On Tuesday night Joe Maddon looked across the field and saw his former mentor, Mike Scioscia, struggling to piece together a lineup from his nearly $128 million payroll. His Tampa Bay Rays are tied with the Oakland Athletics for the Wild Card Lead with a $58 million payroll and are currently 14.5 games ahead of the Angels.
There was a time when the Los Angeles Angels believed in building through your prospects and developing young talent then surrounding that young talent with veterans at positions of need. When you look at the year they won the World Series, that entire roster was filled with guys they brought up through their organization like Bengie Molina, Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, K-Rod, Garrett Anderson, Tim Salmon and the list goes on. They sprinkled in veterans like Dennis Cook and Kevin Appier to add to what they had built, but the foundation was there.
Joe Maddon learned about the right way to build a team through his years with the Angels, and by the look of things, he has mastered it. Every year since he has taken over, the Rays have lost players they have developed to larger market teams for a lot of money. Cornerstones like Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Matt Garza and James Shields have all signed elsewhere or been traded due to salary constraints. To take their place the Rays have used their farm system and guys like Chris Archer, Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore. When they traded James Shields to the Kansas City Royals, they made sure they got back a cheaper and much better replacement for B.J. Upton in Will Myers.
Right now the Angels are in a very messy situation. They have a lot of years left with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton as two of the highest paid players in baseball. I don’t want to go as far as to say Mike Scioscia is to blame, but you get the feeling Joe Maddon can look at the Angels and see that as a challenge that only he can fix.