Just a couple weeks ago Albert Pujols checked out of free agency C.J Wilson left any prospective bidders in the dust for the Angels, while the biggest star has been left neglected, rather surprisingly. One would think that common sense entitles Prince Fielder to all the attention the free agency market has to offer him now that the other two big prizes have been snatched up, by the Angels of all teams, so why hasn't the Prince received any royal attention?
I don't have anything funny to say about this. Just enjoy it for what it is
Well for starters, Prince hasn't received any grand swooning efforts because of one major factor: Scott Boras. Boras has a unique and quite dastardly way of finding his clients a contract on the open market. He's well known for playing hardball, screwing around with suitors, and general asshattery as he looks to score his client the biggest possible contract they can get, but dammit the man is EFFICENT. His clients are always massively overpaid, usually by a big market club if the player is popular enough. Scott Boras has a way with overstaying his welcome on the market, usually dragging out the process for as long as humanely possible until he can squeeze out every last cent for his client. He's always secretive about his business, usually throwing around smokescreen "mystery teams/offers" and facades, which is probably the main reason why everything on the Prince Fielder camp has been relatively tight. We've heard the conflicting reports about multiple teams’ interest and general mystery regarding Fielder, making it extremely difficult to pin down Fielders possible future clubs, with iffy reports painting the Rangers as possible suitors. Now the reports detailing the Rangers interest have been spotty at best, but if they do end up landing Prince us Angels fans will have something to be very scared of...and something to be very excited about.
For one, if the Rangers signed Fielder that would mean that they are directly competing with the Angels, much harder than they have been these past years. What has made the AL West such a lackluster division was weak competition between the teams who made their home in the division, nearly a decade of domination by a single team (the Angels) made each season in the AL West a rather uninspired cakewalk through the season. The Rangers recent uprising mixed with the Angels incompetent front office pushed the Angels to make massive changes, and boy did they make a difference. The competition level between the two rivals has been growing for years, but this recent offseason pushed the rivalry into the national spotlight. Sure these two teams are getting some national attention recently, but if the Rangers ended up signing Prince...well then goodbye AL East, the Red Sox Yankees rivalry was fun while it was hot. The public image of both these teams have been waning recently, the Yankees with their deteriorating pitching staff and their inability to make it through the early rounds of the playoffs, and the Red Sox with their historical late season collapse.
Another AL West team bringing in another major star doesn't just make the teams more interesting to watch, it greatly increases the level of competition in the division, between the Angels and Rangers. It would be two star studded lineups going head to head in intense battles each series, the Angels untouchable starting rotation vs. the Rangers home-run hungry lineup. The media would eat it up, fans would come running to the stadiums in droves to watch the games (not like they already haven't been), and players would grow in a heightened level of competition. Let's face it, aside from the Rangers there isn't much going on for the Angels "rivalry" wise. The Athletics are lackluster and the Mariners are far worse, the Tigers have the potential to evolve in to something interesting, the Dodgers are no longer interesting to watch now that they're punching bags for most of the league (especially for the Angels), and then there's the Yankees and Red Sox, the dreaded post-season foes for the Angels. What gets me most excited for this new rivalry isn't how exciting the games will be, but what kind of effect they'll have on our players.
Playing in the national spotlight will have a major impact on the kids of the the team, and there are a lot of some. Now we've already seen how some of them deal with pressure, like Walden, who is prone to crumbling under pressure and could face negative effects of playing under the scrutiny of the national audience. Other young players who have succeeded under intense pressure, like Mark Trumbo, could see HUGE benefits from the increased attention. We already saw how he dealt with the pressure of replacing Morales bat in the lineup (masterfully), there is little doubt in my mind that playing on a whole new level will help our young players grow drastically, much more than they would under "normal circumstances". Now I don't want it to seem like I have blind confidence in these players, even though a lot of them are special kids, there's always the chance that they'll crumble under the pressure. Walden is the player that scares me the most, after he had a DISATAROUS final appearance of the season that cost the Angels their chance at clinching the Wild Card who knows what kind of mental state he could be in. Playing in the intense competition the Angels would be thrown into is the surest way to weed out who has it and who doesn't.
Right now the Angels are on a higher pedestal than the Rangers, only because of Albert Pujols. Everyone wants to see what’s going to happen, is he going to be able to transition to AL pitching well or will be a slow and ugly process? Is he going to be able to bring out the best in the hitters around him, or will he just be a big bat in the middle of a mediocre lineup? He's going to bring the fans from all over, everyones going to watch him and his Angels to see what they can do, especially against the Rangers. The Rangers have had national attention for a while, and with them blowing the past two World Series all eyes will be looking to see what kind of season the Rangers will follow up with. With the Angels acquisition of Pujols and Wilson they were able to steal the attention away from the Rangers, but all the Rangers have done to counter this is by throwing $50 million at Yu Darvish just to get the chance to talk to him. I don't know about most people, but I think throwing nearly $100 million at Darvish is a tad bit reckless, especially when they could have played it safe with Wilson for much less, but we won't dwell on that because it's a topic best saved for another article.
A potential Rangers signing of Prince Fielder this wouldn't just become "hot" rivalry to watch, it would turn into an intense power struggle for the AL West, two teams competing directly with each other, virtually mirroring each other’s moves in an attempt to keep the balance between the two in check. The AL West would become a battlefield, both teams fighting to the bone to hold the upper ground, while the Mariners and the Athletics throw in the occasional jab just for "good spirit". These past few seasons have been very fun to watch as an Angels fan, but tell me, when was the last time you were this excited to dive into the season? I'm ready to jump out of my skin waiting for Opening Day, and something tells me it isn't going to get any better. I can't even begin to think how much hair I'd be pulling out waiting to watch baseball if the Rangers managed to score Prince Fielder. That notion is becoming more realistic as the days pass by without Fielder signing a contract, every day is more money knocked off his price.
If this goes on long enough the Rangers just might come out with Prince, but what happens after that? I can tell you what will happen, this will be the most exciting season of Angel’s baseball in the longest time, possibly even the best season in Angel’s history.
I'm gonna go freeze my body now, don't forget to wake me up on Opening Day.