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August 26, 2013
Five Myths About the Angels' Impending Shakeup
So now it’s somewhat official: Somebody on the Angels is going to get fired after this season. “Where’s your money?” a friend asked me the other day. Shoot. I really don’t know.
What I think I do know is that a lot of the assumptions people have about where your money should be are wrong. So these are five myths about the Angels’ impending shakeup.
Myth 1. Somebody is going to be fired because the Angels’ long-term future has been so badly messed up.
Bad 2013 + Horrible Outlook = Firings
Cancel the Horrible Outlook out of each equation and you’re left with the truth: This isn’t about the 10th year of the Albert Pujols deal, and it isn’t about the fact that the Angels have given away first-round draft picks like mid-2000s Brian Sabean at a baby shower. It’s about right now.
Myth 2. Somebody is going to get fired because the Angels signed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to ludicrous contracts.
But here’s the thing: Pujols’ salary wasn’t irresponsible for 2013, and neither was Hamilton’s. They’re making $33 million. PECOTA projected them to produce 10.6 WARP, and for Albert Pujols to be the best player in baseball. PECOTA thought they were the best position player duo in baseball, other than Pujols and Trout. You might have been opposed to that deal for Hamilton. No, you certainly were opposed to that deal with Hamilton. Everybody hated that deal. But you hated it because the back end was awful and the front wasn’t going to be good enough to justify the back end. You didn’t think that Josh Hamilton was going to be replacement level immediately. You didn’t think that replacing Wells with Hamilton was going to be the Angels’ problem in 2013.
Put it this way: If Hamilton had signed for two years and $25 million, we all would have loved it, and he would still be killing the Angels right now. If Pujols had signed for nine years and $125 million, we would have been flabbergasted at the bargain, and he would still be killing the Angels right now. Somebody is going to get fired because Pujols and Hamilton have been horrible, but not because Pujols and Hamilton were signed for too much money. The problem with those deals was all in the distant future. And the distant future is not (see no. 1) the reason anybody is going to lose his job.
Myth 3. But if the Angels hadn’t signed Josh Hamilton, they could have signed Zack Greinke. They needed pitching more than an outfielder.
But yes, the Angels did need pitching. And, back when it all started and Kendrys Morales was still on the squad, they did need pitching more than they needed another outfielder. That’s a legitimate point, and one that, reports suggest, Dipoto tried to make. But it’s also not the move that doomed the Angels to a top-five draft pick next June. Even if the Angels had signed Greinke instead of trading for Jason Vargas, they still would have needed two starting pitchers to round out the rotation. Which means they still would have been chasing guys like Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton to give them 400 innings, and it still would have been brutal. Furthermore, even if they had kept Kendrys Morales and everything else had remained the same, they still would have lost Peter Bourjos to injuries for most of the year, and Albert Pujols to injuries for the second half, and they still would have ended up giving J.B. Shuck 102 games and counting. Which is to say that, unless the Angels wanted to depend on some minor-league free agent that the friggin' Astros had no use for, it turned out the Angels really needed an outfielder!
The fact that the minor-league free agent that the friggin' Astros had no use for turned out to be significantly better than Josh Hamilton is why it’s so unfair to judge GMs based on outcomes.
Myth 4. Arte Moreno ordered the Pujols and Hamilton signings, so Jerry Dipoto is not to blame.
Myth 5. But obviously Mike Scioscia should be fired because this team is badly underperforming.
It’s easy, from where we’re all sitting, to fire famous people. It’s just hard, based on what we actually know, to come up with good reasons why.