Sunday, September 21, 2008

By Mark Bender - Contributor

Many things have happened this season in Major League Baseball. The Cubs are in the playoffs, the Yankees are out, and both the Dodgers and the Angels will be in the post season at the same time.

Back in September 2002, no one other than the “die hard” Angels fan had ever heard of some pitcher named “Frankie Rodriguez”. He was a last minute addition to the playoff roster replacing another player on the 40 man roster. That September he made his first appearance in Oakland on 9/18/2002. No one was expecting anything from the Angels in the playoffs that year. Neither the Yankees nor the Twins knew who they were going to play in the 2002 playoffs.

The 2002 Angels were a very “special” team that had a remarkable season. Amazing defense, walk off hits, and the 2002 Anaheim Angels were going to show the world that you can never rule out the wild card team in MLB. Every player on the roster, along with all of the coaches played a vital part in that “special” team. Mike Scioscia had two of his coaches eventually get their chance to manage at the Major League Level. Bud Black in San Diego, and Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay.

Fast forward to 2008! Angels finally made the “big move” with adding Mark Teixeira to their lineup. The Yankees have gone from being playoff favorites to a “when’s my tee time?” team. The team that is being discounted in the playoffs certainly isn’t the Angels this year. The Angels have taken their place as the playoff favorite’s right along with the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, but the team that is “flying under the radar” is the Tampa Bay Rays. With Mike Scioscia’s former bench coach Joe Maddon at the helm, the Rays are a team to contend with this post season.

Even with the Angels having clinched their playoff spot on September 10th, the conclusion of their regular season hasn’t been a time to “take a breather” for the team. With a well stocked bench, Mike Scioscia has been able to rest Vladimir Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar amongst many other players in the Angels system. The Angels certainly will be a tough team to beat this post season with well rested players and more than likely Home Field Advantage.

The Tampa Bay Rays are having a season similar to the 2002 Anaheim Angels. No one had heard of the Rays before this season. Even if you were a Rays fan, you certainly could not have predicted that the Rays would be in playoff contention this late in the season, let alone challenging the Angels for Home Field Advantage in the playoffs. I fully expect the Rays to do well in the playoffs, and any team that is going to beat them is certainly going to have to “earn it”.

Sometimes the student out performs their teachers expectations. The Angels certainly have high expectations based upon the medias outlook for them, but the best is yet to come. Exactly who the teacher is, and who the student will be is a good question. Joe Maddon has certainly done a great job, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best baseball coaches in the past decade. I look forward to a very exciting playoff season this year. Now it's time to play some baseball!
Love to hear what you think!

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