Steinberg: Huge week for SoCal

There is a theory that God created the concept of time so everything wouldn't happen at once, but the dizzying pace of announcements regarding the Southern California sports scene last week defied that principle.

A series of events altered the landscape dramatically and should provide enhanced thrills for local sports fans.

Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels, has demonstrated his passion for winning and concern for the fans throughout his tenure. The two-year absence of MVP candidate first baseman Kendry Morales contributed to a power drain this past season that enabled the Rangers to take their second straight title. There was one franchise altering free agent available this year — Albert Pujols, who appears on his way to the Hall of Fame. His ability to dominate a game with powerful hitting is unequaled.

Moreno stepped to the plate, and $254 million later the Angels pulled off the deal of the year in baseball by signing Pujols to a long-term deal.

Mark Trumbo, incumbent first baseman, came close to Rookie of the Year honors, having the two sluggers at the same position is what is called a quality problem.

But wait (as they say on late-night infomercials), there's more. The Angels then signed C.J. Wilson, arguably the best free agent pitcher available. That gives them a rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Wilson and Erwin Santana.

I've been a fan of the Angels since 1961 when they had Little Albie Pearson, "Daddy Wags," Bo Belinsky and Eli Grba (the only player to have a last name starting with three consonants). My father was a die-hard Angel fan and I wish he would was alive to see this season.

The Dodgers, the most beloved franchise in the history of this area, did nothing to enhance their team at the league meetings. That cracking sound you hear is the shifting of SoCal baseball primacy in the direction of Anaheim.

Jerry Buss of the Lakers has rebuilt a team that shifted from the dominance of West/Baylor/Chamberlain to Kareem/Magic/Worthy to Shaq/Kobe to Kobe/Gasol/Bynum, with aggressive moves over and over. The Lakers made a trade to bring Chris Paul, the most talented young point guard in the NBA, into a pairing with Kobe Bryant that would give them the most devastating backcourt in basketball. In steps commissioner David Stern, whose intransigence delayed and complicated the CBA negotiations, to veto the trade.

This was a move pressured by so-called small market teams to prevent the continuance of super franchises like the Lakers and the Heat. Dan Gilbert owner of the Cavs, and Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks (since when did NBA champ Dallas become a small market) led the revolt.

Ironically, there are NBA observers who argue the trade favored New Orleans, a rebuilding team which would have gotten four starters for their franchise. Some argued that the Lakers would be giving away their rebounding and defensive power in the middle by trading Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, and that Andrew Bynum is not dependable.

The Lakers ended their pursuit of Paul. They are trying for Orlando Magic superstar forward Dwight Howard. However this plays out, the Lakers figure to be more exciting this year.

UCLA football has been in the doldrums for some years now. This is the program that produced multiple high round draft picks and Rose Bowl wins in the 80's and 90's. Troy Aikman, Freeman McNeill, Kenny Easley, Gaston Green, Mike Sherrard, Eric Turner were players very competitive with USC. Why Rick Neuheisel didn't succeed was a great puzzlement. This was same Neuheisel who coached Aikman to greatness, made Kordell Stewart a star at Colorado, was a noted offensive genius with great recruiting skills. But he could not get a Luck, Barkley type of quarterback to come to the program, and even though football is a team game, a productive quarterback is a must. Rick had the background, skill set, passion to lead a dynasty, and his behavior post-firing showed real character, but something didn't work.

My parents hauled me to Bruin games in the 50s in the Coliseum, where Red Sanders coached the single wing. Please don't revoke my citizenship status in this area, known as "SC heaven" because my parents had five UCLA degrees between them. UCLA has been competitive with USC in the past. But the 50-0 shellacking in the USC game was the last straw for alumni and the athletic department.

Many have criticized the UCLA athletic department for lacking the commitment and resources to build a plan for football success. UCLA seems to have been turned down by major coaches like Chris Peterson of Boise State and Al Golden of University of Miami. They have selected Jim Mora Jr., former NFL coach of the Falcons and the Seahawks, as their new coach.

This selection will not evoke great excitement among UCLA fans. But these hirings are difficult to predict. When Pete Carroll was hired by USC, the anger of fans was displayed for some time. He was excoriated in the local papers, talk radio, letters sections as a "out-of-work retread" who was not up to SC standards.

Three years later he could have run for mayor of Los Angeles. The NCAA violations are a separate and troubling issue, but when it came to on-the-field excellence, he was a perfect choice. It wouldn't be hard to get his early critics to admit it now.

And that was the week that was — changing the face of our sporting scene.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or blog.steinbergsports.com.

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