As the Yankees popped champagne after a World Series victory, Jack Zduriencik was hard at work. Another late night analyzing what would put the Mariners in prime position to snatch the AL West title from the Angels, and maybe tonight he had found it. Sign Chone Figgins.
The versatile speedster is able to fill in from almost anywhere on the diamond, but he plans to be starting at third base when Opening Day rolls around. For nine more million dollars, the Mariners made it clear what they have spent the last year accomplishing.
The Mariners are the athletes.
Down the coastline, waves buffeted the Oakland shoreline. Billy Beane didn't hear any of it. Alone in his office, he was crunching numbers as he picked up the phone. When Jim Hendry picked up, a deal was imminent. Beane would trade Gray and two no-names for Aaron Miles and Jake Fox.
Counting on a resurgence from Miles, who hit absolute rock bottom last year, isn't a terrible idea, and bringing in Jake Fox is a good baseball move. With one trade, it became clear what the A's are doing.
The A's are the baseball players.
Hundreds of miles away, Jon Daniels deliberated over his choices. The Rangers are a funny case, counting on so much from players who can do so much. Daniels reached for the phone, put his hand down, and picked up his hand again. He dialed Rich Harden's agent's number, and the conversation began.
Harden is electrifying when he's on, but he's usually injured. Then there's Chris Ray, recently acquired for workhorse Kevin Millwood, who has been off since Tommy John surgery but was formerly lights-out.
And how about the most compelling story of all, Josh Hamilton? Can he rebound from recurring drug problems and hit like he did in 2008? For Daniels, choices became chances, and it was those chances that he ended taking on these once good players.
With two moves, Texas' outlook became clear.
The Rangers are the gamblers.
Back to the West Coast; Tony Reagins is sitting in a board room with his top executives from the business. They're drilling him with the same thing they've drilled him with for the last month—we can't afford John Lackey. Reagins hopes that when the smoke clears in 2010, Angels fans can say, "Lackey who?" But what can anyone in that organization be sure of anymore?
Without their ace (Lackey), without the face of their franchise (Guerrero), without their Energizer bunny (Figgins), the Angels still believe they can win this thing.
With that solemn belief, it became clear who the Angels are.
The Angels are the fighting underdogs.
Welcome to the AL West.