Many say that the Super Bowl is the greatest game of them all. It is a great game. It is a game that also means that the day after our attention turns to the best game ever invented. Pitchers and catchers begin to report to Spring Training soon to begin the 2013 season!
One of the big off-season topics as always is the Free Agent class choosing their fate. This year’s class was headlined by outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke. The common denominator between the two was that they both chose teams that play in the state of California. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim respectively were the benefactors of the two players.
These two signings were just the latest of high price all star talent heading to the Golden State. At the start of the 2012 season, the Angels won the Albert Pujols award along with the surprise signing of pitcher C.J. Wilson. Just a few weeks into the season they struck it rich with eventual Rookie of the Year and near MVP Mike Trout. The Angels started to become loaded with talent and major contenders in the American League.
Across town in LA were the Dodgers. For much of the year they were contending for a division championship. But then, the “Magic” came and so did the money. Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson among others became the new ownership group of the storied ball club. One of the first digs they made was a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox bringing over All Star talent with show me the money contracts in the form of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford.
The 2012 season ended with neither Los Angeles team making the post season. Instead, the post season show was highlighted by the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants. For the geography majors, San Francisco is also located in the state of California. The Giants won their second World Series title in three seasons.
This type of success and big money moves sound all too familiar. These types of moves, trades, and titles are typically reserved for the east coast teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. In the last four seasons those three teams have been in at least the top seven team payrolls in baseball. World Series success has also followed as each team has won at least one title in the 2000’s. Fans in other markets hated the east coast tilt of the game. It was perceived that monopolies were forming out east and Evil Empires casted large shadows on the small markets. California was just a vacation spot. However, it appears that the tide is turning and the rush is heading west.
It was January 24th, 1848 when the California Gold Rush began. Travelers and miners migrated to the state in the hopes of finding gold and the effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Fast forward to 2012, 2013 and the trend seems to now be for All Star ball players migrating west for big money and the ultimate gold ring.
Why is there a growing trend of moving west? Is it the weather, the lifestyle, or is it simply just the money? For the last decade there has been countless discussions about playing on the east coast adds a different element of pressure, that the Yankee pinstripes or Fenway fanatics demand greatness and nothing else. If you do not bring home a championship to the Bronx or Yawkey Way then the season was a failure. Many big name free agents have not quite lived up to the pressure of east coast baseball.
Perhaps that could be the cause for the move. Players are going west for a less stressful environment. It does not quite seem so scary when crowds arrive late, leave early, and the rest of the country is sleeping. Even if a few more championships do land in California, the hatred that fans have for the Yankees and others may never arise for the Angels and Dodgers. After a long day on the beach, it is hard to hate. As long as there is still east coast baseball, attention will be directed that way first and foremost. California may be just fine with that. They will continue to do their own thing in their own time zone.
The Giants have been the first to strike it rich with two championships. However, the surprise Oakland A’s are reigning division champs and the two teams in Los Angeles do not seem to have a bottom to their bank accounts. They are banking on the gold nugget signings this year of Hamilton and Greinke to get them to the mountain top. The true baseball beauty is that each organization is doing it a different way. California is providing many philosophies, and a nice tan. Before our eyes, the west may be overtaking the east. Only time will tell if this rush is as substantial as the one in 1848.
Could the east be left in the cold and not just weather wise? The Golden State has the trophy, the money, and the players are following.