The Day the Angels Stood Still: A Look At Back L.A.’s Black Monday and What Lies Ahead


Roy Halladay is in Philly. John Lackey is in Boston.

Now is the winter of the Angels’ discontent.

Just days after baseball’s Winter Meetings ended, after which GM Tony Reagins claimed his team had laid “groundwork,” the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim watched their hard work melt away like snow in the coming spring.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, or if you’ve just been living under a baseball-free rock, let’s recap the events of the Angels’ Black Monday:

Lackey Signs with Boston

The ace of the Angels’ staff, and winner of the World Series-clinching Game 7 back in 2002, agreed to a reported five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox.

Under normal circumstances, we fans might thank Big John for all his hard work and wish him happy trails. But this situation is far from normal, and far from forgivable.

Despite numerous offers from other teams, as well as an ardent stance that his contract should dwarf that of A.J. Burnett, Lackey signed with the Angels’ fiercest postseason rival and for the exact same amount as the Yankee’s starter.

Has he no shame? No honor, no sense of dignity?

The Red Sox have beaten a Lackey-led Angels squad for nearly a decade, including taking three of four playoff bouts. The last team he should’ve considered going to this offseason was the one that humiliated him time and again.

However, according to his own press conference, Lackey “always wanted to come [to Boston]” because the Red Sox give him “a chance to win.”

Well in that case, I’d be happy to take the Word Series ring that he apparently doesn’t have, along with the bonuses he earned from reaching the playoffs and the ALCS in 2004, 2005, and from 2007-2009.

In addition to getting slapped in the face by Lackey’s quotes to the Boston media, the Angels also lost the opportunity to re-sign their dominant righty, further widening the hole at the top of their rotation.

Halladay Heads to Philadelphia

The ink on Lackey’s contract hadn’t dried before the Angels missed their best chance to replace him when Roy Halladay was dealt to the Phillies as the centerpiece of a monster, four-team deal.

The loss of Lackey was bad enough, but losing out on the best pitcher in the American League as well was just too much.

Halladay was the Angels’ No.1 priority this offseason, but Reagins failed to meet the seemingly reasonable asking price of GM Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays.

After the details were worked out and the names were agreed upon in the blockbuster trade, which also involved the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, some in Toronto were upset by the outcome.

One writer claimed the Blue Jays actually got less than they were asking from other suitors. Presumably, then, the Angels ultimately made a better offer than the Phillies and still got shut out of the deal.

To simply be outbid for a big name like Halladay is one thing. But to find out you won the auction and still don’t get the prize bull is more crushing than being hit by an actual bull.

Seattle Adds Cliff Lee to List of Offseason Acquisitions

The possibility of a third team being brought into the Halladay hoopla was barely a rumor, and the availability of Cliff Lee was less than that.

Somehow, though, the Seattle Mariners got tipped off and jumped at the chance to help out the Phillies by acquiring the former Cy Young Award winner.

Meanwhile, the Angels sat by and watched their division rivals grow ever stronger.

The Mariners already stole away Anaheim’s super utility man Chone Figgins. Now, they have the best one-two punch in the game with Lee and Felix Hernandez anchoring the top of their rotation.

Rock bottom is a college education and Seattle has clearly taken the lesson to heart and once again become a serious player in the AL West.

The Angels, on the other hand, look complacent by comparison after winning their division three years in a row and five of the last six.

Godzilla Invades Anaheim

Fortunately, the news on Monday wasn’t all bad. The Angels managed to sign World Series MVP Hideki Matsui as their new DH.

Of course, the move could easily be taken as a joke given the day’s events. Matsui is a solid hitter with some power left, but his signing is a pathetic response to the utter decimation of the Angels’ offseason plans of obtaining a top-flight pitcher.

Matsui in Anaheim may also be a sign of the Angels’ intentions going forward. Unless they are able to trade Juan Rivera—perhaps to Atlanta for Derek Lowe—it is highly unlikely they will make any sort of effort to bring Jason Bay out west.

So there you have it. A perfect storm of horror and dread that struck both fans and management alike.

Clearly, the Angels felt they had the inside track to acquiring Halladay (remember all that “groundwork” talk from Tony?), and even if they couldn’t trade for their first choice, they could always sign their second in Lackey.

It must’ve been shocking to lose both at once, like being mugged by two separate assailants.

However, when a team gets burned this badly, you have to wonder: How much was out of their control, and how much was entirely their fault?

If Halladay was indeed the primary focus of the Angels this offseason, then what “groundwork” did they claim to lay at the Winter Meetings? It couldn’t have had anything to do the Blue Jays because Reagins clearly didn’t listen to a word Anthopoulos was saying.

Toronto announced it was more interested in prospects than Major League talent, but in their reported three-player package for Halladay, the Angels included two Major Leaguers in Joe Saunders and Erick Aybar.

Another rumored offer replaced Aybar’s name with Mike Napoli, the Angels’ starting catcher.

It’s little wonder, then, why Anthopoulos didn’t approve the trade. When the Blue Jays made their requests, the Angels covered their ears and pretended not to hear.

Again, we can only assume they weren’t at all worried about falling out of the Halladay deal as long as they had Lackey to catch them. It would seem they never expected Lackey not to be there, a horrible misstep by any standard and matter the brass must address—publicly.

It’s high time the Angels big wigs—Reagins, owner Arte Moreno, and even special adviser Bill Stoneman—come out from behind their veil of silence and remind the fans that this is not the end.

No, they don’t owe anyone any sort of explanation for anything they have or haven’t done. But a gentle reassurance that contingencies are in place and plans are in motion would be nice.

As it stands, many fans fear the team won’t stand a chance of defending its AL West crown.

Seattle is improving by leaps and bounds while the Texas Rangers are certainly on the rise with the additions of Chris Ray and Rich Harden, to go along with several young stars in the making, both on the mound and in the field.

The Angels have stood still long enough this winter. Now they must get moving if they want to have any hope of keeping pace with the other teams in their own division.