So far, the 2013 season has been dismal, disappointing and a bit shocking to most Angels fans. While boasting payrolls near the top of the MLB for several seasons, the team has not equaled the sum of all its parts. Each offseason has resulted in a renewal of spirit, a new set of high-caliber free agent signings... followed by lackluster performance. While it is still early in the long 162 game season, the Angels are around 10 games out of first in a division led by the stacked Texas Rangers.
It's fairly safe to say this is going to be a "learning season". While I had a huge list of things that the executives, players and managers could learn from the season so far, I've chosen just one for each. Which lessons do you think need to come from this year?
The huge influx of TV contract money has big market teams seeing green at the beginning of every off season. In sports with salary caps, teams are forced to really think about overspending on the best available player versus addressing a need position. The Angels did not do a good job of that in recent off-seasons. With Mark Trumbo coming off of an All-Star season and Kendrys Morales potentially available to sign at a great price, the signing of Albert was exciting but puzzling.
The following year, the Angels let a fan favorite and clutch hitter Torii Hunter go and then signed Josh Hamilton to a huge deal. Again... exciting but confusing.
In the mean time, Angels fan have to white-knuckle every pitch not thrown by Jered Weaver. Pitching should've been the top priority IF the Angels felt they had to spend the money immediately. Is the upgrade to Albert from Morales/Trumbo the same upgrade we could get from Greinke at the #2 spot of the rotation and C.J. at #3? Absolutely not. It seems like teams have very short memories on what makes a team truly consistent.... several aces AND several hitters.
We've heard Scioscia say that he's sticking with guys and defends them to the death. We get it, you support your guys. However, try the other side of the spectrum once in a while with the bullpen. If guys know they are going to be held accountable for their performance, you'll find out who has the intestinal fortitude for the 9th inning in the playoffs. Mental toughness is not something that just comes about in the playoffs. It's something that is built throughout the entire year.
I truly believe that guys like Derek Jeter are worth more than their performance on the field. The same can be said for high-output players that provide little spark in the dugout. The veterans for the Angels need to step up and take active leadership roles. Torii was not kept with the Angels largely because it was perceived that his asking price was more than his bat could provide. Leadership would've been worth a lot this first part of the season.
Will they turn it around?
While I'm not generally a fan of the extremely long baseball season, it's the only thing keeping the Angels in it for now. They're in the middle of a winning streak, so cross your fingers. Do you think they'll make the playoffs? Tweet me!
Joe Hewitt @absolut_joe