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Angels aim high with Pujols, Wilson -- World Series titles or bust

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DALLAS -- In the minutes after the Angels stunned the winter meetings, a lone Dodgers official stood in the lobby of the Anatole Hotel.

"They're taking over L.A.," he said.

Wrong.

Well, not wrong, but not the whole story.

This isn't about L.A. This isn't about the American League West.

This is about baseball. This is about winning championships -- plural.

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This is about the Angels acting like the big-market, big-time, big-vision franchise they should be, and owner Arte Moreno always promised they would be.

That's why the Angels won the Albert Pujols derby. That's why they added C.J. Wilson too.

This is the answer to two years of missing out on the playoffs. This is the answer to too many winters of missing out on the big targets.

This is the Angels doing what the Yankees and Red Sox and Phillies do, going after the biggest names on the market -- and getting them. This is the Angels setting the same goal the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Phillies set.

"[Moreno] told me, 'I don't only want to win, I want to win every year,'" said Jerry Dipoto, the Angels' new general manager. "That's an admirable goal. I don't mind trying."

Moreno has his quirks. He shuns the normal negotiating process for free agents, insisting on coming in late and often making one-time, take-it-or-leave-it offers.

That system hasn't exactly been working. Six winters in a row, the Angels whiffed on their top winter target.

From Paul Konerko in 2005 to Alfonso Soriano to Miguel Cabrera to CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to Roy Halladay to Carl Crawford, the Angels never won the winter.

And with the rise of the Rangers in the AL West, the Angels have now gone two years without winning the summer, either.

Or nine years after their 2002 World Series title, if by "winning" you mean "winning a ring."

Or rings -- plural.

"Arte will tell you," Dipoto said, "Arte wants rings."

And Arte has the resources to try to get them.

This past summer, for the first time in club history, the Angels outdrew the Dodgers for an entire season. Thursday, just after the news broke on Pujols and Wilson, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported on Twitter that the Angels were close to finalizing a new TV deal that Shaikin suggested would be worth $3 billion.

Since buying the Angels in 2003, Moreno has challenged the Dodgers on their own turf, putting "Los Angeles" in the team's name and putting up billboards in Los Angeles County, rather than just at home in Orange County.

The $150 Million Club
Largest MLB contracts
PlayerTeamYearsTotal
Alex RodriguezYankees2008-17$275M
Albert PujolsAngels2012-21$254M
Alex RodriguezRangers2001-10$252M
Derek JeterYankees2001-10$189M
Joe MauerTwins2011-18$184M
Mark TeixeiraYankees2009-16$180M
CC SabathiaYankees2009-15$161M
Manny RamirezRed Sox2001-08$160M
Matt KempDodgers2012-19$160M
Troy TulowitzkiRockies2011-20$157.75M
Adrian GonzalezRed Sox2012-18$154M
Miguel CabreraTigers2008-15$152.3M

It's easy to think that Moreno wanted especially to move now, with the prospect of a new owner at Dodger Stadium next summer and the possibility that a recharged and refinanced Dodgers franchise starts spending big next winter.

But Angels people dispute that characterization, simply because they say this is about a lot more than just the team an hour up the Santa Ana Freeway.

They'll remind you that Moreno has spent big before, whether it was with Vladimir Guerrero or Torii Hunter, and they'll remind you that when he missed out on big free agents in recent winters, his offers were often huge.

A year ago, when the Rangers first unseated the Angels atop the division, Moreno promised the Times that he would "spend whatever it takes to return to the playoffs."

Last winter, we scoffed. Today, no one is scoffing.

"This is Arte saying, 'I'm not finishing second to the Dodgers, I'm not finishing second to the Rangers, and I'm not going to finish second in the World Series,'" an ecstatic Hunter told CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller. "He wants to be in first place in the World Series.

"He's making a statement: I want to win. He wants rings like I do, really bad."

You can argue whether 10 years and $254 million to Albert Pujols will get him that. Some rival teams believe Pujols is older than his listed age of 31, and some believe he has as little as three more years left of being the dominant player he has been for a decade.

You can argue whether five years and $77.5 million to C.J. Wilson makes sense. Wilson doesn't need to be a No. 1 starter in an Angels rotation headed by Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, but he's being paid like something close to a No. 1.

You can't argue this: The Angels went after the biggest talents on the market -- and landed them. The Angels pulled off the rarest of winter coups by coming up with a dream wish list, and then getting it all done.

They've sent a challenge to the Rangers, which is interesting since people will tell you that Nolan Ryan is every bit as competitive as Arte Moreno.

They've sent a challenge to the Dodgers, so much so that the Dodgers official in the lobby's response was, "We've got to go get Prince [Fielder]." (He was serious, although they probably won't be.)

They've sent a challenge to all of baseball, because Moreno and the Angels weren't just aiming to take over L.A., or to take over the AL West.

They want to win rings.

Plural.

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