Purgatory Online

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The Angels sign Eric Owens to a one-year deal. Owens is basically a journeyman outfielder, who will partially fill the backup role that Orlando Palmiero had last year. The major differences are that Owens is right-handed, is used to playing close to full-time, has a moderately worse average and OPS, and much better speed.

Terms of the deal weren't indicated in the story. Owens made $2,000,000 last year and Palmiero made $1,000,000, but of course the Angels may very well have signed Owens for less than Palmiero would have been awarded if he'd been offered arbitration. Owens should be a decent addition - he won't be death at the plate, and his speed (in addition to 26 steals, he also had 25 infield hits last year) will fit in nicely with the small-ball ethic of Mike Scioscia. He'll be a good option as a late-inning baserunner, particularly if Alfredo Almezega isn't ready for the big club yet.

Before he's completely forgotten, though, I want to say one thing about Orlando Palmiero. After the games of August 13, 2002, the Angels were 71-48. The A's were 69-51, and had just won the first of what would turn out to be twenty consecutive victories. The Mariners were 73-46 and in first place. August 13, 2002 was also the last game Tim Salmon would play for the Angels until September 5 - an off day for the A's, but their streak would end on September 6.

In previous years, losing a key player like Salmon in the heat of a three-way pennant race would have been a disaster. Such things have happened with frightening regularity to the Angels; if you're reading these words I probably don't have to remind you of the specifics. But this year, Orlando Palmiero calmly stepped in for Salmon and went 19-for-50 (.380) over that stretch. On the morning of September 5, the A's were 88-51. The Mariners were 81-58. And the Angels were 84-54. Now, of course everyone on the team deserves credit for playing through Salmon's injury. But if one person can be said to have broken the "Angel curse," Orlando Palmiero has as good a case as anyone. So long, O-Pal: I wish you luck, I wish you fortune, and I wish you in the National League.