solid for us in the bullpen, but when the options included Cliff Lee, Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, it didn’t exactly inspire exuberance within the fan base.
Then 2011 came. New GM Jerry Dipoto brought a new perspective to free agency and the Angels made what was seen as the biggest coup of the off-season by signing future Hall of Fame first baseman Albert Pujols. Initial reaction to our Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (a name I loathe so much, I don’t even want to type it) signing the biggest free agent on the market to a 10-year deal was disbelief and exultation. It rocked the baseball world, which was shocked when the deal was announced since the Angels weren’t even on the radar as a possible destination for Pujols, jubilation from Angels fans, who were excited to learn that along with him, they also got to welcome the biggest pitcher available, C.J. Wilson. Finally, it seemed, the money was being spent to get the big names that would bring a championship here again.
But the season didn’t go as hoped or planned. The slow start proved too much to overcome and the Angels missed another post season (the club hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2009). Fan favorite Torii Hunter made it known all season long that he wanted to remain an Angel and that he was willing to do as Jered Weaver had done, and take a team friendly contract to stay, which, after a career year seemed like a steal. Fans were hopeful that we would be seeing him for at least a few more years. But Torii signed with the Detroit Tigers and pitchers Joe Blanton (yuck), Sean Burnett (get well soon!) and Ryan Madson (of whose existence my editor Michael Hllywa is still unconvinced) were brought in. But then another shock came: Josh Hamilton, the biggest name obtainable last year, chose to come to the Angels instead of remaining with the Rangers. It was another huge signing, and shocked the fans as much as anyone else.
But for the second straight year, the Angels have been crushed under the weight of lofty expectations. As fans, we’re all well aware of the issues that have plagued the Angels so far, and as we near the upcoming break, there have been comments made by some fans that make it seem like it’s almost the end of the season rather than a few games past the halfway point. While I, like every good fan, am aware of where the Angels sit in the standings and the hill there is to climb in order to have a chance to reach the post season, I’m also not one of these fans that that have already written the season off as lost. It’s the All Star break people, not the end of the season. Let’s see how the rest unfolds.
And while we’re at it, let’s take a step back. Because while I understand that the prerogative of a fan (especially one who pays to go to games, park, eat at the stadium, drink, etc.) is to cheer and jeer the team as is seen as being appropriate, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t deride the team and owners for not going after the big names and contracts that are so enticing, throw huge celebrations when they’re signed, then just months later deride those same decisions as if you weren’t there at the press conference cheering loudly and telling everyone how great it was going to be, because when it does happen, it sounds as bad as Yankee fans who think they’re high and mighty and entitled, and, really, who wants that?