Angels Wave White Flag; Now Who Closes in ’11?
Don’t let the Angels fool you. This is a blatant surrender.
Trading their closer Brian Fuentes to Minnesota for a minor league prospect to be named later is tantamount to waving a white flag in the American League West. It was their way of saying, “OK, Texas, we admit it. We’re done.”
Not that there has been much doubt about for a few weeks now. But this definitely makes it official.
I know Mike Scioscia is saying that’s not the case, and he has all the faith in the world in Fernando Rodney and blah, blah, blah. But Fuentes was the guy he put into every closing role he had all season long. If he felt he still had a legitimate chance to catch the Rangers, I promise you the Angels wouldn’t have made this deal.
As it is, it saves them about $1.5 million the rest of the year, which is nice. But it also leaves an interesting question for 2011.
Who will be the Angels’ closer next season?
Considering they’re paying Rodney a combined $11 million for this year and next, you know Scioscia will say he’s the guy. But if you’ve watched the team all season long, you also know he’s been far too erratic to close for a team hoping to climb back into real contention.
His ERA has been in the high 4s, and his control has been terrible at times. Based on the way he’s worked this year, he’s not the type you’d expect to come in and consistently record three quick outs to close out games.
Scioscia loves “power arms,” as he calls them, and Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Rodriguez, Jordan Walden and Michael Kohn, among others, have them. So does Rodney. All throw in the mid-to-high 90s.
But none is a proven closer on a team expecting to be a legitimate contender for the American League pennant. Tell me which of those candidates you’d want coming into the ninth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium in the ALCS? Or Rangers’ Ballpark, for that matter?
Exactly. The Angels can try to spin it whichever way they want, but what this really does is create yet another hole on a team already full of 2011 question marks.
Maybe Scioscia and GM Tony Reagins have somebody in mind. Maybe there is a free agent out there they’re quietly planning to pursue (and no, I still don’t think they’ll go after Frankie Rodriguez). Or maybe they’re just so fed up with what’s been going on this season, they decided to save some money by letting Fuentes go and hope that this prospect their getting back from the Twins can develop into something some day.
Isn’t it interesting, by the way, that Minnesota is planning to use Fuentes as a set-up man, not a closer, down the stretch. On a true contending team, that’s probably where the left hander belongs.
Meanwhile, on his way out of town, Fuentes took the opportunity to rap the Anaheim Stadium fans. He said they booed him so much he felt like he was pitching on the road.
Well, Brian, there was a reason they booed you, especially in the first half of this year. It’s because you were stinking out the joint. You deserved to be booed.
If you had pitched better, the Angels might have still been in this race. And you might still be wearing their uniform.
Instead, you were shipped out with 30-something games still to be played, and club officials might as well have been standing there, waving their white flag.
— STEVE BISHEFF