The Angels have withdrawn their offer to Mark Teixeira. I can’t say that I am happy that the first real combination of power and patience at the plate that the team has had in many seasons will not be back, but if he thinks eight years and a reported $160 million is not a good enough offer, then good riddance. Such a contract makes little sense. I hope he winds up a proud member of the Nationals (though I fear he’ll be with the Red Sox or Yankees, and at this point I am no longer sure which is the worse outcome).
Moving forward, the midseason deal is now Casey Kotchman and a minor-league pitcher for two draft picks. Use them wisely, Arte and Tony.
Time, at least once more in 2008, to crank up that fight song. About 100 decibels should do.
The Angels, for the first time in their history, have won 100 games.
And their season has a nice symmetry to it.
That road record is the only above-.500 record in the league, other than the Yankees, who won’t be playing any October baseball this year (despite a better record than whoever emerges from that mess of a Central Division).
The win, over second-place Texas, also gives them a 21-game lead, which is one of the few >20 leads of all time.
As of this writing, the remaining suspense is whether the Mariners wind up 40 games out, or only 39.
And I have to tip the halo to Joe Saunders, who returned from passing a kidney stone to pitch a fine game today.1 As someone who has had kidney stones more than once in the past, and whose wife has had even bigger kidney stones, I can’t imagine how he had the strength.
Unlike his other two rotation-mates for the Division Series in their final regular-season tune-ups. [↩]
A lot lower cost than had been rumored. Just this morning, the LA Times had said the Braves were expected to demand Kotchman, a starting pitcher in (or soon to be in) the major leagues, and an outfielder (presumably Juan Rivera).
This makes the team with the best record in the AL just that much better. I have liked ‘Tex’ a lot since I first saw him the Arizona Fall League not all that many years ago.
I don’t like rentals, so I sure hope the Angels sign him. But if this gets them deep into October, it will be worth it no matter what. Besides, as much as I like Kotchman, he’s had ample opportunity to show he is more than a .280 hitter capable of 15 or so homers a year. And he hasn’t.
The Angels have a pretty good bullpen and their closer is likely to break the single-season save record by a wide margin.
But today’s game shows how meaningless the “save” statistic can be, and how the save’s definition becomes part of game strategy itself.
The Angels had a 4-run lead in the 6th today against Cleveland, and brought in Justin Speier. He has a 5+ ERA, so my immediate thought was he was coming in to make the game close. To generate a save situation. But Speier failed miserably in this (cynical) definition of the set-up role. He set them down in order.
Darren O’Day did much better a couple of innings later, but the offense just would not do its part to keep the game close.
Then in came the rookie to show everyone how it’s down. Entering the game with a 4-run lead in the 9th, he gave up a run after 2 were out.
Out popped Mike Scioscia. Nice pat on the butt for the kid, and we have ourselves a bona-fide SAVE SITUATION!
One pitch, game over, 42 saves for K-Rod.
Could not script it better…
24 July: Corrected the 9th inning sequence above.
So, just when I thought maybe Tony Reagins was a smart GM (the O. Cabrera-Garland trade), he goes out to prove my judgment was way too premature.
Apparently, the new GM thinks that his team can’t have too many aging and overpaid left- or center-fielders.
Torii Hunter will turn 33 during the next season, and thus 38 before this contract (assuming it is finalized) is up. He had a .334 OBP last year, which is certainly not terrible, but it was only .311 on the road (where he hit only .272). Last three years he’s got a .335 OBP and .487 slugging (.326/.492 away, so not much difference). Well, at least his 45 doubles in 2007 (21 away from the Twin Bagger (or is that Baggy?) Dome) were by far a career high. Otherwise, his peak was 2002. That was a long time ago in a ballplayer’s lifetime. And, with moves like this, the Angels’ 2002 peak won’t be revisited again for some time, either.
I was pleasantly shocked by the Cabrera-Garland trade. The Angels have two excellent shortstop prospects whose progress has been blocked by Cabrera. O-Cab is a terrific glove man, but not much of a hitter, other than singles (and in 2007, he rediscovered his doubles swing). Garland is a decent 4th or 5th starter who eats up innings and is in his prime. Cabrera is well past his prime. I never liked his signing, and this is a great first trade by the new GM, trading away a fan favorite (who I also thought was one of the manager’s favorite) who is overrated and over the hill and getting good value in return.
I still do not know how the Angels won 94 games during the regular season. How they lost three straight in the playoffs is a bit less puzzling. It really does help to hit the ball once in a while, something they did shockingly well during the season, but just could not muster against a great Red Sox pitching staff.
