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Why I HATE the Angels

There is no team that people like to cheer against more than the Yankees. Being a Yankees fan is like cheering for your foot against an ant. And the Yankees' inability to be the best team in the majors would be like, well, your inability to squash the ant. It is only through your own gross incompetence that the ant comes out ahead in the battle. But enough about the Yankees…

If I had to make a list of teams I'd most like to win the World Series under their present management, the bottom of it would look something like this:

27. San Francisco Giants
28. Washington Nationals
29. Anaheim Angels
30. New York Yankees

As I said, enough about the Yankees. The 2005 Giants, as 99.9% of their fans have noticed this year, are playing boring baseball, and looking bored while they do it. They can't win the World Series this year, so I suppose the point is moot. And the Washington Nationals stole their franchise from the good people of Montreal. But why do I hate the Angels? I don't begrudge them their World Series win -- I was willing the vastly more boring 2002 Giants to lose -- but, in case you haven't noticed, the Anaheim Angels (or whatever the hell they're called) have become the Yankees of the West Coast. They've got the biggest payroll outside of the NL and AL East, they've been throwing their weight around (see: City of Anaheim v Angels Baseball) and they get what I can only call a gentle touch from the press. Enough gentle touch!

Exhibit A: Wasting money on crappy, over-the-hill players

Occupying Angels roster spots this year are Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, Steve Finley, Orlando Cabrera and Tim Salmon. Their stats:

Erstad, 1B – 715 OPS
Salmon, DH – DL
Anderson, LF – 742 OPS
Cabrera, SS – 671 OPS
Finley, CF – 632 OPS

Taken together, they are well below-average, and they make $40.2 million dollars this year. That's basically the same as Cleveland's entire payroll, and the Indians are tied with the Angels right now. When you're able to basically write off the entire payroll of one of your competitors and still be a contender, there's something wrong.

The worst part is that their contracts were obviously bad from day one. Anderson is 33 and has been declining for years, Cabrera is 31, with a history of back trouble, Finley is 40, Salmon was 34, with a terrible track record at the time he signed the contract, and Erstad's contract might make sense if they let him play center field instead of making him the worst-hitting first baseman in the league. In an era when many teams have learned to think long and hard before committing to long-term deals with players over 30, the Angels are throwing money around like they're going to make a run at a $150 million payroll.

I get the sense that there is a great deal of "good-guyness" behind these signings, which is perfectly fine when you're picking a softball team based on team members' ability to drink. The Angels excommunicated Jose Guillen for having a bad attitude, but they are far more tolerant of bad play. They're also fairly tolerant of dirty play: reliever Brendan Donnelly was caught with pine tar on his glove, former reliever Derrick Turnbow was one of the first players to test positive for steroids, and Darin Erstad took out Braves catcher Johnny Estrada with a shoulder to the head. This all sounds like two sets of rules for two sets of players, which might be fine for high school football, but is colossally stupid when you're gambling with $100 million a year. And it's all the much worse because Angels rightfielder Vladimir Guerrero is one of the most exciting players in all of baseball.

Angels fans would point to the team's record and last year's first place finish as evidence of the soundness of their approach. But does being one game better (or perhaps worse) than the Oakland Athletics despite spending twice as much as them really qualify as a smart strategy? And as Giants fans learned in 2004 and had drummed into their head in 2005, at some point you'll bump up against your owner's maximum payroll and be forced to fill your openings with third-rate free agents and non-prospects instead of just writing off your mistakes. Given that the Angels have $35 million dedicated to Erstad, Anderson, Cabrera and Finley in 2006, that realization may come next year. At the very least, they can't afford to make one more stupid signing, but their track record at that isn't very good. In the mean time, I wish the Angels an early exit from the playoffs, preferably at the hands of the A's.

A Sigh of Relief…

Ahh…The Giants finally released whiny Jason Christiansen, and sent Michael Tucker packing, adding to the scrap heap that already included Kirk Rueter, Marquis Grissom, Jim Brower and Matt Herges. I am blocking out any memory of Alex Sanchez. In addition, after failing to draw any interest on the trade market, Edgardo Alfonzo and Brett Tomko will be confined to the bench for the rest of the season, after which Tomko will look for a new home while the Giants will try to find a taker for the $7 million remaining on Alfonzo's contract.

You might ask yourself -- why did this take so long? Well, baseball is a conservative sport, and giving up before the rosters expand on September 1st is just not what conservative managers and GMs do. They'd much prefer to run pathetic veterans onto the field every day and watch them lose than develop confidence in their young players. And in their minds, this helps them with their future job prospects -- I tried to win! says the General Manager -- my players sucked, but I never gave up and played the rookies. But this may be a fundamental misread of the situation. Giants fans have stayed away in droves, so much so that I was able to walk up to the box office at game time on Sunday when they played the Mets and buy a ticket in the front row, one section to the right of home plate. I didn't buy it – that ticket isn't worth the $100 they wanted for it – but it's obvious that even Giants fans hate the 2005 team.

Or at least they hated the old team. The excitement surrounding each new young player is palpable, and gate receipts would have benefited from the fans not having to watch aging free agents pull hamstrings. Ultimately, a GM who puts more fans in the seats finds it easier to keep his job, and gets more revenue to play with to make his team better. There may still be some GM jobs where they could care less about things like this, but they're in boring towns like Kansas City or Pittsburgh, and you have to be able to cope with losing 100 games every year. Anyways, I think it's important to give up as soon as possible and look to next season. The Giants knew from the second Barry Bonds decided to sit out the season that they would struggle to finish at .500, and they haven't disappointed. I only wish I could have watched more of Todd Linden and less of Michael Tucker.