Today the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim committed more than $300 million to the top two players in this years’ free agent class – including sure fire future hall of famer Albert Pujols. The multimillion dollar contracts represent nearly twice the $180 million that owner Arte Moreno spent acquiring the team in 2003. The move signifies a surprising and drastic change in the teams’ previous player acquisition strategy – signaling that perhaps the organization finally ‘gets it.’ ‘It’ being the idea that in order to be the big shot, one needs to start acting like the big shot. ‘It’ means taking huge risks and going against conventional wisdom in order to achieve something others will not. ‘It’ means thinking big, and today that is exactly what the Angels did.

Prior to today the Angels were well known for sticking their nose in the bidding for top players but never being really serious about it. For the most part the team has failed to land big stars and ultimately has settled for high priced second options. While there are a myriad of examples the most significant is last seasons’ trade for Vernon Wells. Unable to land the impact player the team had coveted then general manager Tony Reagins packaged catcher Mike Napoli in exchange for the usually productive, but highly paid Wells. Wells’ collapse in 2011 lead to Reagins’ resignation and seemingly hamstrung the organization financially for the next several years. Going into this offseason with one of the highest payrolls in team history and plenty of holes to fill the prospects for the 2011 offseason were tempered at best.

Massively outbidding the competition for the best hitter and best pitcher available is shocking at the least and is a move more commonly aligned with the New York Yankees. While the Yankees are often derided by fans and other organizations for their occasionally reckless spending  the fact remains that the Yankees are by far the most successful organization in professional American sports. Whether one judges them based on on-the field-performance, profitability or organization valuation the Yankees are the gold standard for professional American sports. This success is intriguing to me in that so few organizations in American sports seek to following the Yankees example. In fact, with all other professional sports leagues in the nation empowered with the process of collective bargaining, organizations have universally sought protectionist labor agreements designed to save potentially overzealous owners from themselves.

The argument of ‘competitive balance’ is often evoked by fans and management alike, citing small organizations inability to spend money on the same level as big budget teams. On the surface the outcries make sense – how can teams in cities like Oakland or Kansas City compete financially with teams in cities like New York? This is a problem of thinking too small, missing the big picture and making excuses. Would anyone for a second believe that the Yankees are making all of their money off of the huge – preinstalled New York market? Last I checked the Yankees logo was known the world around, and despite my living in a geographic region with two professional baseball teams finding Yankee fans is no challenge.

Did the Yankees achieve their ‘Evil Empire’ status simply by taking advantage of their large home market, or was it because they were not so limited as to think in such terms – did they think bigger than that? People often forget that prior to the Steinbrenner era the Yankees were not the Yankees we think of today. Steinbrenner purchased the team for practically pennies on the dollars the team is worth today. The Yankees invested heavily in the best players in the game – they set records for contracts and then broke them. They fought regulations designed to reign the organization in, they won over and over again becaming a brand for excellence in the sports industry – this is thinking big.

The Florida Marlins have long been known as the cheapest kids on the block, filling rosters with the cheapest players available. For every argument against the Yankees model the Marlins are mentioned as a casualty of the system. This off season the Marlins have rebranded themselves as the ‘Miami Marlins’ with a brand new stadium, new uniforms and the willingness to outspend the competition for the best players. Somehow circumstances have drastically changed – but has anything really changed? The Miami market is not much different today than it was when the team was inaugurated in the 90’s.

There is something to be said here of the power of self fulfilling prophecies. I am reminded of an adage I will steal from the show ‘Mad Men,’ – ‘a man is whatever room he is in’ – the Angels may not be the Yankees but the only thing that held them back was the thought that they could not be. If the organization is ever going to convince fans that they are on the same level they first needed to convince themselves. If you want to be the Yankees, then go be the Yankees – it is that simple.

Critics will decry the massive amounts of money spent on just a couple of players but go turn on the mainstream media and listen to them mention the Angels for the first time ever. Go stand outside the team store and watch fans walk out with custom made ‘Pujols’ jerseys before the team can get around to mass producing them. Now tune in next season when the Angels are on national tv as Albert Pujols hits his 500th career homerun – the list goes on. The bottom line is the Angels are not playing with excuses anymore, they are not limiting their own imaginations – they are risking it big because that is exactly what it takes.