Commentary

Angels' defining moments of 2011

Updated: December 19, 2011, 2:03 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Albert PujolsStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe Angels proved they were major players with the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

We asked our writers to rank their top stories of 2011, moments that defined the franchises they cover and affected the fans who followed them. Here, Angels writer Mark Saxon -- who covered a season that deflated in unfulfilled potential and an offseason that rose up with franchise-changing, history-making arrivals -- makes his picks. Vote on your favorite moments in the poll below, or add your own in the comments.

5. Mark Trumbo's home run

The Los Angeles Angels were staring at elimination in the ninth inning of their Aug. 18 home game with the Texas Rangers. With his team on the verge of being swept at home in a four-game series and falling eight games behind with 37 games left, rookie Mark Trumbo got a hanging cutter from reliever Mike Adams and sent the ball soaring toward the corner in left field. It stayed fair, easily cleared the fence for a two-run homer, and the Angels had new life. They would sail forward with the momentum of that one swing, getting to within just a game and a half with 18 games left before fading.

4. Contending again

The Angels would fade in the second half of September, failing to take advantage of the Boston Red Sox's collapse atop the wild-card standings, but on Sept. 10, after Dan Haren out-pitched CC Sabathia in a 6-0 win over the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium, the Angels stood just a game and a half behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West. For a team that used to own its division but that had tailed off during a mediocre 2010 season, that felt like returning to its rightful place.

3. Hiring Jerry Dipoto

It's probably unfair to former general manager Tony Reagins to give Dipoto too much credit for all this winter's wheelings and dealings. After all, Reagins might have looked good if owner Arte Moreno gave him $330 million to spend in one offseason. But Dipoto has been bold and energetic since taking over the position in late October, acquiring catcher Chris Iannetta via trade and signing reliever LaTroy Hawkins to go with the big-ticket moves. If nothing else, the Dipoto front office looks like it will take over personnel decisions, leaving manager Mike Scioscia to handle on-field matters.

2. C.J. Wilson comes home

For years, the Angels saw the Texas Rangers gain momentum by acquiring ex-Angels. It worked with Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Bengie Molina and Mike Napoli, each contributing to World Series pushes for the Angels' division rivals. Finally, the Angels turned the tables, signing the Rangers' ace left-hander to a five-year, $77.5 million contract. Wilson could have had more money if he had signed with Miami, but he grew up 10 minutes from Angel Stadium and had always wanted to be an Angel. With Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, Wilson could give the Angels the AL's best rotation.

1. Launching the Albert Pujols era

The Angels swooped in during the final day of baseball's winter meetings to sign perhaps the greatest living player, Albert Pujols, to a 10-year, $254 million contract. It was the boldest move of the Arte Moreno era and the most impactful signing in franchise history. On the field, it gives the Angels their first bona fide No. 3 hitter since Guerrero left and, off it, it gives them a new face of the franchise for at least a decade. Among the provisions in the contract is a 10-year personal services clause that ties Pujols to the Angels after he retires.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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.