Sure, this year’s Yankee team is barely keeping itself above the Devil Rays, and, sure, the Angels are the one AL team with a winning record over the past decade (and then some) in Yankee Stadium. Still, getting a sweep there is a lot of fun!
K-Rod made the ninth inning interesting for the Bronx faithful these last two days.
This morning’s LA Times contains a brief note about the snapping of Orlando Cabrera’s 15-game hitting streak. It was the second streak of 15 or more games by an Angels shortstop since 1973, the other having been by David Eckstein. Big deal. What’s striking here is the implication that there was such a streak in 1973. And I am having a really hard time with the idea that Rudy Meoli ever could have had a hitting streak of three games, let along fifteen.
Continuing the theme of the previous planting here…
The LA Times reported yesterday that the Angels were considering trading for Vernon Wells or Andruw Jones before they signed Gary Matthews, Jr., to what has to be one of the worst free-agent contracts in many years. The asking price in the trade talks was too high.
The Times indicated that the Blue Jays are believed to have asked for Scot Shields and Ervin Santana. Too high a price? Yes, I like Santana, though I am a little less high on him than I was before his failure to grow in 2006 on his promising 2005 campaign. I understand the reluctance to trade a young and promising starting pitcher, but the organization is strong in pitching and practically devoid of outfield talent. Scot Shields has emerged as one of the best set-up men in the game, but relief pitchers are replaceable. When the Angels used him for 148.1 innings in 2003, he was really valuable (ERA of 2.85, which is about his career level). But his innings totals have declined every year (105.1, 91.2, 87.2) and he is now going on 32.* His record screams “trade me while they still think I am good!”
I don’t think either of these pitchers is untouchable, if they could be traded for a very good hitting outfielder in his prime. While Gary Matthews, Jr., did not cost any players, he is neither a very good hitter nor in his prime.
However, in comparing his recent stats with those of Wells, I was a little surprised at what I found. Wells is turning 28, and has a career .828 OPS and is a superlative defensive player. In the last three years his OPS is .831 (.338 & .493)–pretty good. However, he has a huge bonus from playing in Toronto: .936 (.364 & .572) at home, against .732 (.314 & .418) on the road.
Matthews over the last three years? OPS of .817 (.349 & .468), with essentially no difference home vs. road. Over the last three years, when we take the Toronto effect out of Wells, Matthews has had better batting stats.**
Jones, on the other hand, is going on 30 and has a career .850 OPS; .884 (.352 & .532) in his last three years. Jones has a very slightly better home than road OBP (.362 vs. .342), compensated by the power being a little better on the road (.551 vs. .511).
Jones, like Matthews, is most likely in decline, while Wells is in his prime. Even so, these statistical comparisons do not make me feel any better about getting Matthews, though they do make me feel a little better about not getting Wells.
With the Angels apparently unwilling to trade a 32-year-old set-up man with declining innings totals or trade from their strength in starting pitching, they are going to be left to over-pay in this year’s free-agent market. And one would be hard pressed–at least so far–to find a better definition of over-paying than five years and fifty million dollars for a 32-year-old outfielder coming off a career year.
* In 2003 Shields made 13 starts and 31 relief appearances; he has not started a game since then. Obviously, this accounts for the big drop in innings from 2003 to 2004. But it has continued to drop even as he has become exclusively a reliever. Whether this is because the Angels don’t think he can handle 100+ innings a year anymore, or is just a mis-use of his “rubber arm,” he is less valuable to the team the less he is pitching, and he is pitching less and less over time.
** How much of that is 2006? A lot. Matthews had OPS of .811, .756, and .866 in the last three years. Even so, his worst year overall of the last three is still better than Wells has been over the full three years on the road. And Matthews abysmal 2005 was mostly a product of collapsing at home (.672!), while he was adequate on the road even that year (.842).
I remember, thirty or so years ago, when, just in time for Thanksgiving, the Angels signed Bobby Grich. Now, that was something for the fan to be thankful for. In 2006, we get “treated” to the signing of a 32-year-old center fielder with a career OBP of under .340, who just came off a by-far career year, which apparently made him “worth” fifty million over five years.
I was going to go on (and on) about what an utterly bad decision this was, but I see 6-4-2 beat me to it. Yeah, what he said.
I wonder when Arte is going to remember that he did not make his fortune in outdoor advertising by employing a staff that put big billboards along backroads.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4