While the Red Sox need only look skyward to see the circling vultures, are under intense media scrutiny and increasing fan anger and angst for their horrific start, the Angels have an identical record—4-8—as the Red Sox. That the Angels are operating without the open factions in the front office and players engaging in a cold war with the manager doesn’t alter the fact that the bottom line is the same.
In many ways, the Angels’ situation is worse because they were the ones who made the splashy winter acquisitions, taking the crown of off-season champions that had, in previous years, been co-opted by the Yankees and Red Sox. Confident in their blueprint, the Angels could mitigate firestorms under owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia. Whereas the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies have long made the headlines and ramped up their status as favorites from November to February, the Angels have been the tortoise to the hare.
The Angels went slow and steady; worked within a reasonable budget sans gaudy bidding wars; adhered to a template; brought in cogs to the machine rather than creating a new machine to integrate with the old one.
They unapologetically clung to their methods.
That changed this past winter when, after hiring GM Jerry Dipoto, Moreno lavished an open checkbook to his GM to sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
Wilson is precisely the type of pitcher the Angels pursue—a durable starter who’ll gobble innings.
Pujols is not the type of player they would ordinarily bid on, let alone land. In years past, the Angels have identified a target and made bold, “take-it-or-leave-it”, “do you want to be here or not?” style offers to Torii Hunter among others. This past winter was different and it’s taking time for them to come together as a unit.
Amid the spending spree came another hallmark of the Yankees and Red Sox: the Angels have too many players who have a reasonable argument for playing regularly for too few spots in the lineup.
Bobby Abreu was outspoken in his unhappiness at being in the unfamiliar position of second or third DH and fourth or fifth outfielder. They were trying desperately to unload him in a deal for A.J. Burnett over the winter; then they wanted the Indians to simply take him. Both trades fell apart.
The Angels had been the team that did it their way for a long time. They’ve switched their strategy and it’s taking time to gel. The starting pitching has been shaky; the bullpen a catastrophe; the defense porous; and no one—specifically Pujols—is hitting.
As uncharacteristic as making those huge acquisitions was for the Angels, so too is the attention surrounding this star-studded group.
The Red Sox are openly at war with one another and their manager. This dynamic goes back to last season and beyond. It was glossed over for much of that time because they managed to win in spite of it. The Angels haven’t operated under that pressure. When they were prohibitive favorites it was mostly because they were in an awful division and had the history of winning within their parameters of top-down discipline, cohesion of purpose and pitching and defense.
It’s not the same and they’re off to a poor start.
Unlike the Red Sox, the Angels have time to right the ship before coming under attack as a disaster.
Unlike the Red Sox, there’s reason to believe the Angels will get their house in order.
But they don’t have forever and with the stifling expectations stemming from their winter spending, 4-8 is not how they wanted to start.