Saturday, August 16, 2008

Angels, Dodgers Could Meet in Fall Classic

By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

For the Angels, it’s only a matter of playing the remaining forty-three regular season games. Despite a disappointing extra innings loss to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, the Angels maintain a 15.5 game lead in the American League West. Certainly the team with the best record in all of baseball will continue to play as if there were something on the line, but they are a lock to reach the post-season for the fifth time in seven years. The obvious goal for Scioscia and the Angels is to enter the 2008 post-season playing well, with home field advantage, and in contrast to the 2007 playoffs, with overall team health.

The Dodgers are a microcosm of the National League – a very average baseball team. That they play in the worst division of the lesser league is the only reason that their 62-59 record merits talk of a possible post-season birth. Fortunately for the Blue Crew, the more talented Arizona Diamondbacks don’t seem too eager to repeat as division champions. The two teams will battle it out down the stretch, and you have to like the Dodgers’ chances.

The acquisition of Manny Ramirez has legitimized the Dodger offense. Ramirez, since coming over from Boston via trade, is hitting .438 with 5 home runs and 16 RBI in just 13 games. And, the Dodger youngsters – Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andre Ethier seem to be going better than core of the Diamondbacks line-up.

Coming off of a four game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Dodgers still have two series remaining against Arizona. In their quest for a division title, those six games, to be played from August 29th – 31st and September 5th – 7th, will likely determine the ultimate NL West champion.

If the Dodgers do come away with the division and join their American League rival Angels in the post-season, a Freeway Series that really matters will be a real possibility.

At this point, it’s difficult to argue for any American League team other than the Angels to make the World Series. The Angels are by far the most balanced team, posting terrific starting pitching, a deep bullpen and an offense which has averaged close to seven runs a game over the past month. At the trade deadline, the best team in baseball did something they haven’t done in years – got even better. The addition of Mark Teixeira to the line-up has already paid huge dividends for the Angels as sluggers Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, and the aging Garret Anderson have hit their collective stride with Teixeira hitting in front of them.

There is even hope for the Angels in case of a post-season match-up against the Boston Red Sox, who have won nine consecutive playoff games against the Halos. The Angels exercised some demons in the regular season taking the final eight games of the season series against the Sox. It remains to be seen whether or not the teams will meet in the post-season. But it won’t seem like October if they don’t. With Tampa Bay injuries to Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Troy Percival it appears that Boston will have a legitimate chance at repeating as AL East champs, leaving the Rays to play for the Wild Card.

But I digress…

The Angels are easily the best team in baseball. They need only play as they have the past couple months to ensure a World Series birth. To assume that they won’t is not a valid argument, so let’s slot them as AL Champs, sitting in the third base dugout of Angel Stadium, hosting game one of the 2008 World Series. The question then, is which NL team sits in the first base dugout?

Answer: The Chicago Cubs.

With apologies to myopic Dodger fans, there is no argument as to which team is the best in the National League. And quite honestly, it’s not even close.

And that is unfortunate for the Angels, who would certainly benefit most from a series against the Dodgers, primarily because they would likely beat their cross-town rivals in four or five games, earning their second World Series championship of the decade and perhaps more importantly, taking another, if not the final step in securing dominance in the Southern California market.

The talk of a possible Freeway series looms each season around this time as both teams always seem to be in contention for the post-season, and like years past, it is more of a dream than a realistic possibility. It is true that “anything can happen” in the playoffs, but it’s not intellectually honest to make an argument for any teams other than the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Angels to meet in the Fall Classic. The two squads are head and shoulders above their league rivals currently, and figure to be so when October begins.

With a battle for the NL West looming and more talented and experienced National League teams like the Cubs, Mets, Phillies and Brewers to get through in the playoffs, the Dodgers are not likely to hold up their end of the bargain.
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