When Arte Moreno purchased the Anaheim Angels in 2003 and made the decision to re-brand the franchise as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he wasn’t just attempting to expose the team to a wider audience. Moreno was announcing to the rest of the league that the Angels were entering the upper echelon of teams in MLB. Of course upper echelon meaning the ability and desire to spend enormous amounts of money in an effort to sell tickets, and to a lesser extent win baseball games.
The Angels made their debut as a big-time player when they revealed themselves to be the mystery suitor that signed the greatest hitter of the century in Albert Pujols, inking him to a mammoth 10-year, $250 million deal. The spending spree continued into this offseason with the team giving well-publicized slugger Josh Hamilton the long-term deal most experts doubted he could get. Along with signing aces Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson to relatively bargain hometown discounts, Los Angeles arrived on the scene as a legitimate baseball powerhouse. The star names on big contracts are appealing to the naked eye, but is it really the best way to a World Series championship?
Other than the success of the two conventional powerhouse franchises in the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the teams that have shown playoff aptitude this millennium have been high-chemistry squads that have hit their stride at just the right time using their depth in the starting rotation and unlikely contributions off the bench. The chickens have come home to roost for both the Yankees and Red Sox as well, with both teams showing great remorse for the long-term, high-dollar contracts they handed out to every big-name free agent they could get their hands on. This left one team forced into a now infamous salary dump of epic proportions, and the other not so secretly hoping their former star player’s recent steroid allegations turn into something far more serious.
It remains to be seen whether the Angels are built for success like previous champions. Los Angeles has been forced to realize that deep pockets do have a bottom in filling out the rest of their roster after the massive acquisitions. The back end of the starting rotation has a laundry list of potential pitfalls; with questionable injury returnees, inexperience, and the certain uncertainty of Joe Blanton’s over 5.00 ERA. The bullpen is no less concerning, as Jerry Dipoto has attempted to put stopgaps on all of the holes that plagued the league’s worst bullpen in 2012. It’s an interesting contrast for the same franchise that has splurged so drastically in some areas, that has had to resort to an Island of Misfit Toys approach in completing the rest of a championship hopeful team.
All concerns and warnings of a potential doomsday scenario aside, this team is still the best on paper in franchise history. Yet the list of super teams on paper have failed to deliver when the time comes is infinitely long. The bright lights and spectacle of a big market are centered fully on Los Angeles by way of Anaheim now. This is what Arte Moreno has been and is continuing to work toward since 2003, as his transformation of the Angels into a big market power is now a decade in the works that will ideally bring the franchises second World Series title along with it.