Revamping the Worst World Series (2002)
It's not very difficult to argue that the 2002 World Series was the worst of all-time. It gave viewers two Wild Cards, that used two weeks of good play to make the Big Dance. The Angels proved sabermatricians wrong by showing us that clutch hitting really does matter, and showed MLB the flaws in the playoff roster rules. The Giants used the fear of one batter, Barry Bonds, to revolutionize the way baseball is played.
In 2003, we have seen these teams spiral into two different directions. Anaheim is very close to becoming the first American League team to win the World Series, and then finish in last place. Injuries and lack of luck have brought the Angels record down, along with playing some of the worst 2nd half ball in the Majors. The Giants, on the other hand, have had this division for a couple of months now. Barry Bonds has spent numerous days away from the team, as has potential Cy Young winner Jason Schmidt. But the team has fought through all of this, and is threatening to finish with the best record in the National League.
In the news this week, Barry Bonds has flirted with the possibility of retiring in 60 days. We have to look at where this would take the Giants, and how new ownership will effect the Angels...
Angels Free Agents
Brad Fullmer (DH)
Eric Owens (OF)
San Francisco Free Agents
Rich Aurilla (SS)
Marvin Benard (OF)
Andres Galarraga (1B)
Jeffrey Hammonds (OF)
Sidney Ponson (SP)
Benito Santiago (C)
Tim Worrell (RP)
Eric Young (2B)
MUTUAL OPTION- Jose Cruz Jr. (OF)
MUTUAL OPTION- Felix Rodriguez (RP)
TEAM OPTION- J.T. Snow (1B)
After a World Championship, Angels' management was perfectly content keeping the same team, not seeing any holes. This disappointing season has created new thought. In the last month, I've heard the following rumors:
1) Lee Sinins reported in the Sept. 10 ATM report that Bill Stoneman has a starting pitcher on the top of his wish list. Sinins mentions free agents Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, Greg Maddux, or acquiring Javier Vazquez or Livan Hernandez through trades.
2) The team has expressed interest in SS Miguel Tejada, and on September 9th, Tejada expressed interest in the team as well. The team has also been linked to Japanese SS Kaz Matsui.
3) Carlos Beltran has also been reported (by the LA Times) to be high on the Angels' wish list.
Peter Gammons has reported the team will non-tender Adam Kennedy, and would like to get rid of Darin Erstad. By pursuing a SS in Tejada or even Matsui, the team is moving everyone's favorite player David Eckstein to second. The team will go with Bengie Molina, Scott Spiezio, and Aaron Sele one more season before the likes of Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Bobby Jenks take over.
Darin Erstad's nagging hamstring may move him to 1B, or him and Tim Salmon could take tuns filling the empty DH hole. Ideally, the team's lineup would include the following:
C- Bengie Molina
1B- Scott Spiezio/Darin Erstad
2B- David Eckstein
SS- Free Agent
3B- Troy Glaus
LF- Garret Anderson
CF- Free Agent
RF- Tim Salmon
Until Santana and Jenks come in, the Angels have a front four locked into the rotation. Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, John Lackey, and Aaron Sele all have jobs in their back pocket next season. Scot Shields had an opportunity to claim that fifth spot, but the team is convinced he is better suited for middle relief.
So, that leaves the team holes at SS, CF, and SP. Granted, the team could go with Alfredo Amezaga or Chone Figgins at short, Jeff DaVanon in center, and Shields in the rotation. But, this new ownership needs to put a winner back on the field, and try to prove that the 2002 version wasn't a fluke.
There is no questioning the team's ability to trade for any players, as Dallas McPherson would likely go to Kansas City in a Beltran trade. Alberto Callapso, ranked in my top 10 2B list, also could be dealt. The team has a host of pitchers besides Santana and Jenks, like Joe Torres, with considerable upside.
I think the Angels should go hard after Tejada, who has shown interest in the team. After landing him, the team could platoon Davanon and Figgins in center. Then, trade Amezaga and former prospect Chris Bootcheck for Livan Hernandez. This would give the team offensive threats, a much better defense, and more innings from their starters.
Moving on to the Giants...
First, let's say Barry doesn't leave. Inside we all know he wants that record, and the money he is passing up is insane. Here is the 2nd half performances of the four potential Giant free agents:
Snow (1B)- .253/.346/.341 in 91AB
Cruz (RF)- .220/.333/.295 in 173AB
Santiago (C)- .231/.294/.343 in 108AB
Aurilia (SS)- .319/.353/.431 in 144AB
Outside of Aurilia, the other losses won't exactly be devastating. Snow and Cruz have fallen out of Alou's favor, and the Giants will almost surely decline their options. Santiago's age and decline in stats should lead to his exit.
But Aurilia is a different story. The SS played injured the first half, managing an OPS of only .709. But this big 2nd half with an OPS of .789 has changed things, and Aurilia is looking to be a big free agent once again. But with Tejada and Matsui grabbing most of the attention, there appears to be nowhere to go. My guess is the Giants will retain Aurilia, whom has spent his career in a Giants uniform.
So, from an offensive standpoint, the team has some holes. They'll probably allow Yorvit Torrealba to get the full-time job next season, but will likely sign an able backup just in case. First base and right field are huge questions. Don't be surprised if the first base job goes to Pedro Feliz, whom has never gotten a full-time job here. The team will pursue older options in the outfield, toying with players like Rondell White and Reggie Sanders.
Now to the pitching...
It wasn't long ago that the Giants had the best Major League ready pitching prospect depth in the minors. Jerome Williams has now hit the big stage...by himself. Kurt Ainsworth suffered a horrific accident in April, and then was traded in July. And top prospect Jesse Foppert was in the Majors for 21 starts, but will likely be out until 2005 with arm surgery. That leaves the team a little more short-armed than they would have hoped for.
Jason Schmidt, whom has elevated himself into true ace status, is re-signed next season. As is Kirk Rueter, whom the Giants need to have a successful and healthy 2004. Jerome Williams has done good in his first Major League trial, and could be prepared for a Sophmore jump. But, this team simply can't have the likes of Jim Brower, Kevin Correia, and Dustin Hermanson filling out this rotation.
Sidney Ponson has pitched great since coming from Baltimore, using Pac Bell's spacious dimensions to his advantage. The team would love to re-sign him, but it will be difficult. He rejected a 3-year, $21M offer from the Orioles, something the Giants would be hard-pressed to beat. Among others, the White Sox should be hot after his trail this winter, and the Giants might lose.
In the bullpen, the team will hope Robb Nen returns to full form next year. Felix Rodriguez will be gone next year, as the team is getting sick of flirting with his successes. I expect them to bring Tim Worrell back, unless some team considerably tops the team's offer. And Joe Nathan will return, whom is quickly becoming one of the Majors' best at retiring right-handers.
Brian Sabean must not worry about Barry Bonds this offseason, but rather have his mind here:
- Is re-signing Rich Aurilia necessary to this offense?
- Can Pedro Feliz hit 30HR in 500AB?
- Who could be the 2002 version of Reggie Sanders in 2003?
- What is the next option for SP holes if Ponson walks?
And the answers: yes, yes, Carl Everett/Raul Mondesi, try Brian Anderson and Pat Hentgen (flyballers) in the SP holes.
FACT: The 2004 Angels will not win the AL West.
PREDICTION: The 2004 Giants will finish below the San Diego Padres.
Have a good one...