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Why The Angels Stink

Photo taken by SD Dirk on Flickr
When a team signs a guy like C.J. Wilson for 5 years, $77.5 million, and that's completely overshadowed, that team has had a big day.

The Angels had a big day. They landed Albert Pujols for the cool price of a quarter billions dollars or so, spread over a decade. It's the kind of deal that's so big it's hard to comprehend. $100 million feels like an eye-popping threshold. Albert just got two and half times that, plus a little more on top.

Or how about this: Jayson Werth got the biggest free agent deal last offseason, and it's total worth ($126 million) is a little less than half what Pujols just got ($254 million). For even more perspective, A-Rod's contract is still worth $21 million more total than Albert's. Talk about getting paid.

Still, I bet Pujols will be able to find an apartment in his price range, even in the greater Los Angeles area. No need to come straight outta Compton*. Maybe he and Wilson can be roommates to pool costs, if it's a real issue.

*Unrelated to baseball, but an interesting article on the influence of gangs in amateur athletics.

Even as a realistic Mariners fan, it's hard not to feel demoralized. The M's probably weren't about to be serious contenders in 2012, but Wilson and Pujols combined for 11.0 WAR last year, and they are bringing those wins to a division rival. That stinks. I shouldn't resent the Angels for making themselves better, because that's what a good, competitive team looks to do. Moreover, it's not exactly as if they got a discount, or used some sort of loophole. Maybe C.J. Wilson gave a bit of a hometown discount, but not much of one.

However, these are the Angels, and I hate the Angels. Not in the way I hate the Yankees (and I do hate the Yankees), but a hatred nonetheless. In fact, I'd say that I hate the Angels more than the Yankees, and how can I not hate them even more after today?

The thing with the Yankees is that I enjoy hating them, and they have to be the Yankees to hate them - which, again, I enjoy. So really, in a back-handed way, it's disappointing to me when the Yankees don't spend a ton of money. That's what makes them the Yankees, what makes them so easy to hate, and ultimately what makes them such an enjoyable team for me to root against. In a paradoxical way, I've accepted that the Yankees must enjoy a degree of success for me to feel satisfied as a fan that hates them. They need that degree of success to be the entity I enjoy rooting against.

With the Angels, I simply straight-up hate them. I want them to lose, and lose often. I don't want them to acquire any talent. I want empty seats in their stadium, and a rally monkey that has to choke some uppers down to do it's stupid little dance on the big screen. I felt bad for Kendry Morales, the person, when he broke his leg on that walk-off grand slam a few seasons ago, but I was thrilled that the Angels lost an emerging star for the rest of that season. The Angels are the enemy, not unlike communist Russia with all the red they wear.

So, perhaps the following analysis is slightly jaded, but it's analysis nonetheless. There are reasons to believe that the Angels just shot themselves in the foot, and perhaps did not improve as much as expected. Here are my theories for why the Angels will fail at baseball, even after signing arguably the two best free agents available this off-season:

  1. The Angels aren't as improved as they look on paper - Realistically, C.J. Wilson (5.9 WAR) takes the spot of free agent Joel Pineiro (1.3 WAR). Albert Pujols (5.1 WAR) takes the spot of Mark Trumbo (2.3 WAR). While the Angels acquired 11.0 WAR worth of talent, their net upgrade is "only" 7.4 WAR. That takes their 86-win team from last year, and puts them on track to win 93-94 games (and maybe closer to 96 wins thanks to the upgrade that Chris Iannetta is at catcher). That's a great team, but not legendary.
  2. C.J. Wilson is good, but not as good as advertised - C.J. Wilson just posted a WAR a full 1.3 ahead of any other season in his career, and he will be 31 years old on opening day 2012. Granted, Wilson was a reliever until 2010, but this looks like a classic case where a player reached free agency after his peak season. The safe money is on C.J. being a worse pitcher in 2012 than he was in 2011, and never again having a season like he just did. I'd pencil him in for something closer to 5 WAR.
  3. Albert Pujols is overrated - It feels shocking to write that, but I promise it's not blasphemy. Here's the deal: Pujols, for a decade, put up elite numbers at a rate that Major League Baseball has never seen before. He's already one of the all-time greats, and will be revered as such for the rest of his career, which he has earned with his incredible production. However, the Pujols we are talking about right now will be 32 years old at opening day, and his WAR has dropped precipitously the past 3 seasons - from 9.0 in 2009, to 7.5 in 2010, to 5.1 in 2011. I even wonder if some pitchers noticed Albert slowing down, considering his walk rate this past season was also the lowest of his career to date. Pujols is still a great baseball player, but he's not what he once was, and there's a good chance his prime has already passed. Scary thought for a team that just signed someone for a decade, isn't it?
  4. The disaster factor is elevated, with no good way out - All of a sudden, the Angels have several major salary commitments to players who will make big money in the twilight of their primes (or worse). Consider this: the 2014 Angels already have $83 million invested in 4 players - Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver, Vernon Wells, and C.J. Wilson. Those players will be 34, 31, 35, and 33, respectively in 2014. They produced 16.9 WAR as a quartet this past season, and given their ages and career tracks, it's safe to assume that production is more likely to sink than rise. Even at their current production levels, Los Angeles of Anaheim isn't exactly getting good bang for their buck, though they are getting a bang. Still, if/when these players fade, there's no way the Angels will be able to get rid of them, with their big deals. Half the Halos payroll is sunk for a while with these guys, and they already look like an inefficient investment at best. I will concede that, as of now, it's Wells dragging down this group, but I don't think it will be just him by 2014.
All Angels-bashing aside, I question if Albert Pujols was really a good investment for them. He makes them better, no doubt about it. However, how much better? If the Angels turn out to be a 100-win team, Pujols and Wilson are likely to receive a lion's share of the credit. However, I'm willing to bet that Chris Iannetta and a precocious season from Mike Trout would push LA of A to that height as much as the big free agent splashes, if the Angels turn out to be that good.

And that's the point: the Angels were already on track to push 90 wins, especially with Wilson, and with or without Pujols. I wouldn't be surprised if the Angels just paid $254 million for an extra 3 wins this year, and maybe 3 or 4 more for the rest of the deal. Adding Albert Pujols is a good baseball move; signing Albert Pujols doesn't look like a good investment though.

Maybe I should secretly be happy that the Angels got Albert Pujols after all.