Angels flying high in Major Leagues

Angels flying high in Major Leagues

The best team in baseball acquired the best position player available prior to the Trade Deadline.

That tells you all you need to know about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

This is an organization that has worked its way to the top of the ladder in Major League Baseball.

The Angels moved 26 games above the .500 mark on Tuesday night as John Lackey pitched a two-hitter against the Boston Red Sox in winning the game, 6-2.

It marked the Angels' seventh consecutive win against the Red Sox, a warning shot that there is more to come, should the two teams match up in postseason play.

Prior to the game, the Angels announced they had acquired slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves for first baseman Casey Kotchman and Minor League pitcher Steve Marek.

Bottom line -- the Angels are buyers and the Braves are sellers and that's simply another point in the "all you need to know" category.

There was a time when the Braves were all but assured of being in postseason play and the Angels were struggling to find their way. No longer.

The Angels have found their way and then some. They started to find their way when Mike Scioscia was appointed the manager in 2000 and they locked into a course of destiny when Arte Moreno took over the ownership of the team in 2003.

Moreno never saw the Anaheim-based Angels as a small market team and he made that clear from the outset. He looked at the Angels, and he saw Southern California and beyond.

This is a man who made a fortune selling billboards. He knew that images and a few well-chosen words spoke volumes. Moreno didn't want to be known as an Orange County attraction. His vision was far greater and his goal today for his franchise has to do with world championships and not just limited accomplishments.

That's the very reason why Moreno approved the deal to acquire Teixeira, who can become a free agent at the end of the season and figures to be one of the most sought-after players.

"Any time you make a move like this, you need ownership approval," said Angels general manager Tony Reagins. "We presented the proposal to Arte and he gave the approval."

The Angels are off to their best start in the team's history as they entered Tuesday night's game with a record of 65-40 and a lead of 11 1/2 games in the American League West.

Mark Teixeira

The deal clearly showed the Angels aren't thinking about a divisional title, any more than they think of Orange County as their only fan base. Moreno, with his leadership team of Reagins and Scioscia, is ready to play with the big boys and the Red Sox and New York Yankees are fully aware of this fact.

"They might be the class of the American League right now," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona and that statement came before the trade for Teixeira.

When the Angels held a telephone briefing for the media after the trade, the man who introduced Reagins and Teixeira was the team's longtime vice president of communications, Tim Mead, and you could hear a sense of excitement in his voice.

"We've never made a deal like this at the Trading Deadline," said Mead later, a veteran of 29 seasons with the Angels. "The only major deal I can recall was getting Jim Abbott from the White Sox in late July of 1995."

The Angels now are operating at a different level in every phase of the game and Reagins and Scioscia have an ideal working relationship, with mutual respect.

"I think the receptionist at Fenway Park knows my voice very well, because I must have called for Mike fifty times today to get his input," said Reagins as he recalled the hours that led up to the deal.

In his first season as the team's general manager, Reagins has shown he isn't afraid to make a move. He acquired pitcher Jon Garland for shortstop Orlando Cabrera in the offseason and signed free agent outfielder Torii Hunter.

Reagins fielded all of the questions from the media in expert fashion -- he doesn't expect Teixeira to be a "savior," but simply to fit in with the team; he'll deal with the fact that his new first baseman will be a free agent in the appropriate time frame and he doesn't view him as a "rental player;" he doesn't think the Angels are assured of anything and "we need to focus on each and every game."

Reagins also went out of his way to praise the Angels' scouting and player development departments and his key assistants Ken Forsch and Gary Sutherland.

Oh yes, and during a very busy day, Reagins took the time to call one of his scouts, Tom Kotchman, to tell him of the trade.

It was Kotchman who signed his son, Casey, to an Angels contract in 2001.

Trading Deadline deals never are easy, or void of personal involvement, but when you are trying to win a world championship, you do what you have to do.

The high-flying Angels did just fine.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. His book --Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue -- was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.