Arte Moreno would have you think that his Angels are one of the elite clubs in Major League Baseball, but the events of recent days have gone to show that the Halos are merely pretending that they are.
The only thing funny about Moreno's Pretend Time is that he actually thinks the Angels are an elite franchise.
In his tenure as owner, Arte Moreno has done a lot to change the way the Angels are perceived. He's bumped up the payroll, upgraded the stadium and even changed the team's name. His goal: convince everyone that the Angels are one of the best franchises in Major League Baseball.
On the surface, it would seem that Arte has gone a long way towards achieving that goal. That's exactly what he wants you to think, especially since when you take a deeper look, it is painfully obvious that he has a long, long way to go.
I'll be the first to admit that I was drinking the Red Kool-Aid as recently as a week ago. Arte and his front office minions were saying all the right things, convincing me and pretty much every other Angel fan that they would do whatever it takes to right the Halos' ship after their losing 2010 campaign. But then the Carl Crawford Catastrophe happened and, my, how things have changed.
When the Red Sox stole Crawford right out from under Tony Reagins' nose, the Angels were exposed as nothing more than mid-market pretenders to the throne. Had they really been one of the big boys like the Sawx or the Yankees or the Phillies, there is no way they would have let Crawford get away, not when the entire free world assumed that Crawford was going to be an Angel. That kind of thing just doesn't happen to the power franchises, especially in the fashion that the Halos lost out on Crawford.
Arte Moreno really should be embarrassed for himself and his team. They didn't just get outmaneuvered by Boston, they got their pants pulled down in public only to reveal that they've been telling tall tales about the size of the tool they are working with, if you know what I mean. Rather than the big long sledgehammer they claim to swing, the Arte's Angels are endowed with nothing but an ordinary old roofing hammer and that just isn't going to get the job done. Sure, the Angels have a good sized payroll that should check in at $135 million this season and Arte Moreno claims that he would exceed his budget in any scenario where the team can land the kind of player that could take the Angels to the next level, like, for example, CARL CRAWFORD. But when that proclamation was put to the test at the Winter Meetings, Moreno suddenly seemed to be wavering in his bluster.
Depending on who you believe, the Angels either simply cheaped out when it came to getting Crawford or they spent so much time hand-wringing that they couldn't muster up the courage to approve such a big expenditure in time to trump the Red Sox. Actually, there is a third option, that the Angels bought all of their own hype and believed they were such an attractive destination that they didn't need to put their best foot forward to land Crawford, assuming he'd just come to them. No matter what the truth is the Halos have shown themselves to be either cheap, stupid, pompous, ignorant or all of the above.
A real franchise looking to make such an important acquisition would never have even let the Crawford negotiations get to the point that the Angels did. Instead of trying to utilize empty ultimatums and gamesmanship in order to get the object of their desire without overpaying for him, the Angels should have just damned the consequences and blown Crawford out of the water right out of the gates. Not only would it have surely resulted in Crawford patrolling left field in Angels Stadium for the next seven years, but it would have sent a message to the rest of the league that the Halos may have gotten knocked down in 2010, but they are now back up on their feet and ready to fight. That is what champions do when they suffer a setback. The great boxer Muhammad Ali once lost his title and had his jaw broken by Ken Norton. But rather than lick his wounds and slowly work his way back to the top, he instead set up an immediate rematch with Norton and got his title back.
Alas, the Angels are no Ali. In fact, they might be more like Buster Douglas. Much like how Douglas got lucky and knocked out the seeming invincible Mike Tyson, the Angels caught lightning in a bottle back in 2002 to win their lone World Series. Like Douglas, the Angels were suddenly vaulted into the upper echelon of their sport. The Angels have given their best effort to make it seem like they deserve to stay there, but, also like Douglas, they are now being revealed as nothing more than an above average contestant that briefly overachieved.
Perhaps I am just being harsh on the Halos with the bitterness of the Crawford Catastrophe still fresh in my mind. On the other hand, this isn't the Angels' first failed foray into playing Big Boy Free Agency. Once upon a time, the Angels considered Paul Konerko the missing puzzle piece in their quest for a championship. They made their best offer, only to fall short. The same happened with Mark Teixeira a few years later when jumped ship to the Yankees for more money and more prestige (plus, he is totally pussy whipped, but let's not get into that now). Then, after that, the Angels professed a yearning desire to trade for Roy Halladay, only to scoff at the trade package Toronto wanted. Which brings us back to Crawford and the evident trend that the Angels just never seem to be willing to go to the max to make things happen, they just pretend that they would.
Despite the mountain of historical evidence that the Halos just aren't big-time players, we fans were somehow blindsided by their failure. But now we all know what the Angels really are: pretenders and not contenders. They pretend to be big spenders. They pretend to care about winning and not profits. Heck, they even pretend they are from media and culture mecca Los Angeles and not hokey tourist trap Anaheim.
We see who you really are now, Angels. Spend all you want on middle relievers and make a desperation signing of Adrian Beltre, it might perpetuate the contender illusion you have crafted for a little while longer, but we see the man behind the curtain. And Arte, my friend, you are not the great and powerful Oz.