NY-LALast night I flipped around channels on the TV, pretending that I was not watching the Angels-Yankees game. It was too stressful, and I know from past experiences that if I watch the Angels play, they will lose (superstition, yes, but with some merit).
It's not just the back and forth between the teams, the pressure of playing against a group of superstars who might explode at any moment, that made the game tense. Mike Scioscia's managerial style turns baseball into a game of inches. Every weakness of the opposition's defense is tested; every extra base taken; every pitch scrutinized; every at-bat extended. He definitely manages in Tommy Lasorda's style, which leads to long, long games. And, they can beat the Yankees almost every series.
Tonight they open in Chicago, and considering the amount of travel they have done and the number of pitchers they have used, I don't have high hopes that the Angels can win the league championship. They will be exhausted.
I laughed throughout the series whenever the announcers had to use the obnoxious construction "the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." They tried to balance it out by saying "the New York Yankees of the Bronx."
I hated when Disney changed the teams place-designation from California to Anaheim. I hated this new designation even more. The stadium was always so far away from where I lived in LA (about 90 minutes) that seeing them play was always prohibitive. Instead, my friends and I would drive to Chavez Ravine to see the Dodgers, whom none of us liked.
But as the series with the Yankees unfolded, I started to think, "is this not the team from LA?" An ex-Dodger is the manager. An ex-Dodger is the batting coach. The pitching is superb. The batters hack away until they find the pitch that they like. Bunts occur at unlikely moments. And runs are manufactured in the most laborious manner possible.
But more importantly, the way the Angels play the Yankees resembles how the Dodgers played the Yankees. Dodgers-Yankees (along with Giants-Yankees) was one of the most frequent post-season match-ups, and even after the team moved to the West Coast, their rivalry survived. Growing up in LA, the 1981 World Series was the classic moment of David slaying Goliath. The spirit of Brooklyn was in that team.
The Angels looked like those Dodgers, beating the Bronx Bombers not by outdoing them at their own game, but playing differently. A team with little muscle running circles around a team of high salaried muscle-headed men. They score in improbable ways (like when Sheffield and Crosby collided in the outfield off of Kennedy's fly ball) without having a lot of obvious pop in their bats.
Are the Angels the team from Los Angeles? They play like 'em.