This is why you wait. More Alliteration!
I planned on writing about the flurry of activity for the Miami Marlins. They have gone out and obtained an outstanding manager, an excellent closer, a dynamo shortstop and one of the most reliable lefties in the game. They’ve committed almost 200 million dollars to these folks in the hopes of creating considerable interest as they move into a new ballpark. This was going to be the story, and an interesting one at that. You can say one thing for the Marlins in 2012 – things are going to be exciting. The new-look Miami Marlins are looking to make a splash. I’m hating myself a bit for that pun, but alas, it had to be done. It’s great the Marlins are moving into a new house and have lots of shiny new toys (personally, I dig the new logo and hats), perhaps they will be a better team, perhaps not. If we’ve learned anything the past couple of years in sports, buying a bunch of singularly talented players does not equate in a championship (see the Eagles and Heat of Philly and Miami, respectively). That excitement I’m anticipating stems not from their success but rather their turmoil, their trials. Already, Hanley Ramirez has expressed his distaste for being asked to move positions- and Ozzie Guillen backed him up, kind of. Though he is expected to move to third, Hanley is a crybaby (as I’ve said before, a few times) and Ozzie Guillen is no fan of bullshitters- sounds like a recipe for some fun and soundbites to me… oh, did I mention they’re making Reyes cut his dreadlocks? Hilarity forthcoming.
But I digress. Yes, I initially thought I would be writing an article (with an AMAZINGLY CLEVER alliteration for a title). I was going to go on and on about the Marlins, what they were trying to do, and what they mean for baseball. I still will, later on in the article, but the Winter Meetings, and baseball in general, have taken a drastic turn. In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California just signed Albert Pujols for 10 years. For over a quarter of a billion dollars (if my math is correct). Clearly, new Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was not going to waste time making an impact. Despite evidence of budgetary constraints (specific article here) or that the Halos were going to obtain one ‘ big’ name impact player, likely a pitcher, Dipoto has locked up Albert and seems to be close to signing C.J. Wilson to an almost $78 million, 5 year deal. Once again, some simple math tells us the Angels are locked into over $325 MILLION for two players going forward, and all on the last day of the meetings, no less (oh, they traded for Chris Ianetta, too. He is a damn good catcher in my opinion.).
There are a handful of issues with the Angels offseason so far. To clarify, these are ‘issues’ in the sense that they need to be addressed in some way, not issues like the issues Dave has with the ladies. BAA-ZING. Nailed it.
For one, the Angels now have three desirable first basemen. It would be foolish to think in baseball that you could have too much of a good thing. Life, that’s a different story (too many Skittles? Bad news.). Obviously, Pujols will start at first. I’d bet a quarter of a billion dollars on that one. Kendry Morales was great before his injury and figures to be good again after rehab. Though Mark Trumbo lost the AL Rookie of the Year to the very deserving Jeremy Hellickson, Trumbo had a stellar rookie campaign, slugging 29 homers and 87 RBI and was named team MVP. I understand he would never unseat Lord Albert, however this is an interesting predicament the Angels have, as Trumbo is under team control for several more years and is therefore an additionally useful player. Normally, the Angels could shift him to a corner outfield spot but the Angels find themselves in a logjam in the outfield as well. This is a good situation for the team, but it creates an odd dynamic when they look to make more moves. Other teams know the Halo’s have to trade someone. There is simply not enough room for all those players on the Angels. Just sayin’. How the Angels deal with their seeming surplus is an intriguing storyline to follow up until the season. The team will also have a good two-headed monster at catcher with promising Hank Conger and Chris Ianetta dueling for at bats and have a slew of young talent, headed by Mike Trout, looking to put a stamp on the big leagues both offensively and in the bullpen in 2012.
I will argue til I am blue that signing C.J. Wilson to a five year deal was financially imprudent. Only two years removed from being a set-up man, I think it is unrealistic that he will be the same pitcher 5 years down the road. This is less a reflection of Wilson’s talent (he is an excellent pitcher, undeniably) and more a statement on the fragility of pitching in general. Poo-Pooing aside, it took me a moment after reading Wilson had signed with the Angels to fully comprehend the video game-worthy pitching staff the team has assembled. Not that the order particularly matters, these pitchers are all likely to get hot at any given point in a season, but here’s the basic 1-5 for the Halos: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Ryan Seacrest. I think I’m kidding. But my point is this: their fifth starter could be anyone, really. Jerome Williams showed flashes in 2011. Brad Mills was recently acquired for Jeff “Mendoza Line” Mathis and shows promise. They could bring someone else in or a prospect could emerge. Who knows? But take a look at that starting 4 again. Every team not located in Philadelphia would KILL to have Ervin Santana as their number 4 starter! Hmm… let me think… as a Red Sox fan, would I rather have John Lackey or Ervin Santana? The Yankees, Freddy Garcia or Ervin Santana? Lackey is a bad example because I would rather have Pee-Wee Herman start for me than that fat goof at this point, but still.
There are certain variables we cannot know. We don’t know what the chemistry of either the Marlins or Angels will be like. Both have strong managers so one would think that is not going to be an issue, but as I said, history tells us that throwing money around at excellent players does not necessarily mean the team will succeed. We don’t know how positional movement and changes will affect the teams mentally and roster-wise. What we do know is this: both the Marlins and Angels just became serious, serious players in their respective leagues. My father and I debated all through the 2011 playoffs about the value of a singularly talented player in the playoffs. He argued that someone, like Pujols, can completely alter the DNA of a series simply by being that good. I firmly stuck to my notion of baseball being a team sport and pitching winning championships. I was wrong. Pitching determines winning and players like Pujols and Reyes alter pitching. It’s an equation worthy of the transitive property. Both teams have good if not great closers. Both have good managers. Both have lineups with power and superstars. Given the new playoff system, I would be extremely wary of meeting either team come September. Money in both life and baseball does not mean success. But it undeniably alters landscapes. The baseball landscape has just changed, folks. Here’s to hoping Ozzie has lots to talk about.
No Will Smith, but the best I could do: