It was obvious from the start of the 2011 season that the Texas Rangers were doing everything right while the Los Angeles Angels put on a clinic on how not to run your baseball team. Now, the Rangers have won the American League pennant for a second consecutive season, and they’ve done it in a thoroughly dominating fashion.
Give the Detroit Tigers some credit — they hung tough with a team which, in retrospect, should have taken the series in four.
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Let’s not fool ourselves, though. This series was never in doubt. Any illusion that the Tigers could have continued messing with Texas for very long came crumbling down in an instant. In a single, commanding inning, the Rangers proved to the entire American League they would have no equal this season. In fact, nobody really came close.
As a result, what was already a tough pill to swallow now comes with an extra hint of bitterness for the Angels. The Rangers’ lineup is littered with what-could-have-beens for the defeated Halos: Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, Darren Oliver. In fact, in a perfectly sick way, this Rangers roster has Tony Reagins’ fingerprints all over it.
The former Angels GM, who resigned last month, has committed enough recent blunders to place him squarely in a place of infamy among Angels fans. Reagins unceremoniously let Oliver go when the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on his contract. It’s not quite a catastrophic move, although Oliver’s 2009 season was magical.
But missing out on both Beltre and Napoli will go down as the most infamous blunder of Reagins’ career.
Really, there were quite a few components to Reagins’ abysmal 2010-2011 offseason, but it all meshes together so well that it would be too messy not to wrap it all into one massive ball of failure.
Here’s my take on the final, disastrous year of Tony Reagins’ Angels career and exactly what kind of lingering impact this man’s incompetence will leave.
The 2010 season ended. The Angels finished in third place, and it was clear they badly needed an offensive boost to replace Vladimir Guerrero (who Reagins had also inexplicably let go). Adrian Beltre sat at the top of the Angels’ list of solutions, and all it took was a big offer. Everybody knew what was supposed to happen; even the media associated Beltre with the Angels time and time again.
By some miraculous foul-up I may never have the capacity to comprehend, Beltre instead landed with Ron Washington and his Texas Rangers in a six-year deal. The Halos were suddenly thrust into panic mode.
The Halos and their fans looked on to other big-name free agents like Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee, all of who soon disappeared. Reagins and company decided to hang their hopes on the return of first baseman Kendrys Morales, who wound up missing 2011 altogether. They were pretty much trapped like rats.
For the entire hullabaloo about big moves and addressing needs, Reagins and the Angels found themselves left with nothing. The GM was anxious to make a big move – any move – and looked to Toronto, of all places, for the solution.
What ensued was the final nail in the coffin for the 2011 Angels. Reagins and Mike Scioscia (who carries a good portion of the blame, as well) conspired to acquire aging veteran Vernon Wells to add to their outfield fossil collection. In return, they shipped both Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays.
Napoli was a victim of circumstance in Anaheim; long adored by fans for his ability to crush the baseball and his strong throwing arm, he had suddenly found himself on the outside looking in. Scioscia inexplicably named newcomer Jeff Mathis the de facto starting catcher for the Halos in 2010. Napoli DH’d for the majority of that season before Kendrys Morales famously cracked his leg in half celebrating a walk-off grand slam. After Morales’s bizarre injury, Napoli took over at first base.
There was clearly some sort of ill will between Napoli and Scioscia by season’s end – perhaps Napoli demanded to play catcher again or be traded. Perhaps Scioscia had simply grown bored with Napoli in the face of his new boy-toy, Jeff Mathis.
Whatever the case, off went Napoli in exchange for Wells and his invisible bat. And before Napoli could even file his Canadian citizenship papers, in swooped the Rangers for one final move to cap off a brilliant offseason.
After the dust had finally settled, the Rangers stood tall with the most dominating lineup in team history. The Angels, meanwhile, have a lot of questions heading into 2012, most of which revolve around replacing the man who may have doomed the franchise to live in Texas’s shadow for the next few years.
If the Rangers really do win it all, they’ll enter 2012 as heavy favorites to win the pennant again, at the very least. And if things do pan out that way, it’ll be one last slap in the face for the Angels and their fans.
Tony Reagins has left his mark in Anaheim, and it may last a lot longer than it would have if he had done his job correctly.