I was hoping to have something more substantial to say about all this, but the more I thought about it, the more I struggled to come up with a unique perspective. Not that writing on the Internet is all about finding unique perspectives since consensus tends to be consensus for a reason and there's no shame in making the same argument as other people, but I wanted to have something meaningful, something profound, and I don't. What I have is the same reaction that I had this morning, and the same reaction that everybody's had: holy crap. Holy crap,.
When I went to bed Wednesday night, I went to bed right after filing a story on Baseball Nation saying that C.J. Wilson was reportedly leaning towards signing with the Angels. I wasn't happy about that, since C.J. Wilson is good, but C.J. Wilson isn't exactly a game-changer. Albert Pujols is a game-changer, and the Angels were said to be in the mix, but I didn't buy them. Not Wednesday night. Neither did a lot of other people, it looked like.
Then Thursday morning. One of the first things I do after I wake up is check Twitter on my phone, and the first thing I noticed was that I had a lot more unread updates than I usually do. That made me wonder. The second thing I noticed was Pujols. The third thing I noticed was Wilson. While I slept - and I swear I didn't sleep long - the Angels signed the best hitter on the market, and the Angels signed the best pitcher on the market.
It was a jolt to the system. Like the whole system. I sat there for a few minutes wearing this expression of What?, then I lay back down wearing this expression of What?. It's not that I was shocked by what the Angels did - the Angels have thrown money around before, and pursued the biggest names - but I didn't expect it. Not both. Certainly not Pujols.
I think the automatic first response, as afan, was to feel defeated. The Angels are a division rival, and they just slapped everybody around them with a thick stack of money. Yes, ten years is a lot to guarantee a player like Pujols, who'll be 32 by Opening Day, but ignore any suggestion that Pujols could cripple the Angels down the road. Pujols could not play the last five years, literally not play at all, and the Angels would still survive. They'd probably do better than that. Pujols will eat up just a fraction of their payroll.
And I think the automatic second response, as a Mariners fan, was to wonder what this meant for the Mariners. Did this put more pressure on Jack Zduriencik to sign Prince Fielder? Did this put less pressure on Jack Zduriencik to sign Prince Fielder? The Mariners would have to respond, right? They'd have to respond, or else be left in the dust.
I don't think the answer is that this puts more pressure on Zduriencik to sign Fielder, specifically. I think this makes 2013 and 2014 the clear priority, as opposed to 2012. But then, I think 2013 and 2014 were already the clear priority. The Mariners are building to the future, while the Angels made moves that will help them in the future, but that will help them the most in the immediate.
The moves aren't completely irrelevant to the Mariners, but the Angels are working on a different timeframe, and remember - you have to remember - the Angels aren't the Mariners' competition. The Mariners don't necessarily have to be better than the Angels to make the playoffs. There is a wild card. Soon there will be double the wild cards. The Mariners can't worry about the Angels getting better - the Mariners need to worry about the Mariners getting better, as best they can. That doesn't mean they need to be reactionary. Being reactionary is how the Angels wound up with Vernon Wells. I don't know if that's actually true but it's the only explanation that's ever made sense to me.
If Fielder is the guy, by which I mean The Guy, and if the Mariners view him as such, they should go after him, hard. If they believe he can be productive and hold up for a while, then yeah, he's a great fit, even if 2012 is kind of shot. If Fielder isn't The Guy, so be it. No sense in forcing anything to try to keep up. Emotional decisions tend to be bad decisions.
I'm rambling now. I opened by saying that I wouldn't have anything substantial, and now look! Words! Here's what I think is the biggest lesson to take from the day's activity: the Angels are a huge spender, and as more and more time passes, one expects the correlation between payroll and success to get stronger and stronger. As other things balance out or get eliminated, it will end up being more about money than it was before. It will never be all about money. People aren't perfect prediction machines, and they'll never develop perfect prediction machines. But this is the way that we're headed, in theory, and presumably in reality.
So, yeah, the Mariners would give themselves a better chance if they started spending more money. Here's where the Mariners' payroll has ranked overall, by year:
That's an alarming trend. It's also an understandable trend, since the team has been bad and attendance has dropped, but the Mariners are going to have a lot of trouble contending, and sustainably contending, if they keep this up, or even if they stay where they are. I trust the Mariners' current front office to make good moves, because I believe in their player evaluation, but I do not believe the Mariners' front office is so good it negates the financial gaps between the M's and some of the teams above them.
The good news is that I think the Mariners really are prepared to invest more money when the situation calls for it. We've heard some hints along these lines, and also, it just makes sense. Ownership is aware that the team needs to win, ownership is aware that more money would help the team win, and ownership has the means of supplying a boost. I don't know what sort of boost, but probably a rather significant one.
So now isn't the time to throw in the towel, even if the Angels did just flex their muscles and then flex their muscles again. The Mariners' situation is critical, but not because of what the Angels did. The Mariners just need to get better, and they're on the right path towards getting better. When the time's right, I think the money will be there, and then we'll see where we stand. I don't anticipate that the Mariners will spend as much as the Angels do, but (A) they can close the gap, and (B) again, the Angels aren't the only competition. There's a whole big league out there.
I'm dreadfully afraid that the last few paragraphs haven't made very much sense. I'm also dreadfully afraid of going back and reading them over in fear that they have to be re-written. So why don't I just close with this: if the Mariners have put together a good plan, then the Angels' Thursday should do little to change it. Do you believe the Mariners have a good plan?
Give Jack Zduriencik time, and remember the talent in the organization. As long as the arrow's pointing up, it doesn't much matter what the other people do.