Over the last year and a half, the balance of power in Major league Baseball has shifted. For years, the east coast teams dominated the landscape. The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Braves were the model organizations. They signed the best free agents, they made the playoffs virtually every year, and they won World Series championships. The Braves made a decade of playoff runs, The Yankees have made the playoffs every year since 1995 except for one season, the Red Sox have won two championships over the last ten years, and the Phillies trampled over us to get to the World Series two years in a row. This happened every single season, and we had become accustomed to it. Sure there were some surprises, but no one was surprised when we would see the Yankees win it all again, or the Phillies dominating the NL East, or the Red Sox make the playoffs. Now in just a short two years, everything has changed. The power has shifted from the east coast to the west coast.
The west coast teams are now in control, and those east coast powers are now in decline. Those east coast teams are now suffering the results of their own success and power. Their rosters are aging, they’ve fired managers, coaches, and they’ve given up on their former stars. The Red Sox just gave us Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford. I mean what did the Dodgers really give up to get them? James Loney? Jerry Sands? Come on, they were shedding their pasts. I guess they felt that those players were links to that past that they wanted to move on from, their contracts considered like albatrosses. I guess their losses were our gain.
The Yankees have an aging and expensive roster, the Phillies’ roster is old as well, and they are no longer the dominating force of the NL East like they once were. Oh how the mighty have fallen. This isn’t too bad mouth those teams. Those are all great franchises. They have thousands, millions of fans, just like the Dodgers do They’ve won championships just like the Dodgers have. The point is things have changed now. The west coast teams are now in charge. The Dodgers and Angels are now the financial kings of Baseball. The Giants have won two World Series titles in three years, the Oakland A’s won their division and are now a playoff team. The scene has changed. So when I heard that the Angels had signed Josh Hamilton, it didn’t really surprise me much. Are the Angels trying to one up us?
It’s a good question to ask, considering the Dodgers just signed the top free agent pitcher Zack Greinke from a free agent market that has few other attractive pitching options. The Dodgers also just signed the South Korean pitching all-star Hyun-jin Ryu. So this could seem like it’s a way for the Angels to steal some of the headlines away from us. To keep them in competition with us for whom the real financial muscle of the west coast is. But that’s not it.
The Angels signed outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five year 125 million dollar contract. We also learned that Hamilton’s agents approached the Dodgers at some point to discuss a contract. According to Ken Rosenthal the Dodgers did some background work on him, but never considered him. Of course, they already had outfielders. They’re outfield is set for 2013, with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford. But the Angels already had outfielders too. So why, after just a year removed from signing Albert Pujols to one of the biggest contracts ever given to a professional Baseball player, would they break the bank for Hamilton? I then remembered what Magic Johnson had said the other day at the Zack Greinke press conference.
“We want to win!”
That’s what it all boils down to. Magic’s words resonated throughout my head like a Clayton Kershaw fastball popping into A.J Ellis’s glove. It has nothing to do with rivalry with the Dodgers or trying to steal away our thunder. They want to win, and just like signing Zack Greinke gives the Dodgers a better chance at winning, signing Josh Hamilton gives the Angels a much better chance at winning a championship. And that is what it all boils down to. The desire to win goes beyond anything else. It goes beyond financial limitations, it goes beyond rivalry,or press. The Angels want to win, because they didn’t win last season, and it’s as simple as that. To be honest, I’ve never really liked the Angels. I was indifferent towards them all throughout the years they were owned by Gene Autry, and then by the Disney corporation. That’s how I viewed them, as Disney. They were a lesser franchise, like a little step child vying for their mother’s attention. They were no threat at the time. Then interleague play was invented, and the Angels got better, Theyre manager is an ex-Dodger, and they started to beat the Dodgers. Now I hate them.
I hate them almost as much as I hate the Giants. Notice I said ALMOST. But like us, they want to win too, and that desire to win will make them do anything and everything they can to increase their chances. Signing Josh Hamilton gives them that chance, and with that they have one the most feared lineups in Baseball, with Hamilton, Pujols and Mike Trout all batting back-to-back-to-back. Thank god the Dodgers only play them four times in 2013.
Not to say both teams don’t have their problems. The Angels have a shaky bullpen, and any team that employs Joe Blanton as their number four starter is going to have a whole lot of problems. Of course the Dodgers have issues hitting left handed pitching, and lack infield and bench depth. Regardless, both teams are pursuing what every other team is. We’re all chasing the same dream.
Baseball goes through different cycles of change every few years. We’re going through a major shift now. Who knows, maybe the Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox will all make the playoffs in 2013? Whether they do or not, the tables have turned. It’s like manifest destiny all over again, but Baseball style. The west coast teams are no longer second class teams during the winter, we can outspend with the best of them.
I still hate the Angels, I still wish them failures every chance I get, but I understand what they’re doing and why they signed Hamilton, and Pujols and all the rest. They, just like us want to win. No matter how much I dislike the Angels I have to respect it. And no matter if you’re a Dodger fan, an Angel fan, or, gulp, god help you a Giant fan, you have to respect it. The big boys have all switched chairs now. The west coast is now the new center of MLB. It’s pretty exciting. Now if only someone could talk ESPN into televising more than one Dodger game per season, then we would really be in business.