Posted: Tuesday July 25, 2006 3:56PM; Updated: Tuesday July 25, 2006 5:14PM
Acquired in the Jose Guillen trade, Juan Rivera already has matched his home run total (15) from last season.
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In addition, the team has dipped into the minor leagues to get two spot-start victories this month, Joe Saunders' seven-inning, two-run outing on July 18 being the highlight. Despite only one victory for reigning Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon this season, Stoneman's starting rotation is one of the strongest in baseball.
Behind the plate, the Angels spent more than a month at the outset getting no production. But instead of leaping for the nearest retread, they tested 24-year-old rookie Mike Napoli and found backstop salvation. Napoli has the most home runs (12) and the highest on-base percentage (.407) and slugging percentage (.537) of any American League rookie.
What about in the outfield, where through the May 22 nadir, according to Baseball Musings, the Angels had six home runs from their left fielders and center fielders combined? Say hello to anonymous hero Juan Rivera, who has 12 home runs (and a 1.002 OPS) since that date -- including eight home runs this month -- and an OPS of 1.002. No, this wasn't a move Stoneman made this year, but he is the one who acquired both Rivera and infielder Maicer Izturis in 2004 for a player the team had suspended during the 2004 stretch run, Jose Guillen.
Not every problem has been solved. Beyond Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields, the bullpen has been unreliable. And first base has looked diseased from the moment Casey Kotchman contracted mononucleosis. The projected starter at the position, Kotchman has 12 hits this season.
The team tried Kendry Morales, who fizzled after a hot start and earned a ticket to Triple A Salt Lake on Monday. Robb Quinlan's platoon splits set him up as an option against left-handed pitching, but with potential partner Dallas McPherson battling underachievement and injuries, there's work to be done. Or not done.
This is where Stoneman is sitting pretty. His highly regarded minor league cabinet remains full. He's got two second basemen in incumbent Adam Kennedy and Triple A sensation Howie Kendrick. He can make a trade, or he can continue to mold. He has options, and no one at Monday's non-waiver trade deadline will have him over a barrel.
Stoneman won't win Executive of the Year in 2006. Despite coming off two consecutive division titles and with owner Arte Moreno's generous payroll at his disposal, Stoneman has merely produced the seventh-best record in the AL. When it comes time for postseason awards, baseball's search will probably stretch from Boston to Minneapolis.
And the Angels still have a playing style that polarizes. Lately they have manufactured runs like cars on an assembly line, but they still run into outs like crash-test dummies. Their once-vaunted defense has taken a pretty wide detour from greatness.
But the team's run from 17-28 to 51-48 is a triumph of substance over style. And it is a lesson that trading nothing is not the same thing as doing nothing. It takes a proactive person to resist trading for the sake of assuaging the media or the masses. It takes will to show that there can be glory in prudence.
Stoneman may make a move before the deadline, or he may not. Either way, he's overseen a team that has been a contender and is likely to remain so, year after year. Sometimes he makes trades; sometimes he doesn't. There's no doubt he's made some mistakes in both respects. But it all seems to add up that he and the Angels have a pretty good idea of what they're doing.