Dodgers-Angels merge as contenders in fast lane for Freeway Series

Dodgers-Angels merge as contenders in fast lane for Freeway Series
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, left, and Angels center fielder Mike Trout have each done their part to keep their teams in the hunt for their respective division titles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times; Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

For the most part, baseball has been very good to us in Southern California. Next week, it gets better.

Dodgers versus Angels. Four games, the first two at Dodger Stadium on Monday and Tuesday nights, then Wednesday and Thursday nights at Angel Stadium. Even better, they are both good teams, two of only six in the majors with 60 or more wins.


How often do we get an up-close-and-personal, head-to-head look at the locals, when both are contenders? And in August?

The last time they both reached the playoffs was 2009. The Dodgers' bowed out in five games in the National League Championship Series that season; the Angels bowed out in the American League Championship Series in six games. That's nearly a four-year drought, and yes, that's an especially bad word these days.

So much has happened in Chavez Ravine and so little in Anaheim.

New Dodgers owners with pots of gold and visions of grandeur sent Frank McCourt back to tend to his parking lots, encumbered only by pockets stuffed with cash. Joe Torre stepped down and recently stepped into the Hall of Fame. Don Mattingly took over for him in the dugout and should have joined Torre in the Hall of Fame, but that will come.

Manny stopped being Manny and became a poster boy for pathos. Ned Colletti, who had to work closely with McCourt and never took a swing at him, has continued to shuffle the cards and make the team better. Yasiel Puig showed up from Cuba and we're still not quite sure whether he came by rowboat, submarine or broom handle. He's so good, we mostly don't care.

Oh yes, this Scully guy said recently he will return to the broadcast booth for yet another season. Sources say he is returning because he feels he is starting to get the hang of the job.

In Anaheim, Mike Scioscia is still calling the shots from the dugout. His 2002 World Series title is the Southland's most recent. Twelve years. There's that drought thing again.

New General Manager Jerry Dipoto seems to have finally gathered a bullpen that throws strikes, not kerosene. And Arte Moreno is playing usual owner games with the locals about stadium improvements, or land gifts to build shops and restaurants and help finance the improvements the Angels say they need at the Big A.

There appears to be a need for new rocks in center field, but other than that, the Big A looks fine. But then, we forget that what was once a baseball stadium for owners is now not so much brick and mortar as leverage.

Oh yes, and in Anaheim they also have this kid named Mike Trout, who is a lot like Scully. He seems to be getting the hang of things. Being the MVP of this year's All-Star game might be one indication.

This is a real Freeway Series. That thing they hold at the end of spring training isn't. The games don't count and the teams play accordingly.

It is August. This matters. If you are one of those fans who never watches an NBA game until the last five minutes, it is your time.

A four-game sweep can be a World Series springboard to one team and the door to a depressing winter for the other. It's don't-miss drama, Clayton Kershaw staring down Trout and Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver doing the same to Puig and Adrian Gonzales.

This all happens way past the bedtimes of all those people in the East. We get this all to ourselves.


If you can't go, watch on TV.


We almost forgot. The Time Warner Cable foolishness goes on. No TW cable, no Dodgers.

There has been much written about this and it all seems simple. The Dodgers are at fault. They are the bad guys. They need to fix it.

The cable companies are corporations. They are wired to make money. Nothing else. They prattle on about customer service, but they only do so as another means to enhance profit. Their mission is their bank account. Period. Hoping for their compassion is silly.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, bought a community treasure, a community trust. That brings a higher, more subtle and significant calling than merely making a profit.

They bought memories of Koufax and Drysdale. They bought Duke Snider hitting one out and Maury Wills stealing home. They bought Wally Moon and the big screen in the Coliseum and Tommy Lasorda telling us what he really thought about Dave Kingman's performance.

For the Dodgers to couch it any other way — as strictly business, as a problem just between the cable companies — is a shameful ducking of the civic responsibility that came with the signatures on the purchase contract.

The good news is that fans of both teams can, indeed, see every minute of these important four games. Just watch the Angels telecasts. And if you are a Dodgers fan and feeling disloyal, pipe in Vinny's voice from the radio.

Maybe the Angels telecasts on Fox will draw such good ratings it will embarrass the Dodgers into acting. Better yet, maybe they will come to grips with how big, and rare, next week's Freeway Series is and get it fixed before that. For the fans.

The message is simple: Don't just buy us peanuts and Cracker Jack. If that's all you do, we may never come back.