Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Angel Bullpen That Coulda Been

Judging from Friday's game, the Angels clearly gave up on pitcher Bobby Jenks ( 3.0 IP, 1 H 0 R 1 BB 5 K) a tad early. I was shocked when they released him last year (ostensibly to make room for Kendry Morales -- surely there was other dead weight that the Angels could have ditched -- like Jarrod Washburn for instance). Of course we have to remember that Jenks was a complete lunatic reminiscent of David Wells in his partying prime. But sometimes a clubhouse needs a crazy guy to act as either comic relief or a lightening rod. Some lunatics are bad (see: Guillen, Jose or Bradley, Milton). Other times they serve an important role (see: Lima, Jose 2004). The Angels thought they were releasing a guy with problems and a stress fracture. Now they know they let a guy go who can throw over a 100 mph with terrific stuff (and also can put away liquor in Mantlesque fashion). Of course, it could all blow-up for Jenks any day but given his low salary the risk is minimal for the White Sox.

So instead of Esteban Yan and Kevin Gregg, the Angels could have a bullpen bolstered by Jenks and Derrick Turnbow (now the Brewers closer with a 6-1 record, 1.70 ERA and 30 saves). It is always easy to Monday-Morning-Quarterback personnel decisions but how Bill Stoneman elected to keep Tim Bittner (released Sept 1) and Wil Nieves (later traded for Bret Prinz -- also released Sept 1). Bottom line is that if the Angels had Jenks and Turnbow in the bullpen they would probably have a 5 game lead over Oakland right now. It's not like the Angels let go of a couple of guys who took another 2 or 3 years to develop. These are guys who were in the majors the very next year and based on their statistics would be the TOP TWO guys in the Angels bullpen right now. Better than K-Rod, better than Shields, and a lot better than Donnelly (sans pine tar) or the other stiffs currently making-up the lower echelon of Halo relievers. Now let me backtrack a bit by saying that both Rodriguez and Shields have been better in prior years than either Jenks or Turnbow. Further, they are having fairly nice years and I do not think the Angels should have sacrificed either of those two to retain Jenks & Turnbow (is it just me or does that sound like a morning radio show? Welcome back to Zoo 100 FM with Hi-Jenks & Turnbow in the Morning!). But it is painfully obvious that the Angels made a couple of sizable mistakes in letting them go. And they made a defacto confession by releasing Bittner and Prinz last week. For that Bill Stoneman will have to be held accountable. Along with the miserable failure of the Steve Finley signing (though Fin has shown signs of life the past couple of games including two hits and an HR today) Stoneman will be taking his lumps if the Angels either fail to make the playoffs or are ousted in the first round again.

Of course, an optimist could look at the situation and say isn't it great how the Halo's are so stocked with talent they can let those two guys walk and still have the most loaded minor league system in baseball? Sorry, I don't buy it. Yes Ervin Santana has been great. Yes, Joe Saunders is giving Angel fans a preview with his impressive outings this season. But the only prospects who really get graded are the ones who come to the majors and if they show up in a uniform other than the Angels, it is a big fat blemish on your resume. Still, it does make me wonder how many players toiling in the Angels farm system could make the jump and be the next Santana, Turnbow or Jenks.

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