By Ross Newhan
So, the Angels and Dodgers began their final series of the year Monday night with both still alive for the playoffs (sort of) and a reader asks which of the teams should be more disappointed if it fails to qualify for the post-season.
The answer, as I see it, is an easy one.
The Dodgers can take a measure of pride in getter this far. Who knew what to expect entering the season? As it played out, the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt distracted from the field, the owner put the team in bakruptcy, Bud Selig took control of the operation, and General Manager Ned Colletti had littrle loose cash with which to improve the product until the new owner took over.
The Angels should be embarrassed by their failure. The signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the arrival of Mike Trout and the continued development of Mark Trumbo contibuted, potentially, to what should should have been the strongest lineup in club history and one of the best rotations in the big leagues.
Yet, this was a team that left too many runners on base, failed to fulfill its rotation expectations (aside from Jered Weaver), waited too long to find a potential closer, never turned the bulllpen into anything but guesswork and frequently sent off whffs of internal issues, as confirmed by multiple sources within the organization. Owner Arte Moreno ultimately posted a message on the team's web site that Manager Mike Sciosica, who is signed through 2018, would be back, along with General
Manager Jerry DiPoto, but another 8-15 start could relight the smoke under Scioscia despite the six years left on his contract.
The Angels also have personnel problems despite the generally high level of talent.
The bullpen needs work, the option years of Ervin Santana ($13 million ) and Dan Haren ($15.5 million) are unlikely to be expercised (creating gaping holes in the rotation unless Zach Greineke can be signed as a free agent), Torri Hunter presents a major free agent quandry after carrying the club in September, and the seldom used or productive Vernon Wells is still owed $42 million over the next two years.
The Angels, it appears, with their $152 million payoll, are going to watch the Texas Rangers win their third straight division title and face humiliation as the Oakland A's, with their $52.8 million payroll, and Baltimore Orioles, at $84 million, both come from nowhere to capture the American League's two wild card berths. Moreno, of course, still has all that TV money with which to fill holes, but 2012 provided another example that money isn't always decisive.
The new Dodger owners will soon sign the mother of all TV contracts, although their record $2.1 billion purchase of the team and $260 million acquisition of four players from the Boston Red Sox proved they are not operating on a shoestring. Had Matt Kemp not run into the wall in Colorado and Adrian Gonzalez not struggled intiially after his aquisition from the Red Sox, the Dodger probably would have caught St. Louis (which they still could) for the second wild card spot and, perhaps, even San Francisco for the division title.
Depending on Carl Crawford's comeback from Tommy John surgery and Josh Beckett's reliability, the Guggehim Partners may have paid $260 million for one player (Gonzalez) but with their insurance revenues and new TV contract it is unlikely that money is a concern to them. They have a varierty of issues that have to be addressed, but what Dodger fan during the heart of the McCourt mess would have predicted the season would end this optimistically or on such a winning run? It was Angel fans, with their great expectations, who would have expected better.