|Zack Greinke prefers L.A. over Texas, which loses in its pursuit of the '09 AL Cy Young winner. (Getty Images)|
Look at the grins around Angel Stadium on Friday, and they told you that the Angels might have bagged their biggest victory of the season against the Rangers on a day when the two were playing hundreds of miles apart.
To the Angels. To the AL West. To what could be the best show in the game down the stretch these final two months.
"The Rangers, man, they have a horrifying offense," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said, smile wider than the halo over the Big A outside in the parking lot. "And our pitching staff is good.
"It's going to be a bullfight."
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Ole! A late-afternoon phone call, around 7 p.m. EDT, nabbed the biggest pitching prize on the July trade market for general manager Jerry Dipoto and his Angels. He and Doug Melvin, Dipoto's Milwaukee counterpart, have been talking for weeks about a possible Greinke deal.
So, too, had several other clubs. The Rangers. The Braves. The White Sox. The list goes on. Give dozens of baseball executives the choice of Melvin's or Snooki's phone number over the past two weeks, it wouldn't have been close. Melvin was beauty-queen popular.
Then, Greinke on Tuesday threw a vintage game against the Phillies, holding them to one earned run and three hits over seven innings, fanning five and walking none, and you knew that was it. No way would he make his next start for the Brewers.
"Turning over the back of Zack's baseball card, it was going to be pretty fierce competition," Dipoto said of the trade market. "He did throw particularly well the other night in Philadelphia. We were excited to see him throw so well.
"Did it run the price up? I don't think so. It was going to cost."
And it did. Shortstop Jean Segura was the No. 2 prospect in the Angels' organization according to Baseball America -- and he was only No. 2 because No. 1 was ... well, maybe you've been hearing a little about Mike Trout this summer? The Angels also included two Double-A pitchers who are ranked Nos. 4 and 9 on the Baseball America list, right-handers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena.
Hellweg is 6-9 and throws 100 mph. "Easy gas," Angels outfielder Vernon Wells said. "A beast," Hunter added.
Pena, according to sources, was the third player the Brewers demanded to close the deal.
Talks between the Brewers and Rangers, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions, stalled when Texas refused to include prized third-base prospect Mike Olt.
Dipoto did not discuss Texas or its bid, whether he was looking over his shoulder or if the Angels were thinking they had to box out the Rangers.
"All I know is we made our best effort and we were aggressive," Dipoto said. "We made the deal today with players who were quite painful to lose."
Soon as Greinke shows up, that pain will recede very quickly. This is a guy who pitched the Brewers into the NL Championship Series last October and a guy with the stuff to pitch the Angels into the World Series this year.
"Zack Greinke has a Cy Young award on his mantle, he's in the prime years of his career, he's 28 years old," Dipoto said. "He gets ground balls. He gets strikeouts. He's an attractive young pitcher.
"He's a durable 200-innings provider. He's a steady winner."
Greinke joining an Angels rotation that already includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren is the equivalent of a modern day Murderers' Row on the mound. Already, a couple of Angels were imagining how difficult it will be to face them in a three-game series anywhere.
"Good pitcher, man," Trout said.
"Big one," Wells said. "That's a big one."
Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts, with 122 strikeouts and only 28 walks in 123 innings. His reputation precedes him in some places, given the wide-spread knowledge of the social-anxiety disorder that nearly derailed his career in Kansas City. But he's managed that, and he's a thinker.
Melvin even involved him in some scouting when he was with the Brewers. During spring training in February, Greinke and Craig Counsell, the former infielder who now is a special assistant to Melvin, scouted Arizona State pitcher Brady Rodgers as the Brewers were preparing for the June draft.
"He's prepared, more than a lot of guys I've played with and come across," said Angels reliever LaTroy Hawkins, a teammate of Greinke's on the Brewers' NL Central title team in 2011. "He knows hitters. He's always thinking.
"He's a pretty smart cat."
He adds another layer into the best slugfest this side of the Yankees-Red Sox. The Rangers and Angels, each armed with an extravagantly lucrative new local television deal, have sparred like heavyweight fighters since the winter.
The Rangers spent millions to sign pitcher Yu Darvish. The Angels punched back by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Texas this summer signed free agent starter Roy Oswalt to add depth to its rotation.
Now the Rally Monkey extends its furry hand to Greinke.
If monkeys can get goose bumps, this particular primate surely had them Friday night.
In acquiring Greinke, the Angels aren't simply thinking AL West title. This team, so disappointing in April, is thinking World Series now. You bet they're all in for 2012, from owner Arte Moreno on down.
"That's what I always wanted," Hunter said. "These guys here, every year they've given me a shot to win a World Series. That's why I'd like to stay here. You listen to what the owner says, and it shows the front office the way. He wants to win."