When asked recently about his team's struggles, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said this: "We have to get better offensively. But I think it can happen. And when we get Darin Erstad back, that is a huge lift. People outside this clubhouse have no idea what he means to this team, how he pushes players, how his intensity rubs off, how he makes everyone else better."
Here's the thing, though: The people who make the important decisions don't actually believe any of this claptrap. Maybe in their hearts they do. But not in their heads, where most of the real work is done. The Angels did sign Erstad to a four-year, $32 million contract extension in 2002, when he was in the midst of a second straight lousy season. But in 2000 he'd batted .355 with 25 home runs, and even two years later, management must have thought the team would be getting some of that production in future years.
But of course it hasn't. Not even close. Erstad's contract -- finally, mercifully -- expires at the end of this season, and it's fair to assume neither the Angels nor any other team will offer Erstad a new contract that even remotely approaches his last one.