Shocker: Josh Hamilton signs a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels

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The hot stove season always takes unexpected turns, and this afternoon it took the most unexpected turn we’ve seen in some time.  Seemingly out of nowhere the Los Angeles Angels swooped in and signed Josh Hamilton.  Legendary L.A. radio man Joe McDonnell had the first news that a deal with close. Within an hour it was reported by multiple sources, starting with ESPN Dallas, that the Angels and Hamilton had reached deal.  Fox’s Jon Paul Morosi was the first to report that it was a five-year deal. The money: $125 million.

This makes it two years running that the Angels have signed the best available free agent hitter, with Albert Pujols coming into the fold.  It also marks the second straight year that the Angels have signed away the Rangers top departing free agent, with C.J. Wilson heading to the Angels last year as well.  The year before that Mike Napoli made a circuitous journey from Anaheim to the Rangers, helping Texas win the pennant.

This is the best rivalry in baseball now and it’s not even close.  Heck, maybe the second best rivalry — or rivalry to be — involves the Angels and the Dodgers.  Each L.A. team is lapping the field in terms of big money signings, with each fighting to become or remain the darlings of the nation’s second largest media market. It had appeared that the newly-free-spending Dodgers were regaining that title for keeps, but with Hamilton in the fold down in Orange County, the war for the hearts and minds of L.A. baseball fans is ON.

With the caveat that, yes, we said this last year too, it’s probably safe to say that the Angels are the favorites in the AL West. Their potential lineup is fantastic:

Trout CF
Callaspo 3B
Pujols 1B
Hamilton RF
Morales DH
Trumbo LF
Kendrick 2B
Iannetta C
Aybar SS

Or Trumbo could play third base with Hamilton in right, Trout in left and Peter Bourjos in center. And Vernon Wells is still knocking around. The point is, no matter what Mike Scioscia does, he has plenty of options to choose from. More importantly, so does GM Jerry Dipoto, who could now deal Trumbo or Bourjos for pitching help. R.A. Dickey, anyone?

Not that we can crown anyone just yet.  Again, we thought the Angels won it all with the Pujols and Wilson signings last year, and that didn’t work out.  And let’s remember, with respect to players they have in common — Mike Napoli and C.J. Wilson — the Rangers have done a pretty good job of out-evaluating the Angels over the past couple of years. Of course, that was before the Angels turned over their front office.

But no matter what happens, the AL West just got a lot more fun, and it already was the most fun division in baseball.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Orioles 6, Yankees 3: Tim Beckham hit two homers and drove in three to help the Orioles come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the game and avoid the series sweep. Baltimore finishes the year 7-12 against the Yankees which, given how bad they are overall, is actually pretty dang good. If the Yankees fall behind the A’s in this last week and end up having to travel to Oakland for the Wild Card game, I think the Orioles should take credit for that. Print up t-shirts and everything.

Rays 5, Blue Jays 2: Blake Snell tossed shutout ball into the seventh, struck out 11 dudes and won his 21st game on the season. His ERA went down to 1.90 too, and his Cy Young chances, I suspect, went up to about 98%. Snell has not lost since before the All-Star break. C.J. Cron and Brandon Lowe homered for the Rays and Tommy Pham reached base three times. The season will, effectively, be over for them in the next couple of days, but it has been a hell of a second half. That’s worth celebrating if you’re a Rays fan. It’s probably also worth wondering if they couldn’t have done a couple of things differently early in the season to have made them a few games better. Rays fans get pissed at me for saying stuff like that, but sorry, fans of every team should think that way in these sorts of situations. To not do so is to be a fan of a front office, not the fan of a baseball team.

Cardinals 9, Giants 2: Miles Mikolas had no trouble with a Giants lineup which looked like it was already in offseason mode, Matt Carpenter homered and St. Louis swept San Francisco. They’ve won six of seven overall. They’re two back of the Brewers and host them for three games starting tonight. I’m in St. Louis right now and I caught the game in Busch on Saturday. I’m here tagging along with my wife who’s on a conference for work and I have to play dutiful spouse at various social functions in the evenings so I don’t think I’ll get to any of these games before I go home, but the cool thing about St. Louis is that Cards games are on virtually everywhere you go. Living in Columbus, where you have to beg bartenders in sports bars to devote even one TV to a baseball game, I forget that that’s not the case everywhere else. Seriously: in Columbus, if there is no football on, the TVs will put on ESPN talk shows and crap before baseball. Even with the sound down. Which, now that I think about it is probably an improvement, but still. Not the case in St. Louis of course. I feel like I watched the whole game yesterday simply by walking around and in and out of places.

