There is something so comforting about hearing Vin Scully's dulcet tones announcing Dodger spring training games again.
That same voice has symbolized continuity, history and hope since 1950. As long as Vinny is broadcasting, there is some familiar normalcy to the world. And the same holds true for the return of baseball this spring.
Radio broadcasts accompany many of us on our hours of frustration in Southland traffic and the games are sources of familiarity for family and tradition. Those who critique the more leisurely pace of baseball and the elongated season and bemoan the lack of the nonstop action that other sports provide, ignore the way in which we view baseball through the prism of past and present.
I remember my Dad taking me to Dodger and Angel games, I took my sons, they will take their kids. And it beckons back to a less frenetic time in our culture, celebrating statistics, keeping score, and treasuring memories.
Arte Moreno demonstrated once again why he is the most passionate and determined owner in Southern California sports this off-season. The Angels have not returned to their World Series level of play in the past few years. Instead of sitting on his hands and reaping windfall profits from an inferior product as other owners do, he took action.
Moreno went out in free agency and signed arguably the best player in all of baseball — Albert Pujols — to a 10-year, $240-million contract. He is taking the risk in guaranteeing a player in his early 30's 10 years of premium pay. Who can argue that a 40-year-old player will be as productive as a 30-year-old? Time and injuries will take their toll. But for now the Angels have the most dazzling power hitter in baseball to energize their offense.
Arte wasn't done. He added the top free agent pitcher, local product CJ Wilson, by signing him to a huge contract. CJ has the stuff to be a 20-game winner and add quality depth to a quality group of pitchers. With Cy Young contender Jered Weaver, star Dan Haren, and streaky Erwin Santana, the Angels will have a chance to win any game.
The Angels also upgraded their bullpen, which had been another weak spot. They developed a player that should have won Rookie of the Year honors in Mark Trumbo, who will now have to change positions to third base to accommodate Pujols. They have players who can get on base steadily in Peter Bourjus (a thrilling defensive center-fielder), Erik Aybar, and Howie Kendricks. And in addition to Trumbo and Pujols, they have Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter to drive runs in.
They have finally upgraded the weakest hitting catching duo in all of baseball. If Kendry Morales, who was on his way to competing for American League MVP honors when he suffered an injury that kept him sidelined for two years, should be successful in his comeback, watch for the Angels to make a run at the World Series.
As for the Dodgers, they used the off-season to do ... virtually nothing. Players like Dee Gordon, an exciting shortstop rookie last year, should improve by seasoning. Andre Ethier figures to have a better year. Clayton Kershaw won the Cy Young and Matt Kemp should have won National League MVP. They are two of the best young players in all of baseball.
James Loney may return at first base to previous form. But the Dodgers did nothing to enhance their roster through free agency and have holes at many other positions, including pitching. This is Emperor Frank McCourt continuing to fiddle while a beloved franchise burns. Baseball continues to allow this travesty to continue.
So Major League baseball is back and (outside the economy), all's right with the world.
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