No franchise west of the Hudson River has been more tempted by free-agent spending sprees the last 36 years than the team currently known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
And, truth be known, no team should be more aware that the risks are high in shopping on baseball's open market for a quick reward.
Yes, the Angels got the rest of the baseball world's attention with the offseason spree that included a 10-year, 240 million contract for first baseman Albert Pujols, and another 77.5 million to be spread over five years for left-hander C.J. Wilson.
There are no guarantees, however, other than Pujols and Wilson will get paid.
The Angels became a trendy preseason pick to regain an AL West title that belonged the last two years to Texas, but reality is the Rangers remained the best team in the West, primed to return to the World Series for the third year in a row. For all the glitter the Angels sprinkled on their image in the offseason, there are still major concerns that were never addressed.
And the holes have been exposed in the opening days of the season, the Angels having lost nine of their first 15 games and finding themselves on the bottom of the AL West. Although, it's hard to believe they won't be ahead of Oakland and Seattle by season's end.
While Pujols has been battling with the adjustment to the American League, Wilson has been a major boost, combining with Jered Weaver for five of the six wins by Angels starters.
The rest of the rotation has a 1-5 record and 6.20 earned-run average, and there is no relief in sight. The bullpen ranks 12th in the AL with a 5.06 ERA, and closer Jordan Walden converted his only save opportunity in the first 15 games of the season after failing to convert 10 of 42 opportunities as a rookie last year.
While Pujols is a premier bat, the Angels appeared solid at first base with Mark Trumbo, who hit 29 home runs as a rookie last year. He, however, is now a bench player. Trumbo was unable to make the move to third base, where the Angels have no option better than Alberto Callaspo. And there is no room in an overcrowded and high-priced outfield that includes Vernon Wells, who has three years and 63 million remaining on the contract the Angels inherited from Toronto.
This is the fourth time the Angels tried to buy a championship. In 1977, the first year of free agency, they made a splash with the signing of the trio of Joe Rudi (five years, 2.01 million), Don Baylor (six years, 1.6 million) and Bobby Grich (five years, 1.55 million). They stumbled to a 74-88 record, finishing ahead of only the expansion Seattle Mariners and an Oakland team that was stripped by owner Charlie Finley.
In 1999 they gave Mo Vaughn a six-year, 80 million deal, richest in baseball history at the time. He survived only two years in Anaheim. While he was productive, the results were lacking. The Angels won only 70 games in 1999 when Vaughn had 33 home runs and 108 RBI, and in 2000, they were 82-80 despite 36 home runs and 117 RBI from Vaughn.
Two years removed from the 2002 world championship, coming off a 77-85 season in 2003, the Angels again splurged, spending 145.75 million to sign Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, Jose Guillen and Vladimir Guerrero. What they got in return was a first-round postseason elimination.
At least the Angels are persistent.
Chicago White Sox right-hander Phil Humber is the exception. Released by Minnesota, and a waiver claim from Kansas City and Oakland, the former first-round draft choice pitched the 21st perfect game in major-league history on Saturday at Seattle. It was the first complete game of his career, and only his 12th win in a spotty big-league career that began with the Mets in 2006, but includes only 56 appearances, 30 of which have been starts.
Six of the previous 20 authors of a perfect game are already enshrined in the Hall of Fame John Montgomery Ward, Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax and Catfish Hunter. At least two others seem destined for Cooperstown when they become eligible Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay.
Ward, whose flawless game came five days after Lee Richmond's first perfect game in history on June 12, 1880, also played shortstop, manager, founded the first players union, and was instrumental in the creation of the Players League, leading his selection by the Hall of Fame veterans committee. He is often credited with creating the curveball at Penn State, where he enrolled at age 13.
There have been only five pitchers with perfect games on their resume who have had losing records during their big-league careers, including Richmond (75-100), and Oakland's Dallas Braden, who at the age of 28 still has a chance to turn around his 26-36 record.
Charles Robertson, perfect in his fifth big-league start with the White Sox in 1922, was 49-80 in a career that included parts of eight seasons. Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect Game for the New York Yankee sin Game 5 of the 1955 World Series, pitched for seven teams over a 15-year stretch in which he was 81-91. Len Barker earned an All-Star berth in 1981, in part due to his May 15, 1981 perfect game for Cleveland, but was far from perfect in a career that spanned 12 seasons but saw him win only 74 of 150 decisions.
Three 200-game winners have perfect games to their credit David Wells (239-157), Kenny Rogers (219-156) and Dennis Martinez (245-193). David Cone (194-126) came up just shy of the 200-level, and Mark Buehrle, 33, in the first year of a lucrative four-year free agent deal with Miami, has 200 well within his reach. He is 161-120.
Other perfect pitchers were lefty Tom Browning (123-90) and Mike Witt (117-116), both of whom had All-Star appearances during their careers.
-- Chipper Jones plans to retire at season's end, but he still impacts the Atlanta Braves. After losing their first four games of the season, with Jones on the disabled list, the Braves won 10 of the next 11.
-- Detroit went into Sunday ranked 18th in bullpen ERA at 3.55, but the Tigers bullpen has come through when necessary. The relievers are a combined 6-0, leading major league bullpens in wins, and have converted four of five saves. Closer Jose Valverde gave up two runs in blowing a save in his season debut, but is 4-for-4 since and has allowed just one run in seven appearances.
-- Despite all the spring training hype, Washington sent top prospect Bryce Harper to Triple-A to start the season, and the decision appears wise. In his first 15 games Harper had hit .220 with 13 strikeouts and one RBI. He has a ton of ability, but fine wine is not the only thing that gets better with time.
-- Josh Hamilton is making his presence felt with Texas as he looks at potential free agency in the fall. He went into Sunday third in the AL with a .391 average, tied for the AL league in home runs with six, tied for second in RBI with 15, and second with a .719 slugging percentage.
-- Runner-up to Ryan Braun of Milwaukee in the NL MVP voting last year, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers is making his presence felt early this season. He went into Sunday leading the NL with a .474 average, nine home runs, 22 RBI, 17 runs scored, a .523 on-base percentage, and 1.018 slugging percentage.