COMMENTARY | Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "What'll you have?" Albert and Josh say, "Everything!" And the bartender gives it to them because he's Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno.
Over the the last year and a half, the baseball world has seen the Angels make some pretty bold moves that have made headlines all across the land. They signed Pujols and Hamilton to free-agent contracts that, while grabbing a lot of attention, seemed at first glance to be way too expensive -- and probably at second and third glance as well.
And at last year's trade deadline, the team traded away their best hitting prospect to the Milwaukee Brewers for a two-month rental of Zack Greinke. Zack didn't help the Angels get in the playoffs, but it seems he liked Southern California so much that he decided to stay -- with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Questionable moves seemed to be the norm around the Angels' front office and even with the team stumbling all year, they weren't mathematically eliminated as this year's deadline approached. So Angels fans could only hope that whatever dumb trades were made wouldn't hurt the team too much.
But then something strange happened. They made a smart trade -- sending soon-to-be free agent Scott Downs to the Atlanta Braves. Then they made another smart trade -- sending Alberto Callaspo to the Oakland Athletics.
Both trades returned young players who might wind up being of value to the Angels in the future -- whereas the players they traded away had almost zero actual value for a team that's not going to make the playoffs.
In a year where the trade deadline was actually pretty boring -- I wrote about it extensively here -- the Angels didn't make "a big splash" to "save the season" by "trashing their future." Granted, they were helped by the fact that with his foot injury, Pujols might be out for the season. But the Angels made the kind of trades that smart teams make when they know they're done.
Yes, I just used "Angels" and "smart teams" in the same sentence. The fans have something they can look at and say, "There's hope for us yet." It doesn't make up for all the team's recent goofy transactions, but it's a start.
I would have preferred if they had pulled the trigger on the rumored deal sending Erick Aybar to the St. Louis Cardinals -- or any other team that might think he's anything resembling a good shortstop. Maybe the change of environment would do him some good.
His statistics are pretty dreadful across the board. His defense is down. His baserunning is down. And it's easier to get the folks at Overeaters Anonymous to talk a walk. Take what you can get for an overpaid, under-producing player.
Who knows? Maybe they'll trade him away in August. That's the kind of thing "smart teams" do. And when Jason Vargas comes back, ship him off, too.
The season is over and nobody cares whether the team wins 70 games or 75. The fans will keep coming out to watch the best player in the game in Mike Trout and power-hitting Mark Trumbo. And now that the pressure is off, get ready to see a fireworks show exploding off of Josh Hamilton's bat almost every night.
It just might be that GM Jerry Dipoto has taken over bartending duties for the team and he's cutting everyone off and shipping them out. "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!"
The season is over, but there's always next year. With a front office that thinks with its head and not with its ego, there's hope for next year and the years to follow.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Josh Hamilton
- Albert Pujols
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers