Angels fans can finally rejoice

BY STAYSON ISOBE, special contributor

The signing of Albert Pujols made Anaheim Angels fan believe in their front office once again. Photo by: Artolog/Flickr

During the last handful of years, as a fan of the Anaheim Angels (yes get that Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim crap out of here), the hot stove portion of the MLB offseason hasn’t been kind to my beloved team.

After all, I’ve seen Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero walk for a variety of reasons and seen my Angels squander opportunities to sign the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre.

All of this despite constant claims from owner Arte Moreno about being ready to open up his checkbook. Granted last offseason’s marquee free agent acquisitions, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, were vital components to the Angels’ bullpen in 2011, they weren’t exactly the big signings us Angel faithful were clamoring for. Add in poor trades by former general manager Tony Reagins for the likes of Scott Kazmir and the Vernon Wells deal, and there’s a plethora of reasons why Angels fans were chomping at the bit for off season excitement.

That’s why I approached this winter with cautious optimism. Who could blame me? I knew where the weaknesses laid within the roster, namely at the back end of the starting rotation and at the hot corner. However, with a combination of a relatively weak free agent crop and a team payroll cash-strapped due to the albatross that is Vernon Wells’ contract, what could I really expect?

Then came the morning of December 9. That’s the morning that Moreno described as a “monumental day for Angel fans.” That’s the morning that Moreno and new general manager Jerry Dipoto brought Albert Pujols to Southern California. That’s the morning the Angels franchise, regardless of what you want to call them, changed forever.

Granted Pujols didn’t fix one of the aforementioned weaknesses on the roster, but how often do you get a chance to add a three-time MVP who only once in his 11-year career failed to knock in 100 runs and hit better than .300? For the record, he missed those marks this past season by batting .299 with 99 RBIs. This is a guy who’s won two World Series and is already in the conversation of becoming one of the greatest players of all-time up there with Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, you name it.

Although many will question and criticize the Angels for signing a 31-year old (yes I’m hoping he is indeed 31) to a 10-year contract, I say to them “who cares.” The details of his 10-year, $240 million deal were recently completed and released, and as part of his contract, Pujols will also receive additional perks ranging from four season tickets to home games during the duration of his contract and hotel suites on road trips.

Furthermore, his heavily backloaded contract will have the Angels paying him $30 million in 2021, as a 41-year old. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for a guy who will surely be relegated to DH duties and hitting around .270. But again, I say “who cares,” because I don’t. This deal is about today, now, the present. Why can’t I enjoy 2012 and the next four or five years that follow? Plus, by the end of the contract, the team would’ve more than made up the money they’ll be paying Pujols through merchandise, ticket sales, etc. I mean, who’s got two thumbs and has already bought a Pujols Angels jersey? This guy.

Sure with a contract like this, I expect nothing short of at least one World Series title in the next 10 years. Does he immediately improve the team? Of course. His mere presence in the lineup will give guys like Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick more pitches to hit. Who knows, maybe Vernon Wells may actually hit better than the .218 average he posted in 2011? Will Pujols inject enough oomph into a lineup that prides itself of manufacturing runs by taking the extra base and sacrificing guys over? That remains to be seen.

All I know, is that the Angels had to do something to keep up with the Rangers. After all, it couldn’t have felt great to see Mike Napoli, the guy traded for Vernon Wells, tear it up in Arlington all through October en route to a second-straight AL West title for Nolan Ryan’s boys. Plus as a bonus of Pujols’ signing, Dipoto was also able to steal C.J. Wilson away from Texas. Slot in Wilson behind Jered Weaver and Dan Haren and ahead of Ervin Santana, and all of a sudden the Angels may have not only an improved lineup with Pujols in the heart of it, but also an even stronger pitching staff to challenge the Rangers hold on the division.

After years of heartache and head scratching from missing out on a Who’s Who in MLB All-Stars, the hot stove finally didn’t leave me burning. The Rally Monkey finally has a new friend, and his name is The Machine. Now if only Mark Trumbo can learn to play third base…

Stayson Isobe works for the Northern Arizona University Media Relations Department. He is a special contributor to Couchside and one we hope returns with even more blogs. We at Couch Side would like to thank Stayson and encourage readers to like, share and rate this post. If you have questions for Stayson or any of the other Couch Side writers or would like to become a part of our team as a contributor, please send us an e-mail in the mailbag section of our homepage.

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