On paper, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series this year – and with good reason.
Prior to the 2012 season, the club signed not one, but two major superstars, inking Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols and division rival Texas Rangers‘ outfielder Josh Hamilton to a pair of massive deals, immediately raising the expectations for the club.
That year, the team finished 89-73, five games back of the division champion Oakland Athletics. The team said they would regroup, refocus and come back to win a title in 2013. Well, that didn’t happen, either.
Despite a massive payroll, the Angels stumbled out of the gates, and despite a strong second half push, failed to even finish with a .500 record – at 78-84, 18 games back of Oakland, which won its second straight AL West crown.
So where do we go from here? First, and foremost, the inner bickering between GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia has to end – for the team’s sake. Second, new hitting coach Don Baylor needs to get Hamilton back on track.
Last season, Hamilton hit just .250 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs, and Pujols missed the bulk of the season with plantar fasciitis issues. The season prior, 2012, Pujols was slow to start, but came on with a vengeance, hitting .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs. He also added 50 doubles – which ranked second in the league – and 173 hits.
In other words, if you’re a Rangers fan or an A’s fan, beware.
With a healthy Pujols and a hot-hitting Hamilton back on track and a formidable rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Joe Blanton – who struggled mightily last season – this team will be back and better than ever.
Oh, and don’t forget about the man who single-handedly kept the Angels in any type of contention this season – Mike Trout. He’s pretty good.