What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I’m a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2012 title for all 30 teams.
Dream? The Angels don’t need no stinking dream. Reality seems to be suiting them just fine.
While I would love to dream up some fantastical scenario like we have done for many of the other teams in this series, it simply isn’t necessary since rookie GM Jerry Dipoto already made the dreams of Angel fans come true by way of his epic signing of Albert Pujols, who, you know, is only the best hitter alive. It was a move that sent such huge shockwaves through baseball that the complementary addition of All-Star C.J. Wilson to the already excellent Angel rotation is considered to be nothing but a footnote. Not too shabby for a day’s work.
All hyperbole aside, there is no doubt that the Angels are now full-fledged championship contenders thanks to their huge expenditures, but it is no guarantee that the dream will have a happy ending. Heck, it isn’t even a guarantee that the Angels will win their own division. Turns out that $317+ million doesn’t buy what it used to. But, hey, at least they finally got rid of Jeff Mathis, right?
Fine, so the Halos still have a little dreaming left to do, but this is a dream meant more for an afternoon cat nap than a Ambien-assisted all-night dream-a-thon.
Having Albert Pujols is swell and all, but until Arte Moreno pays the league to allow Albert to bat every inning, there is only so much he can do. The Angels’ 2011 season was submarined by a flaccid offensive attack and it won’t get significantly better unless Pujols can scrounge up some protection behind him the lineup and some reliable tablesetters in front of him in the order. But with their rotation, the Angels don’t need a juggernaut offense, they simply need to move up a few spots from the 10th ranked offense in the AL that they were last year.
Maybe that protection will come in the form of slugging sophomore Mark Trumbo learning to take an occasional pitch. Or perhaps it will be Kendrys Morales stepping up and taking home Comeback Player of the Year as he returns to MVP-caliber form after his recovery from the devastating leg injury he suffered back in 2010. Either Erick Aybar or Peter Bourjos could take their game to the next level and give the Angels a speed demon leadoff man with a passable on-base percentage. There is always the potential that uber-prospect Mike Trout will make the leap to the Majors and immediately become the elite leadoff man with power that will maximize Pujols’ presence in the order. Who knows, Vernon Wells could even remember how to hit!
OK, now we really are dreaming.
But since we are dreaming, we might as well enjoy it with some scenarios that aren’t so much “needs” for a championship so much as “nice to haves.” The Halos certainly wouldn’t mind if second-year closer Jordan Walden refined his slider and cut his blown save total down from 10 to a more palatable four. Their path to the post-season would be a whole lot easier if Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz were flops in the Texas Rangers’ rotation while the desire for rich new contracts from several core offensive players (Hamilton, Napoli, Kinsler) soured the chemistry of the Texas locker room. Just to make sure that everything works out, we’ll go ahead and factor in C.J. Wilson exorcising his post-season demons as well.
To be perfectly honest with you, as an Angel fan, I feel bad asking for any of that to come to pass. After the talent windfall of this off-season, asking for anything other than the team staying healthy feels downright greedy. And, really, that may be all the Angels need to capture their second World Series title. Albert Pujols might get all the headlines, but if they are going to go all the way, the Halos will do it on the strength of that imposing Weaver-Haren-Wilson-Santana rotation. Given how consistent, effective and durable those four have proven to be, the roster’s other flaws may not matter. Just give them a little bit of timely hitting in the month of October, and they should be set. But if all that other awesome stuff actually came true, I’m sure they wouldn’t complain either.