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BILL PLASCHKE

Angels can't squeeze out Teixeira

December 21, 2008|BILL PLASCHKE

Angels versus Boston Red Sox, tie score, ninth inning, one out, a player standing 90 feet from home, greatness up for grabs.

It's happening again.

The dramatic scene that occurred on the Fenway Park diamond in October is happening around the hottest of stoves this very moment.

The Angels with one chance to overcome the Red Sox intimidation. The Angels with one shot to break the Red Sox spell.

The prize then was the Commissioner's Trophy.

The prize now is Mark Teixeira.

The Angels want him, the Red Sox want him, it's the final moment of his final decision, and I would like to offer the Angels just this one little bit of advice.

Don't squeeze. Not again. Not now. Please no.

Playing little ball didn't work in October, with Erick Aybar infamously missing the bunt, Reggie Willits being tagged out at third base, and the Red Sox scoring in the bottom of the ninth to knock the Angels out of the playoffs again.

Didn't work then, won't work now, a squeeze again being downright suicidal.

Arte Moreno needs to swing away, swing big, swing with the power of more than $160 million, swing with the strength of eight years, swing for those fans who have lived with six years of failed October bunts.

As the Southland's two most prominent baseball players have been peddled from town to town this winter in boorish (or is that Boras?) fashion, everyone has focused on the damage that would be inflicted upon the Dodgers if they do not sign Manny Ramirez.

Well, the Angels will be hurting a lot worse without Teixeira.

After arriving here last summer in a trade, the first baseman was the perfect Angel -- huge on the field, and invisible off it.

Lost in all the Ramirez noise at Dodger Stadium was a steady Teixeira din from down south, day after day, leading the Angels to a better record than Ramirez with the Dodgers, hitting only four fewer homers with only 10 fewer runs batted in.

He was the powerful bat they had long coveted. He was the great fielder they long required. He was the careful clubhouse guy that Manager Mike Scioscia demands.

Teixeira was the prototypical Angel in all but one aspect -- he was actually a clutch hitter in the playoffs, batting .467 against the Red Sox.

If the Dodgers do not sign Ramirez, they can find another outfielder who will work in their system, someone like Bobby Abreu.

If the Angels do not sign Teixeira, well, for them, there is nobody like him.

A bidding war with the Dodgers over Ramirez? Please. The Angels' clubhouse wasn't big enough for Jose Guillen to be Jose Guillen but it's going to allow Manny to be Manny?

When Scioscia said he would be fine managing Ramirez, he was just being typically polite. Whatever havoc Ramirez caused on the field would be overshadowed by the trouble he would encounter in the most tightly run room in baseball.

Ramirez is simply not Scioscia's type. Teixeira is exactly Scioscia's type.

With Teixeira back, with Maicer Izturis healthy, with Howie Kendrick older, with Gary Matthews Jr. making the right adjustments, the Angels are a legitimate World Series contender again.

With Kendry Morales playing first base, not so much.

The issue is compounded by the fact that the other serious bidder is a Boston team that has ended the Angels' season in three of the last five years.

(Yes, the Washington Nationals are supposedly involved, but if Teixeira chooses a few more dollars over dozens of more wins, he's not the kind of guy the Angels want anyway.)

If the Red Sox beat the Angels, it will be another haughty slap, another dismissive wave, more Dave Henderson, more David Ortiz, a continuation of the belief that the cute little Southern Californians simply can't hang with the tough old New Englanders.

Picture last summer's NBA Finals, Game 6, times 10.

All this, and it will the first time that Moreno would be beaten at his own game.

Think about it. The Angels' owner has prided himself, and rightfully so, on creating one of the most player-friendly atmospheres in baseball.

The clubhouse is beautiful. The stadium is idyllic. The weather is perfect. The fans are friendly. The organization is generous. The team wins. And the owner speaks everyone's language.

Think about it. Teixeira spends two months in this atmosphere, thrives without controversy, wins for the first real time in his career, is given a fair market offer of more money than generations of Teixeiras can spend . . . and he still chooses to leave?

And don't give me this poor-homesick-Mark-wants-to-play-near-his-East-Coast-roots stuff.

Um, the guy has all the money in the world, could live anywhere, and currently resides in Texas.

If Teixeira walks, so does a chunk of Moreno's Angels mystique, as if he suddenly announced he were doubling beer prices.

Moreno needs this. Scioscia needs this. The Angels need this.

All winter, Angels fans have been burdened with the memory of a failed suicide squeeze.

Sign Teixeira, and replace it with a homer.

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bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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