SBD/December 14, 2012/Franchises

Josh Hamilton Signing With Angels Is The Latest Salvo In MLB's Battle For L.A.

The Angels' deal with Hamilton reportedly just materialized in recent days
With another "bold move that could steal some headlines from the crosstown Dodgers," the Angels Thursday signed free agent CF Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125M deal that will put the Angels' payroll next season "in the area of $160 million," according to Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. TIMES. A source said the deal came together "over the course of the last several days" (LATIMES.com, 12/13). In California, Jeff Fletcher writes the Angels are "taking a risk with the Hamilton deal, beyond the obvious gamble involved in any contract of that size." Hamilton has had "trouble staying healthy over the past few years." He also "reported some vision problems, which he blamed on drinking too much caffeine," and has had a "well-chronicled history of addiction" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/14). Also in California, Jeff Miller writes the move "showed a lot of guts on the part" of Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. He has to "hope Hamilton's performance and behavior ... show that the GM has a lot of smarts, too." What happens next will "directly affect the futures of Dipoto and, especially, Manager Mike Scioscia." They are trying to end a "three-year playoff drought, a drought that, if it reaches four years, likely will do so without Scioscia still being here" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/14).

CITY OF ANGELS: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the Hamilton signing is "far more about the Dodgers" than it is taking the best player from a division rival in the Rangers. The town that Angels Owner Arte Moreno "wants to dominate isn’t Arlington, but right here, his own town, a place that the Angels often inhabit in name only." Despite adding L.A. to their names several years ago, the Angels have had "difficulty gaining traction among fans who still have difficulty overcoming geography and tradition, and this winter the distance grew." Since the end of the "most disappointing season of the Moreno era, the Angels have been less visible than ever," but everyone is "paying attention now." In the same way the Angels "once grabbed us with their signing of Vladimir Guerrero, with the same force that they once rocked us with [1B Albert] Pujols, they have burst through the door with Hamilton." The Dodgers can "spend millions, but the Angels will spend flashier millions." The Dodgers can "play hardball, but the Angels are going to play long ball" (L.A. TIMES, 12/14). Plaschke added, "This is a direct hit towards the Dodgers who had been owning this town this winter" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/13). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the Angels "let the Dodgers know there's another team in Los Angeles." If the Dodgers can spend "a trillion dollars and get the entire Los Angeles market to fawn all over them, the Angels can spend a billion bucks and steal their thunder." Tigers RF Torii Hunter, who left the Angels this offseason after playing with them for five years, said of Moreno signing Hamilton, "It shouldn't be shocking, especially when he saw what (the Dodgers were) doing across town. There's no way he's going to let them outdo him" (USA TODAY, 12/14). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande said the Angels are “engaging in a checkbook battle with the Dodgers.” Adande: “They see all the money that’s being spent out there at Chavez Ravine and they feel like they have to keep up" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 12/13). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the Angels are “fighting for attention in a Southern California market where the Dodgers are ahead of you and the Lakers are ahead of both of them by a lot." Wilbon: "You’re fighting for space on the marquee" ("PTI," ESPN, 12/13).

FIGHTING BACK
: SI.com's Joe Lemire wrote as "stealthily as the Angels have done their business, there's nothing subtle or quiet about their intentions." This move is "part retaliatory shot for the crosstown Dodgers signing starter Zack Greinke, the market's top pitcher and an Angels target, five days ago." Baseball's budding epicenter has "shifted westward to Hollywood, where the game's new power brokers are the Angels and Dodgers, who have been empowered by television riches to freely outspend their competition" (SI.com, 12/13). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes the Angels and Dodgers are "playing a game of anything-you-can-spend-we-can-spend-higher in attempt to gain marketplace supremacy," and the Hamilton signing has to be seen as a "counterpunch." The Angels had become "edgy with how much the Dodgers were dominating the SoCal baseball universe, as the Dodgers’ new ownership has now invested $650 million-ish in players since taking over last May" (N.Y. POST, 12/14). Also in N.Y., John Harper writes Moreno is "clearly running the Angels" with late Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner's "owner's manual." That it was "likely in reaction to the free-spending Dodgers signing Zack Greinke away from the Angels makes it all the more Steinbrenner-like, as Moreno desperately wants his Angels to be as relevant in Los Angeles as they are in Anaheim." It is sure to "create huge buzz in So Cal, just as signing" Pujols did last year (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/14). In L.A., Dylan Hernandez notes it is "no secret ... Moreno has been wanting to cut into the Dodgers' share of the Los Angeles market." Moreno is "fiercely competitive and he couldn't have liked how the Dodgers turned themselves into the talk of baseball." The Angels' "declining attendance in recent years could also have been a factor" (L.A. TIMES, 12/14). In California, Jim Alexander wrote under the header, "Angels/Hamilton Deal Continues SoCal Arms Race" (PE.com, 12/13). In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes, "I'll see your Zack Greinke and raise you a Josh Hamilton" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/14).

WORK STILL TO BE DONE: In California, Mark Whicker writes in "trumpeting Hamilton's arrival, the Angels might want to remind fans that they are not sold out for the season." The "loudest winter in club history" prior to the '12 season "produced an average home crowd of 37,800, lowest since 2003" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/14). In L.A., Bill Shaikin noted in "a voice mail message Thursday afternoon" an Angels employee tried to "persuade a fan to renew his season-ticket package." The message said, "I'm sure you heard we just signed Josh Hamilton today, so things are getting pretty crazy. If you are interested, give me a call back as soon as possible" (LATIMES.com, 12/13).

LONE RANGERS: In Dallas, Evan Grant wrote the Rangers "have lost the offseason." The Rangers looked at signing Greinke, Hunter, C Russell Martin and P Koji Uehara this offseason, but failed to land any of them. Grant: "Why is it that nobody seems to want to play for the Rangers, a team that has three straight 90-win seasons, a pair of World Series berths and money to spend?" That is something the Rangers "are going to have to look at internally and potentially come up with some hard answers" (DALLASNEWS.com, 12/13). Also in Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes under the header, "Josh Hamilton's Departure Continues Brutal Off-Season For Rangers" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/14).
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