Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/13/12
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In the parlance of Internet slang, a “troll” is someone from outside a web community (say a message board or comment forum) who comes in suddenly and acts disruptively, usually by saying or doing something inflammatory. The verb version of the word has come to be applied to anyone who knowingly does something online which baits their subject into entering into such a disruptive happening. “Troll” has also just begun to be used outside of the Internet. Take, for instance, this recent Deadspin headline: “Gregg Popovich Continued His Streak Of Trolling Sideline Reporters Last Night.” In this case, the Spurs’ coach is “trolling” because he’s more or less just playing mind games with reporters, answering straightforward questions with feigned ignorance. Now, with the signing of Josh Hamilton, it appears the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) have become the first multimillion-dollar troll, trapping the crosstown rival Dodgers and the rest of Major League Baseball within their mind games and “screw you” free agent signings. Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: this piece is not an analysis on whether the Hamilton signing was “good” for the Angels or not. It surely makes them better next season, but what’s far more interesting is the way the team has conducted its business over the last few years, particularly in regards to its negotiating strategies and business rivalry with the other Los Angeles baseball team. When Torii Hunter took to Twitter to complain that he felt the Angels had lied to him about their financial state, he kind of hit the nail on the head. Beyond telling Hunter the team’s finances were tight, upon leaving the winter meetings last week Jerry Dipoto effectively told the press that the Angels were done making moves this winter. Yeah, right. In truth, Hunter really shouldn’t be all that shocked about the Angels’ stealth negotiations, as it’s the same late-but-aggressive strategy that had him agreeing on a handshake to a deal with Angels owner Arturo Moreno inside a Del Taco back in 2007. It’s the same strategy that Hunter was so excited about a year ago when the team swooped in at the last minute to save Albert Pujols from being traded away from the Miami Marlins a year later. This is just how the Angels do business: they identify players they think might help the team, wait for other organizations to hash out the bargaining and set a market for that player and then opportunistically swoop in and grab said player. This strategy is apparently intrinsic to Moreno, as three different GMs have now acted similarly under the owner, going back to general manager Bill Stoneman‘s signing of Vladimir Guerrero prior to the 2004 season. The Dodgers thought they had a deal with the slugger, before the Angels seized the opportunity. Speaking of the Dodgers, it’s hard not to read into the Angels’ moves the last two winters as coming with the Boys in Blue directly in mind. Last winter, with the Dodgers still reeling under drawn-out McCourt ownership fiasco, the Angels sensed an opportunity to pull the dwindling number of fans from Chavez Ravine, and stake their claim to a larger share of the Los Angeles market with the biggest of all free agent coups in Pujols. This year, things looked to be much the opposite. The Angels had ostensibly made Zack Greinke the centerpiece of their offseason plans, hoping to keep the pitcher in the fold and form a nasty rotation with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Instead, the Dodgers made Greinke their focus and, armed with an impending, huge new television deal, essentially wrote the 29-year-old a blank check. It really looked like the Angels’ wave had its crest in the organization’s quest for Los Angeles baseball supremacy. Then they signed Hamilton. Again, overlooking whether or not it was actually the right move, it’s indisputable that Hamilton is the bigger signing, in terms of grabbing more headlines and Internet chatter. Likewise, it’s almost impossible not to speculate that the Angels drew it up this way. Based on their history, it’s not unfathomable to thing that the team’s mode of thinking was ‘You want Zack Greinke? Well wait until you see what we have in store.’ So, the Angels may have allowed the Dodgers to make their quaint little signing of the richest contract ever awarded to a right-handed pitcher. The Angels had bigger, more attention-grabbing plans in mind all along, so it seems. But in the process the Angels forever solidified themselves as the ultimate troll, allowing the Dodgers to have their half day in the sun before one-upping them and blowing the collective minds of Major League Baseball. However, keep in mind the difference between Los Angeles (of Anaheim) and your typical anonymous Internet troll: The Angels had to put their money where their mouth (or keyboard) is. It remains to be seen whether that part works out. Photo via Flickr/Keith Allison
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