COMMENTARY | The relationship between a baseball player and his team often consists of varying levels of enthusiasm, fear, hope, jealousy and passion. In many ways, this affiliation mirrors relationships between men and women.
Sure, they start off fine with varying combinations of love, admiration, respect, social compatibility and bodily fluids. But people are complicated. Soon the complications creep in, the strength of the relationship is tested, and it usually fails.
The same is true of baseball players who only on the rarest of occasions start and end their career with the same team -- avoiding being cut, traded or otherwise "breaking up."
The Los Angeles Angels have had a fairly active offseason in an attempt to rectify the disappointment of last year's team. They've cut a few players, traded a few more and brought in some free agents -- all with the hope that these new relationships will help them get back on track.
Similar to baseball, relationships of a sexual nature rarely work out. I'm not trying to be negative. It's just the mathematics of the situation. Half of all marriages end in divorce. And most relationships don't even get to marriage.
After both parties have gone their separate ways, we can say we want the other to be happy or to do well or to find love again. But what we really want is for them to be sort of happy, to do kind of well or to find something that vaguely resembles love again, but doesn't come close to approaching the depth and breadth of love that we had together.
Of course, when a player moves on to another team, it doesn't matter how much the fans loved that player -- what they really want is for him to be sort of happy and to find something that only vaguely resembles winning again.
When baseball players aren't performing up to expectations, a change of scenery might be just what they need. A new team might actually help them shake off some of the baggage they're carrying around and perform even just slightly better. A new city means a new place to live and new places to eat and not the same old places that have become a mental burden or strain over the years.
It's like when Manny Ramirez had become a distraction in Boston and was traded to L.A. where he was revitalized by the environment, the adulation, and maybe finding better female fertility drugs.
With all the moves they've already made, the Angels only have a few players who seem like they'd benefit from a change of scenery.
At first glance, these are the two players that just about any Angels fan would send packing. They're the poster boys for the team's disappointing play -- severely underperforming offensively and defensively.
However, they each still provide a glimmer of hope -- like that girl you're dating who thinks she might stop being a stripper soon or that guy who says he wants to quit huffing gasoline.
Pujols is one of the best hitters the league has ever seen. He finally took the time to recover from his plantar fasciitis and may return much closer to his former production. Hamilton has overcome addiction and a wide variety of personal adversities, so recovering from one bad season is quite possible.
So neither of them are going anywhere just yet. Besides, their contracts are among the worst in baseball and are almost unmovable.
2013 was the first year of a four-year extension he signed with the team and his production dropped off significantly. He went from being a 3.5-4 WAR player to a pedestrian 1.6 WAR. The St. Louis Cardinals almost traded for him at last year's deadline, but the two teams couldn't agree on his value.
That's understandable because at $8.5 million a year, 3.5 WAR is an incredible bargain. And that could be a good risk for quite a few teams. However, there may be a lot of fish in the sea, but the shortstop position is the thinnest it's been in decades and the lack of a decent replacement appears to be the only thing keeping Aybar on the Angels.
The Pitching Staff
There have been so many additions and subtractions to the pitching staff that it only vaguely resembles last season's cadre of disappointment. They have new starting pitchers and relievers that should get them back to respectability. And they may not be done yet as they're rumored to be interested in Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza.
Manager Mike Scioscia
As poorly as so many aspects of the team performed, possibly the worst offender of all last season was Mike Scioscia. At one time, Scioscia was regarded as one of the few top managers in baseball -- so much so that he was signed to a 10-year, $50 million contract.
Since 2000, when Scioscia was hired, the Angels have finished over .500 10 times. Los Angeles has topped the AL West on five occasions and won the franchise's only championship.
And while it's unlikely that Scioscia suddenly got bad at managing, his bullpen use last season was questionable, and I can't for the life of me figure out why he kept batting the .300 OBP Erick Aybar at the top of the lineup. Scioscia has always been an unorthodox game manager, but it's hard to judge his work last year because of the sheer volume of inferior talent he's had to deal with -- especially with the pitching staff.
This coming year seems to be somewhat of a make-or-break for the Angels' manager. If he can get the team back on track and prove that last season was an anomaly by getting it into the playoffs, Scioscia's job will be safe.
However, if the team falters and flails at all like season, the team will have no choice but to break up with him.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is also a humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball.
You can find him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mike Scioscia
- baseball player