If I hear one more Angel fan freak out about keeping Zack Greinke, or one more Dodger fan brag that they are going to steal him from us, I will lose it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the man in the rotation, but will he make or break our 2013? I highly doubt it.
Let’s rewind to last spring for a second. The Greinke-less starting rotation was arguably one of the strongest in the league. I do not need to remind anyone how that worked out for any kind of October play… So let’s dust ourselves off and look at what we have going on now.
As far as our starting rotation, we said good bye to Ervin Santana (and good riddance!) and Dan Haren. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Greinke is likely gone too. Our closer-ish Jordan Walden is out of our bullpen. Now the Angels add to the rotation Tommy Hanson from the Braves and Joe Blanton from the Dodgers. Added to the bullpen we have Sean Burnett from the Nationals and closer Ryan Madson from the Reds.
I could start rattling off and comparing ERA’s, strike outs, wins/losses, and every other pitching stat the Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, and MLB Network is analyzing and reporting, but it’s all over the internet. I’ll let you do your own homework on that. Stats are good to know, but as we learned last year, they are not predictors of a season. The Angels looked like a shoo-in for play-offs on paper last spring, yet the “Bernie” dancing, face-pie-ing, $55 million payroll Oakland A’s took the Division Title!
With that in mind, here are my thoughts about the Angels as of now:
All of the Angels’ new pitching acquisitions came from the National League. With the Houston Astros coming to the AL West, interleague play is ongoing throughout the season, and every team is playing 20 interleague games in 2013. This brings the amount of interleague games to 300 league-wide, versus the past several years total of 252. Having a staff of National League pitchers when they are playing more games against National League teams is not going to hurt the Angels. Especially because the new format is not considered American League-friendly.
All of the movement in the off-season brings the Angels payroll to down to $142 million, compared to last season’s $159 million. Greinke’s price tag is projected around $150 million. Don’t get me wrong, I will not complain if the Angels finagle a way to keep Greinke, I just do not think it is worth breaking the bank over, especially considering the Angels have not had a great track record with huge signings recently.
So if I were GM of the Angels, what would my crazy-ass do this offseason? Well, besides fire Mike Butcher (which is its own blog in itself), I say we learn a little something from our northern neighbors in Oakland. Yes, the A’s are a division rival, but seriously, how hard was it to not love that team this year? Aside from accomplishing what they did with a team payroll less than the combined salaries of A-Rod, Jeter, and Rivera collecting Yankee paychecks from the bench this post-season; the A’s were fun! They always looked like they were having a great time. Team chemistry, as intangible as it is, goes a long way. Did you ever watch Mike Trout and Torii Hunter interact? They always seemed to have a great time, and they both had great seasons!
I am not going to sit here and say the Angels have the strongest pitching and the off season movement was genius, but I definitely do not think the Angels are in bad shape. At the risk of sounding like a total hippie, I think the solution is for them to like each other and have more fun. Maybe use some of the money saved in payroll to send them all off on a team bonding party vacation together or something. Maybe take a few million of it and sign free agent Brian Wilson for a year. That guy will bring fun into a clubhouse. Wait, didn’t his team just win the World Series? Ok, ok, obviously I don’t think the Giants’ success revolved around the injured Brian Wilson’s fun-ness, but talent aside, the 2012 Giants were another fun team.
Bottom line: The front office will do what the front office will do. Angel fans, can we just stop freaking out over everything? Halfway into April everyone was already crying about Pujols’ lack of performance. If we aren’t having fun, how do we expect our team to? Even if the pitching stats look a hair above mediocre on paper, it doesn’t mean we can’t support our boys and have a great year.