Have the Angels closed a Texas-sized gap?

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
1:25
PM PT
It's funny. As much as last season felt like a return to contention for the Angels, they still finished 10 games behind the Texas Rangers, who advanced to the World Series.

Same as the year before.

But owner Arte Moreno apparently had seen enough of that, because -- flush with money from a new TV deal -- he splurged, signing the best free agent hitter, Albert Pujols, and the best free-agent pitcher, C.J. Wilson. And that guarantees him?

Well, frankly, nothing. On paper, the Angels now look like one of the top few teams in the American League, but Texas returns virtually intact (minus Wilson) and just won the right to bargain with Japanese sensation Yu Darvish over the next month. Texas spent $51.5 million just to get to the bargaining table with Darvish's people, which tells you what they think about Wilson (who signed for $77.5 million) and what they think about Darvish (who had a 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts for the Ham Fighters last year).

For a player-by-player "tale of the tape" between the two teams, check out David Schoendfield's breakdown of what he calls "maybe baseball's best rivalry," here.

Oh, and by the way, one of the premier sluggers of this era, Prince Fielder, is still out there and indications are the Rangers will be major players for his services.

"We believe we have the best team," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler told Texas reporters shortly after the Angels' winter shopping spree.

Until the Angels unseat Texas, Kinsler is probably right. The Rangers don't have as many proven commodities in their rotation, but if Derek Holland continues to improve and if Neftali Feliz does as well moving from the bullpen to the rotation as Alexi Ogando did, they have the makings of a formidable staff.

Josh Hamilton may not be quite as good as Pujols, but he's a frightening slugger when healthy and the rest of Texas' lineup is deeper and more powerful than the Angels'. The bullpens are comparable.

What we have are the makings of a Yankees-Red Sox-style spending war shifted thousands of miles west, with one team mirroring another team's off-season moves. It's probably the last thing small-market owners want to see, but it's made the AL West a more exciting place and, in a few months, we get to see all that firepower go at it.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
18 3.59 169 213
OTHER LEADERS
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169