The Angels No Longer Own the Yankees

Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols

The last three seasons the Yankees have had a winning record each year against the Angels. That might not seem like a big deal, but before 2011, the Yankees’ last winning season against the Angels was in 2003. The Angels not only beat up on the Yankees in the regular season for the entire Joe Torre era, but they knocked them out in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005. But since the 2009 ALCS, everything has changed between the two teams.

With the Yankees and Angels meeting for the first time this season, I did an email exchange with Mat Gleason of Halos Heaven to talk about the contracts for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, if Mike Scioscia’s time with the Angels is running out and what’s happened to the Angels since Yankees beat them in six games in the 2009 ALCS.

Keefe: The stories about the Yankees supposedly expecting to draft Mike Trout in 2009 draft, but losing the pick to the Angels, who drafted him, because of the Mark Teixeira signing will forever make me sick. Mark Teixeira has turned into Jason Giambi 2.0 because of the short porch at the Stadium, making him a pull-only hitter who won’t under any circumstances go the other way as a left-handed hitter. Good thing he’s only making $22.5 million this year as an average first baseman … and next year … and the year after.

Meanwhile, Trout has gone on to become Mickey Mantle 2.0. His numbers are ridiculous and he won’t turn 23 until this August. 23! That’s 23! I was hoping the Angels would somehow screw up any chance to sign him to a long-term deal and he would want to return back to the Tri-state area and play for the team he grew up rooting for: the Yankees. But Trout got his six-year, $144.5 million deal, so I guess I’m going to have to wait until 2021 for him to become a Yankee.

What has it been like watching the best young player in baseball develop as an Angel? What were your thoughts on his contract?

Gleason: The contract was a huge relief. Angels fans have been losing faith in this franchise after many many boneheaded moves so it was just a huge relief. Watching Trout every night has been the most entertaining thing in decades for me as an Angels fan. No matter where you are in the game you count the lineup to see how many at-bats away he is before you decide to make dinner or go to the bathroom, one of those “must-see” moments.

Keefe: After playing in just 99 games last year, Albert Pujols looks to be back to his usual ways, leading the league in home runs early with eight at age 34. And after hitting .250/.307/.432 in his first season with the Angels last year, Josh Hamilton looked to be back on track through eight games this year before tearing a ligament in his thumb, which could keep him out for two months.

I pair these two together because the Angels gave Pujols a 10-year, $240 million deal before the 2012 season and then gave Hamilton a five-year, $125 million deal before the 2013 season. At the time, it looked like the Angels stole the franchise player from the Cardinals and then stole the franchise player from the Rangers, but after 2013, it just looked like they spent $365 million on two aging, broken-down players.

What were your thoughts on the contracts when they were signed compared to now? What are the expectations now for these two?

Gleason: I had faith that Pujols would be great once he got healthy. I have no faith in Josh Hamilton. Sometimes it is not a good thing to be right all the time, you know what I mean?

Hamilton actually might come around this year. The contracts don’t bother me at all, in fact Seattle offered Hamilton more money and I believe Albert will be worth the dough. If inflation takes off in hte larger economy he might be a bargain in six years!

Keefe: Mike Scioscia has been called “the best manager in baseball” in the past and this seemed like a generally agreed upon rhetoric through the 2009 season. But after the last few years, Scioscia’s abilities and whether his time has run its course with the Angels has been called into question.

Scioscia is signed through the 2018 season, but does have an opt-out clause after the 2015 season as part of his 10-year deal. Is Scioscia on the hot seat this season with the Angels? Are you a Scioscia fan, or would a postseason-less season mean it’s time to move on?

Gleason: There are managers who are managing at a higher level than Mike. When he came into the league he was the chessmaster but he is now playing checkers compared to younger managers who have read and understood basic Bill James.

His biggest weaknesses are the rigid roles he assigns relievers, his willingness to stick to veterans in the lineup over rookies who might benefit from playing time, his assertion that the major league level is not a teaching level, which deprives young pitchers of developing new pitches, among other things. He has been bunting less than ever, runs players less than ever and seems overmatched by simple concepts of high leverage and on-base percentage. Fifteen years is a long time and he really is a testament to how the game has changed radically in that time. He just hasn’t kept up. But I have no faith in the front office to keep up. A new hire is no guarantee that things would be any different so in that regard a manager is a manager is a manager, why not have the guy who will generate the least controversy?

Keefe: The Angels haven’t been in the playoffs since 2009 when they lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. Since then, they have 80-82, 86-76, 89-73 and 78-84. Five years it felt like the Angels would just keep on making the playoffs and winning the AL West forever before the Rangers and then A’s became relevant again. Despite their free-agent signings and spending, the Angels haven’t been able to rekindle the winning ways of the 2000s when they were the one team to have a winning record against the Yankees and knocked them out of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005. But then it seems like there was a shift in power between the Yankees and Angels after the 2009 ALCS.

What has made the Angels so hard for the Yankees to beat? After years of beating up on both the Joe Torre and Joe Girardi Yankees, and two postseason series wins, are Angels fans still confident when they play the Yankees?

Gleason: 2009 was a big punch to our gut. Our nemesis has really been the Red Sox and we finally beat them in the playoffs after losing to them in 1986, 2004, 2007 and 2008 and then the Yankees knocked us down in the 2009 ALCS, so the decade where we dominated the Yankees is over, psychologically, for us. Maybe it left with Joe Torre. Don’t get me wrong, we always get up the hate for the Bronx Bombers and there is a lingering confidence that we can win in New York that other tams and their fans might not have (you don’t intimidate us), but we carried much more swagger last decade than this one.

Keefe: When you look at the Angels lineup and the front-end of their rotation, you can’t help but think that this should be a playoff team. But after these recent postseason-less seasons for the Angels, what have your expectations become for the Angels?

Gleason: The mob is ready with pre-lit torches. Attendance and season ticket sales have taken a huge hit. I expect the team to make the playoffs this year and I am way more confident in them than I have been in recent years, but as Pee Wee Herman said, “There is always a big but …” there is no depth and there is no chance of a big trade/acquisition due to the luxury tax concerns. So a few bumps and bruises and I can put my hope for October on the shelf for 2014. This organization will have to earn back the buzz that fans had for them. There is no buzz these days. Its like O’Douls in Anaheim: no buzz.

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Neil Keefe is the founder and editor-in-chief of Keefe To The City along with writing columns and hosting podcasts. He has written for WFAN.com and CBSNewYork.com since February 2010.

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