Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson to Anaheim: Why the Angels Now Own L.A. Baseball

Evan BarnesContributor IIIDecember 8, 2011

Albert Pujols coming to the Angels is equal to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and Wayne Gretzky coming to L.A. in years past.
Albert Pujols coming to the Angels is equal to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and Wayne Gretzky coming to L.A. in years past.Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images

You hear that sound? That’s the Angels stealing the Dodgers' thunder with the greatest free-agent signing coup in team history.

Just when the Dodgers found some goodwill with Clayton Kershaw winning the Cy Young and Matt Kemp receiving an eight-year deal, the Angels did what they have been doing for a while— fire back with a bang.

If getting CJ Wilson—the biggest free-agent pitcher available—wasn’t big enough, they found a way to make a late offer and snag the biggest fish, Albert Pujols, for 10 years, $252 million—the biggest interleague signing since Ken Griffey Jr. switched leagues in 2000.

While the baseball world is recovering from the shock of seeing Pujols leave the World Series champs, Dodgers fans will need a lot more time to recover as the Angels have gone from little brother status to the kings of Southern California.

I’ve said for years that the Angels are what the Dodgers used to be. Over the last decade, they went from a laughingstock to one of the best franchises in baseball.

Here’s how.

Farm system: The Dodgers have talented arms like Zach Lee but the Angels have excellent hitting prospects in Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, the latter who could be traded and has high value after finishing second for Rookie of the Year.

Managing: Since Mike Scioscia has been hired in 2000, the Dodgers have gone through four managers and are currently on their fifth with Don Mattingly. Former Dodger Mickey Hatcher has been the Angels' hitting coach just as long and it’s no surprise the team’s offense has been top notch most years.

A Newport Beach native, CJ Wilson stays within the division and returns home to the Angels $77.5 million richer
A Newport Beach native, CJ Wilson stays within the division and returns home to the Angels $77.5 million richerDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

Winning: Five AL West titles plus a wild card berth, three ALCS trips and one World Series title for the Angels since 2000. The Dodgers have three NL West titles and two NLCS trip along with a wild card berth in 2006.

Ownership: Not even a debate. Everything Arte Moreno does for the Angels reminds the Dodgers how unfortunate they are after the double-debacle of Rupert Murdoch and Frank McCourt.

Arte Moreno has shown a willingness to spend and make big moves. He surprised many in 2004 when he signed Vladimir Guerrero and all Guerrero did was win an MVP his first season with the Angels and set 15 team records in his five years.

Moreno signed Torii Hunter in 2007 and traded for Mark Teixeira in 2008. The Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez in 2008, who became loved and hated faster than any player in recent team history.

While the Dodgers raised prices under McCourt, Moreno has lowered concession prices and done his best to make Angel Stadium a fan friendly environment. He mingles with the fans and has become very popular with fans—the complete opposite of how Dodger fans feel about Frank McCourt.

The Dodgers have always been about tradition and fans are loyal to that brand because of what it represents. Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp's successes give them hope for the future, but it’s a future that the Angels have represented for nearly a decade.

Bringing CJ Wilson back home (a Newport Beach native) is a brilliant move that solidifies their rotation and doesn’t give Wilson the pressure of being an ace with Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren around.

Signing Albert Pujols is the type of bold move that Angels fans have come to expect. It’s a star move that L.A. has seen from the Lakers, Kings and Galaxy and the Dodgers in the past and it's a move that will make them World Series contenders for the next 5-7 years.

One more sign. Last year, the Angels outdrew the Dodgers in attendance for the first time in team history. Safe chance that after the Dodgers find a new owner, those numbers will be incredibly close for the next decade.

Moreno was seen as crazy for changing the team’s name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2005. But six years later, he should be a genius for having the foresight and drive to make that a reality. 

The Angels worked hard to dominate the Los Angeles baseball landscape in the 2000’s. But now that Pujols and Wilson are coming here, the Angels made sure they own it for another decade.