When the 2011 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lost the AL West for the second straight year to the AL Champion Texas Rangers, this offseason looked as bleak as the last. After all, the Rangers' back-to-back World Series appearances created a mini-dynasty in the AL West, while the effects of several key decisions over the past year—such as Mike Napoli's departure for Texas and his disappointing replacement in Jeff Mathis—left Angel Stadium of Anaheim a less exciting place than it was in the mid-2000s.
Then, owner Arte Moreno, injected some life into a franchise in danger of missing out on a third straight postseason appearance.
Moreno canned GM Tony Reagins and replaced him with rookie GM Jerry Dipoto, formerly a front office assistant with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had been passed over for the D-Backs GM job in 2010 when the club named Kevin Towers as their new GM. In turn, Dipoto shipped Mathis off to Canada and replaced him with former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta.
Then came the free agents.
The Angels signed pitchers Eric Hurley and LaTroy Hawkins, first baseman Jorge Cantu and left fielder Ryan Langerhans—not to mention some of the biggest names the 2011-12 offseason had to offer, starter C.J. Wilson and first baseman Albert Pujols, whom the Angels introduced during a dazzling ceremony open to the public.
Now that the Angels are true contenders once again, not only are fans excited, but the players cannot wait to begin work on what might very well be a World Series season.
Youngster Mark Trumbo, who, at first base, will be displaced by King Albert's arrival, could easily have given up and wished to be traded to a team that needs a first baseman. Instead, Trumbo has embraced his new assignment of learning to play third base, all for the sake of the franchise.
"If I'm physically able, I'll be out there at 4:15 in the morning if that's what it takes," Trumbo recently said. "I'll field thousands of ground balls a day if that's going to give me a better chance to make the transition and help the team."
Trumbo's enthusiasm also rubbed off on teammates Peter Bourjos and Hank Conger, when all three took part in the Angels' annual Fan Cruise from January 27-30, 2012.
Though the cruise's unofficial motto was, "What happens on the Fan Cruise, stays on the Fan Cruise," rumor has it that Conger was hugging fans and had bought a bracelet in Mexico stitched with the phrase "Sorry for Partying."
Back on the home front, multiple sources—including Bourjos—have remarked that Kendrys Morales "looks strong" in his offseason workouts in his attempt to get back to playing MLB ball with the club. Morales has missed close to two years due to injury—back when MLB still referred to him as "Kendry"—while Bourjos has been rehabilitating a chronic-hip condition.
Bourjos and Morales have been batting-practice partners at the Angels' minor league complex in Tempe, Arizona for most of the 2011-12 offseason. Bourjos believes his injury won't be an issue come spring training. He has summed up his and Morales' feelings about 2012 with the words "really excited."
Meanwhile, the Angels' biggest offseason investment, Albert Pujols, has expressed his unwavering dedication to his new club: "I think it's important to get [to Tempe, for spring training] early ... I'm going to try to get there a week earlier [than position players are required to report]."
Second baseman Howie Kendrick echoed a lot of Angels players this offseason when he spoke about Pujols: "I really like him. I'm interested in learning from him. A guy with that much talent, he's going to have a lot to offer, not only on the field but in the locker room."
In December, manager Mike Scioscia was asked about his bosses' signing of Pujols. He responded: "My owner stepped up. He took the best player of our generation and put him in an Angels uniform."
Now, given all the moving pieces and excitement amongst the Angels players, the 2012 club should be ready to do the same.