Now that the Angels' season is almost over, there is no time like the present to wallow in the misery of hindsight. Let's just get this over with and review the biggest "what if" scenarios of the Angels' 2011 season that could've created a much different result.
- What if Kendrys Morales had come back healthy? The most obvious "what if" of the season. The Angels definitely could have used his bat, that goes without saying. But the real impact is that Morales could've taken some very important at-bats. Most everyone assumes it would have been Trumbo losing the ABs, but I think it would definitely have been Abreu losing more plate appearances. I would even venture to guess that it would be enough plate appearances to prevent Bobby's accursed 2012 option from vesting. Yup, the Angels lost a chance at gaining more offense this year and more payroll and roster flexibility next year. D'oh!
- What if the Angels hadn't made the Vernon Wells trade? Everyone talks about how they wish the Angels had Napoli back, but let's be honest, Scioscia never trusted him and was never going to play him. Reagins knew this and was going to send Napoli and his $8 million salary packing one way or another. Now, Reagins would have at least done a better job of making sure the Rangers didn't get him, but I doubt there is any way Napoli would've worn Angel red in 2011. As for Wells, just brutal. The Angels obviously wanted to add a big bat, so they probably would've picked up... someone. Whoever that someone was, I guarantee you he would have been more productive and less financially devastating.
- What if Jered Weaver didn't lose his mind against the Tigers? I don't think people realize just how much his ejection and subsequent suspension screwed the Angels. Because Weaver had to have his rotation spot pushed back, it led to the Angels wasting a start on Garrett Richards and then forcing Weaver to start on three days rest against the Rangers later that month. If he had just kept his head, Weaver would have been on normal rest against the Rangers. Those are two losses that could have potentially been avoided.
- What if Scott Kazmir had given the Angels anything at all? Perhaps it was a fool's errand for the Angels to expect anything out of Kazmir, but being unable to get more than one terrible appearance out of him put the team behind the eight ball in the first week of the season. Thanks to a stunning lack of foresight, the Angels had no viable fallback option in the rotation for Kaz and thus had to promote Tyler Chatwood, who eventually proved to not be ready for the majors. And because Chatwood was already pressed into action, the Angels were forced to stick with a struggling Joel Pineiro in the rotation for longer than they likely would have if they felt they had a half-decent replacement somewhere in the organization. Who knows how many games they lost as a result of that.
- What if Tony Reagins addressed the bullpen problem via trade? I wrote about this earlier this month, but by my count, the Angels lost at least four games in August and September because they had too little bullpen depth after Walden and Downs. If they could've traded for a quality right-handed power arm to work in middle relief or even bump Walden into middle relief, we still care whether or not the Angels won their season finale today.
- What if the Angels did sign Carl Crawford after all? Call me crazy, but I think Crawford wouldn't have struggled in Anaheim the way he has floundered in Boston this season. Carl could have given the Angels the much-needed boost at the top of the order that they sought coming into the season (and are still looking for after getting a combined .325 OBP from their leadoff men). His presence also would've prevented the Halos from even picking up the phone to talk to Toronto about Vernon Wells.
- What if the Angels had non-tendered Jeff Mathis in the off-season? Many of us hoped Angel management would save Scioscia from himself and cut Mathis loose last off-season. Say what you want about his defensive prowess, but his total lack of offense hamstrung the team all season long. With Mathis gone, the Angels could have signed re-tread veterans like Rod Barajas, John Buck or Miguel Olivo. None of which are world-beaters, but they would've been better hitters and marginal downgrades defensively. Or, if Scioscia would allow it, the Angels could have just done what we all wanted and let Hank Conger play full-time without constantly having to look over his shoulder, which could have led to a much different season for him. Also, Lyle Spencer probably would've died from heartbreak had Mathis been non-tendered.
- What if the Angels did sneak into the playoffs? Let's see. The Yankees are struggling to find #3 and #4 starters. The Rangers don't know what to expect from any member of their rotation after C.J. Wilson. The Red Sox are rapidly falling apart. The Tigers may have forgotten what it is like to play against a non-crappy team since they've been playing AL Central foes for so long. Tell me that the Angel rotation couldn't do some serious damage in the post-season? Who knows if the bats would do enough, but if they got hot at the right time, this team had a real shot at going all the way.
- What if Jered Weaver didn't sign an extension? You know what we would all be talking about right now if Weaver hadn't signed a contract extension? Trading Weaver. It would completely and totally occupy all Angel business and talk this off-season. Will they? Should they? 24/7 of that complicating the entire roster building plan for the Angels this winter. Whether or not Reagins remains in charge this off-season, at least the GM job is going to be a bit simpler knowing that one of the core members of the roster will be staying put and not shrouded in rumors and innuendo all off-season.
- What if Mike Scioscia knew how to fill out a lineup card? This applies pretty much every season, but at some point the impact of Scioscia's blind loyalty to veterans and general blindness to OBP has to be taken into consideration. This team came within a handful of wins of making the post-season and I can't help but wonder if they could've stolen a few extra wins had Scioscia not featured so many lineups that had Erick Aybar and his sub.-300 OBP (at the time) in the leadoff spot or Bobby Abreu, who hasn't had power in years, batting third and fourth in the lineup most of the year or Vernon Wells batting in the middle of the order for weeks on end during the most wretched portions of his season-long slump. With an offense this erratic, the last thing they needed was Scioscia further handicapping it with some of the most head-scratching lineup choices anyone could dream up.
Yeah. What if, what if, what if? Crikey, it could drive you crazy! These past two days have driven me crazy, too. They are playing a bunch of guys who will never see significant roster time with the big club. Amarista, Navarro, Moore, Romine. None of these guys are worth a damn. And the minor league pitching? How did the Angels farm system get ranked as high as they were before the season? It's a joke! Argh! Repeat mantra...lower blood pressure...
They did something right, the record is much improved over last season even with all these annoying "what if's". Isn't there an over-the-counter creme or something to relieve this terrible itching and burning sensation? At least Richards has kept the Rangers in the park so far tonight. Oh, wait...