Royals 3, Tigers 2: Brad Keller allowed one run over seven, Adalberto Mondesi homered and Cam Gallagher hit a two-run single to give the Royals the win. Thus ends the Tigers home season. It wasn’t great. As I write this I’m watching the Lions game. They’re at home and they’re leading the Patriots in the fourth quarter. I have no idea why I’m watching this — I’m in a hotel room and everything is weird right now, so that’s probably why — but I can’t remember the last time the Lions had more to be proud of than the Tigers. Maybe it’s the End Times? I dunno. Maybe me just watching football is a sign of the End Times.

Marlins 6, Reds 0: It must’ve been “dude most of you have never heard of tossed seven shutout innings” day yesterday because it feels like several of them did so. Here it was Trevor Richards doing it. Yes, THE Trevor Richards. Chad Wallach hit a three-run homer. I probably should’ve known that Tim Wallach’s kid was a ballplayer but I did not and I do this for a living, so don’t feel too bad about you not knowing who Trevor Richards was. Also: the Marlins had traded Wallach to the Reds back in 2014 in the Mat Latos deal. They got him back on waivers last winter. It’s gotta hurt Cincinnati a little to have a castoff beat you like this.

Braves 2, Phillies 1: The Braves put out the post-clinch hangover lineup against the Phillies ace and still finished off the sweep. Gotta say, I thought the Phillies were gonna have more fight than this but the late season whimper from this club has been quite the thing. Lane Adams homered and drove in both of the Braves’ runs and Anibal Sanchez of all people got the win after allowing just one run five innings. The Braves have a chance to earn home field for the NLDS against, probably, the Dodgers by holding up in the final week. If they have a great week and the Cubs crater they could get home field in the NL playoffs. Doubtful, but still possible.

Mets 8, Nationals 6Michael Conforto hit a go-ahead, bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning and just piled on from there. Jeff McNeil had four hits too, and the Mets took three of four from the Nats. This offseason a lot of people are going to note that the Mets, absent their disastrous May and June, were actually not terrible for most of the year and that with a little more luck with health and some help from the front office they could be a contender in 2019. Then the front office won’t make any moves and they’ll disappoint next season and everyone will act as if it was inevitable even though it isn’t.

Brewers 13, Pirates 6Christian YelichTravis Shaw and Mike Moustakas all hit homers to help Milwaukee win three of four and maintain its two game lead over the Cardinals for the top Wild Card spot. They are two and a half behind the Cubs. Fun play — the Brewers scored three runs on a wild pitch:

My favorite part of that highlight is watching Clint Hurdle chew his gum. I’d be punching walls but I guess that’s why he’s been around so long.

Cubs 6, White Sox 1: Kyle Hendricks pitched one-run ball into the eighth. Kyle Schwarber homered. Ben Zobrist had three hits. Kanye West threw out the first pitch for some reason:

It was also White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson’s final game. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he was an institution for the Sox.

Astros 6, Angels 2Yuli Gurriel hit a two-run homer and Evan Gattis had three hits and two RBI as the Astros sweep the Angels, but the real story here was Charlie Morton, who left early due to shoulder discomfort which is not what you want this close to the playoffs.

Rangers 6, Mariners 1: Texas put up a four-run sixth inning to take a lead they would not relinquish and Joey Gallo hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Once the Rangers had a safe lead, they took Adrian Beltre out of the game. It may very well have been his final game in Texas, and the fans gave him an ovation for it:

Twins 5, Athletics 1Kyle Gibson allowed one run while pitching into the eighth, Jake Cave hit a two-run homer and the Twins prevented the A’s from celebrating a Wild Card clinch at home. The need one more win or one Rays loss to be ensured of a game next week. They remain one and a half games back of the Yankees and need to catch up in order for that one game to be in Oakland rather than the Bronx.

Dodgers 14, Padres 0: It was Matt Kemp‘s birthday and it was a pretty good one: he went 3-for-4 with a single, double and a homer and drove in three. Everyone on the Dodgers partied yesterday, in fact, as the team banged out 16 hits in a walkover. Even Hyun-Jin Ryu got into the act, pitching six scoreless innings and getting three hits of his own. Max Muncy drove in four runs and he didn’t even start in the game.

Rockies 2, Diamondbacks 0: Kyle Freeland tossed seven shutout innings, scattering seven hits, as the Rockies keep their playoff hopes alive. They remain a game and a half behind both the Dodgers in the NL West and the Cardinals in the Wild Card race. The good news for them is that they get to take on Philly and Washington, each of which is sort of mailing things in right now, in their final two series and they’re at home. The bad news is that they need some help.

Indians 4, Red Sox 3: Greg Allen hit a bases-loaded single to give the Tribe a walkoff win. It was the second 11th inning walkoff win for Cleveland in as many nights, in fact, with Michael Brantley doing the honors on Saturday. There’s a chance these two teams could meet in the ALCS — Boston will have to beat the Wild Card winner in a division series and Cleveland will have to beat Houston — but if this past weekend was any indication, such a matchup could be kinda fun.