Angels hit it out of park with Albert Pujols signing
Upon awakening early Thursday morning, the two words rolled off my tongue with disbelief that the big-talking, star-balking Angels would actually put smart money behind something other than beer prices and monkey toys.
Now that I’ve checked it five different places and confirmed it four different ways and know it’s actually true, the words aren’t being rolled, they are being shouted, with entirely different punctuation mark.
After striking out on seemingly every impact free agent in recent years, the Angels stunningly hit one out of the park Thursday morning, adding the only player powerful enough to knock them back onto Los Angeles' sports landscape.
Yeah, they really signed Albert Pujols, baseball’s premier slugger and a guy who is still cleaning champagne off his cotton after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to this fall’s world championship.
Later they agreed to terms with top free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson of the Texas Rangers, thus completing perhaps the top single-day free agent haul in baseball history and instantly turning themselves into World Series favorites while dealing a huge blow to their division rivals.
If this were any other day, Wilson would be worth this entire column. The fact that he wasn’t even mentioned until the ninth paragraph shows the power of Pujols.
The new first baseman will reportedly cost Arte Moreno $250 million for 10 years. The only thing crazier than those numbers is the fact that, in this market, for this team, Pujols is worth every penny.
Several years ago, Moreno changed the name of his team to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in hopes of capturing a bigger piece of this giant marketplace. But since then, they have barely moved the needle in Los Angeles, their perception becoming even more parochial, something that Pujols will dramatically change.
They haven’t qualified for the playoffs in two seasons, and still have only appeared in one World Series in franchise history, one season before Moreno bought the team in 2003. Pujols, a three-time MVP with slugging numbers that might make him a Hall of Famer if he retired tomorrow, will change this.
They haven’t added any real star power since Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter while building a quiet little team that is endearing but rarely entertaining. Pujols, who is just 31 yet already has 10 seasons of batting at least .300 with at least 100 RBIs, will change this.
The focus so far this off-season has been on the bloodletting in the front office, fan disillusionment with Manager Mike Scioscia, and general discontent with the sincerity of Moreno’s commitment to winning. With his first giant swing next spring, Pujols will change this.
The Angels didn’t just buy histrionics, they might have bought history. With 445 homers, Pujols could reasonably become baseball’s all-time home run champion while playing for the Angels, or least the greatest home run hitter who has never been linked to steroids.
How much will he help this year’s Angels? Well, last season they led the league in team ERA while finishing 10th in runs scored, so you do the math. Oh, yeah, and that pitching staff is now being joined by a left-hander who last season ranked seventh in the league with a 2.94 ERA.
C.J. Wilson makes the Angels really good. Albert Pujols makes the Angels great.
On the most compelling day of his regime, Arte Moreno has accomplished even more by making the Angels relevant.
-- Bill Plaschke