As Thursday progressed I’ve had the opportunity to hear and read many reactions to the Josh Hamilton signing ambush that the Angels pulled off.
It’s become a catastrophy in the eyes of some. The Mariners lost a bat to a division rival. That’s not immediately obvious good news. It is news that may come to define this offseason for some Mariners fans the same way that not signing Prince Fielder last offseason came to define last offseason. Who cares that John Jaso produced WAR at a higher rate than Fielder (4.48/600 PA compared to 4.26). Who cares that Lucas Luetge was a quality bullpen arm, or that the Mariners got Hisashi Iwakuma for basically nothing. Or that the team drafted Mike Zunino and Tyler Pike. They signe Luiz Gohara. None of that shit matters. We just want some homeruns goddammit!
If you put all your hope into the Mariners signing Josh Hamilton, you made it so that the Mariners had to do something extraordinary to bring you to satisfaction. The way that normally should work is that an extraordinary act receives extraordinary praise. The Mariners needed to pay for a bunch of money for fool’s gold in terms of value just to make some fans reach their breakeven point?
The Angels have gotten worse to this point in the offseason. They lost Zack Grienke, they lost Torii Hunter, they lost Ervin Santana, they lost Dan Haren, they lost Jordan Walden. They added Tommy Hanson‘s iffy shoulder and Josh Hamilton’s bag of red flags. And they’re spending a lot of money to do so.
This wasn’t a move made for a marginal gain by the Angels. This was a move made to return to surface level for a team that was disappointing last year. This was a move out of desperation, and such desparation is the curse of the overspender. You must maintain a certain level of success year in and year out to maintain attendance and TV ratings to sustain a product that has excess fat to begin with. You waste all of your resources, prospects included, to maintain a team that drifts closer and closer to mediocrity. If you’re the pre-new-CBA Yankees that’s fine. You have a functionally endless budget, and the ability to spend an uncapped amount of money on international prospects with high ceilings. You’ll trade those guys away for some middle-of-the-rotation arm four years from now, but fuck it, you deal with the resources you have and strategize accordingly. Fortunately those rules have changed.
The Angels will eventually reach a point where the stars they’ve paid for take up too much of their payroll to continue adding talent, and those stars will not be stars at all any more. They’ll be more like asteroids, hurdling towards the earth in the corniest of corny written cliches.
It may be that this deal isn’t even good for the Angels. This is an excerpt from Jeff Sullivan’s post on Hamilton’s signing today at Fangraphs:
But to me, the biggest risk here is something else. There’s no question that Hamilton was the most mysterious free agent baseball’s had in a long time. For two months last year, he was almost impossible to retire, but then things changed somewhat significantly. Hamilton’s final numbers were outstanding, even adjusted for park, but he struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances. From June on, he struck out even more often than that. After posting contact rates around 74% earlier in his career, last year he dropped to 65%. Last year Josh Hamilton made less-frequent contact than Miguel Olivo. Last year Josh Hamilton made less-frequent contact than Cliff Lee.
The Angels will be bad some day, but they’ll still be very expensive. They’ll chase down a fix like Josh Hamilton before he created this mess. And the Mariners fans won’t have to hear about how this phony, relapsing, adultering jackass is a hero and a beacon for society. I don’t like Josh Hamilton the person. I recognize that Josh Hamilton the baseball player has significant value. Significant doesn’t mean limitless, and the limits to that value, in all likelihood, will reside well below $125 million for the next five years.