The signing of Albert Pujols was supposed to begin a new era of baseball in southern California. The team of Los Angles would shift from the Dodgers to the Angels. Instead, it never came to fruition as the Dodgers (with the help of a whirlwind spending spree) have maintained the hearts of LA while the Angels have unceremoniously regressed through uninspired play. As Angels fans gear up for another disappointing season, manager Mike Scioscia’s days could soon be numbered.
With Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels have a legitimate one-two starting rotation. It is the production behind them that will get the team competing with the A’s and Rangers for the division title. Joe Blanton will need to rebound from his dismal 2-14 performance from a year ago. After him the rotation is completed by a rookie (Matt Shoemaker) and two castoffs (Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs). The Angels will bank on Weaver as the ace of the staff. He pitched through injuries last year though he was relegated to only 24 starts. He won 20 games in 2012 and his .653 winning percentage is one of the best in the league. Since his transition to a starting role, Wilson has been one of the most durable pitchers, winning 13 games and throwing over 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. A solid number-two starter, if Wilson elevates his game, the Angels will have a duo similar to the Giants Cain and Lincecum. Getting 35-40 wins from the two is very possible. The questions surround what will happen when these two do not pitch.
When Pujols ditched St. Louis for the sunny Los Angeles heat, the Cardinals fan base was ready to tear down the newly erected statue of Pujols in front of Busch Stadium. In retrospect, Cardinals actually saved a lot of money which could have severely strapped them for any future free agent signing for years to come. In 11 seasons as a Cardinal, Pujols put up Hall of Fame-type numbers with 445 home runs, 1329 RBIs and a .328 batting average. He signed a 10-year, $250 million contract to become the face of the Angels which also includes an added 10 years, $10 million personal-services deal that kicks in place after his player contract expires. In his two seasons with the Angels, his numbers have dipped in every category. As he turns 34, if Pujols’ struggles continue, it may go down as the worst contract in baseball history. After a forgettable 2012 season, the Angels reloaded with the acquisition of former MVP Josh Hamilton. He signed a 5 year, $100 million deal and proceeded to bat .250 behind Pujols. The Angels need Hamilton to regain form that made him a force with the Rangers. If both Pujols and Hamilton reach their potential, the lineup will be reminiscent of Red Sox glory days of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. The catalyst of the team and now the face of Major League Baseball is Mike Trout. He is the all-around best player drawing comparisons to Willie Mays. Trout is one of only four players in history to bat .320 with 50 homers and 200 runs scored in his first two full seasons. The others are Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Pujols. The dynamic centerfield Trout plays reminds fans of a young, vibrant Ken Griffey Jr. As he develops his skills and approaches free agency, Trout could sign a record deal that impacts all sports. Alex Rodriguez’s mega deal with the Rangers was $252 million, exactly twice the amount of the biggest NBA contract ($126 million for Kevin Garnett). When the NBA was on strike during its labor proceedings, Kobe Bryant said he would consider signing with a European team at $50 million per season. With Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw latest deal setting the precedent with the largest annual pay at $30 million, Trout’s asking price could be around what Bryant had sought.
Even if the Angels hitters are putting up record numbers, the downfall of the Scioscia era will be its lack of a rotation behind Weaver and Wilson. The team will resemble the Rangers of the ’90s, all offense but no defense, and winning baseball teams require solid pitching. Hopefully someone will step up or Scioscia could be gone midseason.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference. com/.