Updated: Josh Hamilton’s deal with Angels no loss for Mariners
by Art Thiel
Former free agent Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels Thursday Credit: Keith Allison
The Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland sure know how to put together a thrill ride.
Owner Arte Moreno is in the front car tossing his hands in the air and saying, “Whee!”, while his baseball people are in the back, hanging on for dear life and upchucking their breakfast scones.
The Mariners ride is, of course, the opposite. As Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong sit glumly in the immobile front car, arms folded, head down, the club’s baseball people and fan base are standing in the back, waving arms, screaming, “Can we go now?!”
But in this case — of hiring Josh Hamilton, staying put – or as the Mariners might have it, walking through the Museum of Edgar — was the right thing to do.
The most prominent, riskiest player in baseball’s free agent market received an offer Thursday from the Angels for a five-year contract worth $125 million.
Good for him, foolish for the Angels and bad for the Mariners; at least in 2013, when the Angels, Rangers and A’s have done much to decide the American League West already. Welcome to the division, Houston Astros! The Mariners need you more than aging boxer Evander Holyfeld ever needed tomato-can opponents.
Aside from the already-discussed risk of Hamilton’s increasing physical problems associated with years of addiction, many Seattle fans became victims of their own desires when they believed the Mariners were actually in the hunt for Hamilton. It’s a cruel tease experienced every winter, and the only cure is to not be a Mariners’ fan. Judging by attendance, many have taken the cure.
Hamilton did not want to play for Seattle. No premiere, numbers-oriented hitter ever does. We all know the reasons: Remoteness, travel time, cool summers for half the season and, most of all, a poorly-run franchise that does not know how to win. In Hamilton’s case, he did not want to be the team’s No. 1. So he gets paid $125 million to be a backup singer to lead vocalists Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
The stunt of moving in the Safeco Field fences may produce enough data in three years to suggest achievement of a new balance of hitter/pitcher fairness, but there is no data in mid-December, 2012. Just a theory. Not applicable.
The fact that Mariners officials pressed their noses against the bakery window to stare at Hamilton’s goodies did not make Seattle a bidder. They were never “this close” to a deal with Hamilton, as one report said during the meetings in Nashville. Hamilton’s agent took the Mariners’ calls to build leverage for his client, knowing that the Mariners’ desperation would help drive drive up the price when a heretofore unexpected suitor swooped in. Sure enough . . .
So if the Seattle bosses take reward in helping dupe the Angels to give more dollars and years to Hamilton than the Mariners would have, then well played, gentlemen. The problem with that reward is the Angels don’t care.
Their new TV-rights deal, while not as great as the next-door Dodgers received from the Time Warner nuthouse, still puts the Angels, along with the Rangers and Yankees, in a group of clubs rich enough to quickly bury their mistakes and move on to the next tantalizing over-reach. These clubs want to win, and have developed work-arounds for when they screw up.
Mariners ownership lacks the guts to enter that club. Nor do they have the baseball moxie to outsmart opponents, as does Billy Beane in Oakland. So they lie turtled. The Mariners do not have work-arounds, alternatives or options. They can only trade talent to get talent. Treading water is a way to stay alive, not win championships.
In the abstract, it could be suggested the Mariners were wise to pass on Hamilton, but there was no moment that required wisdom. They were simply inert. The Hamilton Express whooshed by into Orange County, where a payroll train wreck may be occurring, but there’s a whole lot of people eager to watch the pile-up.
Not so thrilling in Seattle, where owners insist on operating a business instead of an entertainment.