Are the Angels going to pinch pennies?
Well, it’s good to see the Los Angeles Angels talking again.
Notoriously locked down when it comes to matters of the offseason, they broke formation Friday for long enough to remind us what the owner paid for the franchise seven years ago, to contend they never spoke even generally about a contract with Carl Crawford’s(notes) representatives, and to assure their fans they would not imperil the long-term health of the franchise (or current ticket prices) by spending needlessly today.
Does this sound like a team that wanted anything to do with Crawford? A team about to sign Adrian Beltre(notes)? A team that will sign a legitimate closer? A team that will find its way in the next two years, by which time four-fifths of its starting rotation, two-thirds of its outfield and three-quarters of its infield will be free agents?
Now, Arte Moreno is a good man and a solid owner who has brought a human touch and a consistent winner to Anaheim. He connects with his fans in a way most suits can’t, precisely because he’s not a suit. If he hates anything more than losing, it might be raising ticket and beer prices. For that, I like Arte Moreno. But he simply has to stop channeling his inner Peter Angelos.
It’s difficult to hear Moreno complain about the going rate for top-end ballplayers, like he did to the Los Angeles Times on Friday. When he says it’s “crazy” to think Crawford would have commanded $142 million from the Angels when Moreno once paid $183 million for the entire franchise, it suggests a lack of understanding of the business. Those numbers aren’t any more related than CC Sabathia’s(notes) contract to what George Steinbrenner paid for the New York Yankees. The landscape changes. Revenues change. Economics change. It’s precisely what makes the Angels worth at least four times what Moreno paid for them. Seven years ago.
Moreno did tell the Times he’s made a “significant” offer for Beltre. Fortunately for him, it would not appear the Yankees or Boston Red Sox are in the market for a third baseman. Still, Beltre likely will be more expensive than the Angels think, and he’s not so eager to play close to home to come at a discount. He’ll certainly pull more than what Adam Dunn(notes) did with the Chicago White Sox (four years, $56 million) and more than what the A’s were believed to have bid (five years, $64 million). It could take Torii Hunter(notes) money (five years, $90 million).
Could Moreno do that? Of course. Will he?
“The fans want a competitive team, a winning team, and I’m committed to doing that,” he told the Times, “but I have two choices: either take a huge [financial] loss or start raising ticket prices. You look at the economic risk and the franchise risk. The reality is, can I write a check for the player? Yes. But is it smart business in the long term? I don’t think so.”
In with the old
Baseball isn’t like other games, where they send their old guys out on stretchers, knees shot, brains soupy, pension plans iffy.
Not that baseball doesn’t have players like that. It does. They’re called designated hitters. Sometimes, clubhouse leaders. Or veteran presence.
You know where veteran presence in the NFL comes in handy? Clipboard holding. Placekicking. The TV booth. Ceremonial coin flips. In Minnesota, interceptions.
The rest is left to young hearts and legs.
Thankfully, baseball ain’t that.
We love our veterans, the largely glove-less old warriors who trudge to the plate and back a few times a night. They are a crusty part of the game that remind us of … I don’t know, crust.
Anyway, in a market where pickings are getting slimmer by the day (Hideki Matsui(notes), Pat Burrell(notes), Matt Stairs(notes), Lance Berkman(notes) and Jack Cust(notes) have been snapped up), there’s still plenty of veteran presence to be had:
• Vladimir Guerrero(notes). Age on Opening Day: 36. Status: He’s looking at a one-year deal, perhaps with an option that vests with plate appearances or games played. The Rangers remain the favorites. Judging by his postseason work, Vlad is strictly a DH.
• Jason Giambi(notes). Age on Opening Day: 40. Status: Welcome to middle age, Jason. He batted .198 away from Coors Field, .203 in the second half, yet remains on-base capable. He should come cheap. Think Tampa Bay.
• Manny Ramirez(notes). Age on Opening Day: 38. Status: Enigma. In a month with the Chicago White Sox, he had one home run, two RBIs and a .420 on-base percentage. He’ll be a DH if he wants a job, and there’s no indication he’s ready to retire. Maybe Toronto, Baltimore, Texas or Tampa.
Edgar Renteria to the San Francisco Chronicle in September, in the final days of a two-year, $18.5 million contract: “I’m not proud of what I’ve done. If they pay me to play, I just want to give back, not get injured. That’s me.”