Friday, December 9, 2011

Send Those Thank You Notes to Fox Sports

       By Ross Newhan

       Talk about exasperation.

       On the most newsworthy day in Angel history I was burdened with a crashed hard drive

       So, here I am, blogging a day late and a dollar short--or is it $331.5 million short, Arte Moreno's stunning guarantee to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and are Angel fans writing thank you notes to Fox Sports for agreeing to a new television deal with the team that is expected to cover 20 years and provide Arte more than $3 billion?

      This new TV deal was first reported in the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by this reporter in conversations with two sources who can not be identified because they are not authorized to speak on the record and some aspects of the TV deal have not been finalized.

     The bottom line is the bottom line.

     Fox has again emerged as baseball's primary underwriter, and money almost always talks.

     Yes, Jered Weaver could have possibly made millions more by eventually testing the market rather than signing an extension with the Angels, and his new rotation colleague, Wilson, could have made more in years and dollars by signing with the Miami Marlins.

    However, both Weaver and Wilson are Southern California products and opted for home.

   How many times did Puajols, whose baseball and community roots were in St, Louis, tell reporters from that city that he wanted to start and finish his career there and couldn't see leaving for $3 million or $4 million more a year?

   The Cardinals offered 10 years and about $210 million to their greatest hitter since Stan Musial, and he left for about $4 million more a year, confirming again that just about any time a player says it is not about the money, it is definitely about the money. And any time an owner complains about a team overpaying for a free agent, as Moreno did when he was outbid for free agent Carl Crawford last winter as the Boston Red Sox gave Crawford $142 milllion for seven years, that same owner will eventually open his own wallet in a manner likely to create head shaking in the industry.

   In this case, having pursued and lost Crawford, Adrian Beltre and Mark Texeira, among others, in the last two off-seasons, and watching the Angels fail to reach the playoffs in the last two years, Moreno was determined to change the club's direction. He cleaned out the front office, brought in Jerry DiPoto as general manager, opted out of his former television deal with Fox Sports to take advantage of a robust TV marketplace, and emerged Wednesday with the premier free agent hitter and pitcher, spending about $150 million more than he did when purchasing the team in 2003.

    In the process, Moreno turned his Angels into the talk of the town, whether it's Los Angeles, Anaheim or any other town in Southern California.

   And does it really matter who buys the Dodgers?

   Margic Johnson?

  Now it's the Showtime Angels.

  They have the best rotation in baseball, with the addition of Wilson also stripping division rival Texas of their ace, and what more needs to be said about Pujols?

  He is the only hitter in baseball history to slug more than 30 homers, drive in more than 100 runs and bat higher than .300 in each of his first 10 years, and he would have made it 11 if he hadn't missed by one percentage point, batting .299 in 2011. He will  be 32 in January, and his statistics in each of those three categories have declined in each of the last three years, a measure of concern, perhaps, but then the Angels, if truthful, aren't really counting on Pujols being Pujols for all 10 years.

  What the Angels would love to count on is Kendrys Morales, who has missed most of the last two years, providing Pujols with left handed protection, but his return remains uncertain. The future of Mark Trumbo, yielding first base to Pujols, is also uncertain after finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. He could go to third base, the outfield or another team, netting a closer such as Oakland's Andrew Bailey, perhaps.

   For now, with the help of that new TV contract, Arte Moreno has landed a knockout blow, underscoring, as my friend Rich Yamaguchi put it,  that the top 1% should definitely pay more in taxes.

  Rich might have have meant it in a different way and not realized that the Angels just might have to do that as their payroll moves closer to baseball's luxury tax neighborhood.          




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