Yes Angels fans, there is a Santa Claus. His name is Arte Moreno and he just delivered THE present of the baseball offseason. This is bigger than the iPad, bigger than those flying/hovering things they sell at Brookstone that never seem to work as well at home as they do in the store, and bigger than Tickle Me Elmo.
This is Tickle Me Albert.
But while Angels fans rejoice and Cardinals fans wipe away their tears, the $254 million question remains: Did the Angels overpay for Albert Pujols?
My first reaction was absolutely, yes. (Actually, my first reaction was "Holy sh%^, I can't believe the Angels just signed Albert Pujols;" but my second reaction was absolutely, yes.) The more I thought about this, however, the less convinced I became that the Angels actually did overpay.
First, even if Pujols can't put up Pujols-type numbers for the full ten years, it still might be worth the price. And second, this deal is about much, much more than baseball. It's about war.
Let's look at the baseball part first. Although he is unquestionably one of the best (if not the best) player of his generation, he will be 32 years old when the 2012 season begins. This begs the question, how long can Albert be Albert?
Just for fun, let's assume that Pujols continues to put up typical Pujols numbers through age 38 -- seven years out of the ten year contract. Even if we think about the contract as $254 million for seven years instead of ten, Albert still might be worth it. Under that scenario, the Angels will have basically paid $36 million per year. While that is still a LOT of money, is it really too much? What if the Angels make the playoffs in each of those seven seasons? Better yet, what if the Angels win a World Series (or two or three) during that time? The added ticket, concession, and merchandising revenue will surely make up for the $10 million per year the Angels might have overpaid.
Plus, what if Albert breaks Hank Aaron's, er, I mean, Barry Bonds's homerun record as an Angel? Wouldn't that be a nice little revenue boost for Mr. Moreno as well? I know that's speculative at best, but it's not crazy. If Albert hits 40 homeruns per year (his current average) for seven more years, he would have 725 homeruns and three years left on his contract. I don't care how old he is at that point, there's a good chance he'll be able to hit 38 more homeruns in three years as a DH for the Angels.
So even if we only focus on Albert Pujols the baseball player, maybe the Angels didn't overpay after all.
But like I said, this isn't just about Albert Pujols the baseball player. In fact, in some ways, this contract isn't about Albert Pujols at all. It's about war. It's about sending a message to that other team in Southern California -- the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Remember, Arte Moreno isn't just trying to secure his Anaheim fan base by building the premiere franchise in Southern California; he's trying to consume the Dodgers' Los Angeles fan base as well. How do I know? Well, what does changing his team's name to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" say to you?
And if Arte Moreno is trying to wage a war for L.A.'s baseball fans, this is a hell of a first shot. I can already see the billboards: "Dodgers fans: Upset because the only time you can see a premiere slugger at first base is when Prince Fielder visits L.A. on road trips? Just hop on the freeway and come on down to Anaheim!" OK, so that's a lot to fit on a billboard, but you get the point. With the Dodgers' ownership up for grabs and the Dodgers' front office unwilling (or unable) to even offer at a big free agent this winter, Arte Moreno smelled blood in the water. And without hesitation, he went in for the kill.
Now, is this signing enough to convert millions of lifelong Dodgers fans into Angels fans? Of course not. But it's certainly enough to get their attention. And after three ownership changes and zero World Series titles in the last 23 years (and counting), even the lifelong Dodgers fans are starting to get antsy. How do I know? Well, shortly after Pujols signed, I received the following text from a close friend who bleeds Dodger Blue: "What a day for the Halos. If only the Dodgers would make big moves like that."
"If only" indeed...