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Angels Move to Front of Pack When It Comes to His Loyalties

There’s a point to make here, and I’m not sure the Angels could make it emphatically enough by crossing home plate 13 times.

OK, perhaps the 22 hits and the seven shutout innings by Jarrod Washburn let everyone know they really are the A team, but I wanted it to go on and on. Did they have to stop pounding the Dodgers at 13-0?

There was a time when living in L.A. meant not having to choose. Mountains and beaches, culture or kitsch, National League or American League, you could have it all within a two-hour drive.

Now it’s pick a side. Coliseum vs. Rose Bowl for a new NFL team. Kobe vs. Shaq for what’s left of the old Laker team.

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So if I’ve got to choose between our big-league baseball teams, I’m going with the Angels. And I noticed a good share of red-clad fans at Dodger Stadium were with me Friday night.

Until the Dodgers learn how to get it right, I’m going with the owner who has shown a commitment to his fans, the general manager who has made the right moves, the organization that is setting an example of how to do it the right way.

Both teams entered Friday night 2 1/2 games out of first place in their respective divisions, the Angels despite a season’s worth of injuries in the first two months, the Dodgers almost in spite of themselves.

The Dodgers were in first place after 59 of their first 67 games, but now it’s as if they realize that they really aren’t that good, that failing to make at least one major acquisition will have its repercussions. Cesar Izturis is exceeding expectations and Adrian Beltre is finally living up to them. Paul Lo Duca is hitting once again, but this team can’t go on pretending that Shawn Green is an adequate centerpiece for the lineup. Manager Jim Tracy has tried moving Green to different spots in the order and even to the bench, and it couldn’t change the fact that he was hitting .249 for the season and .222 with runners in scoring position through the first 70 games. He was one for 14 during the Dodgers’ four-game sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants this week. This is a supposed star?

The Angels have survived injuries to Garret Anderson (42 games), Darin Erstad (31), Tim Salmon (35), Brendan Donnelly (64), Bengie Molina (13 games), and the current disabled list of Troy Percival, Raul Mondesi, Aaron Sele, Shane Halter and potential season-ending shoulder surgery for Troy Glaus.

Yet they keep plugging away, thanks in large part to the magnificent Vladimir Guerrero. With that wince-inducing gait of his it looks as if his back might give out before he reaches first base, but he has carried the Angels so far. He provided the only run the Angels really needed Friday when he blasted a home run to center field in the top of the first.

The rest of their season-high in runs and hits were gratuitous for this victory, but perhaps it’s the boost the Angels need to get a little run together. Before the game, Anderson said the Angels were just kind of hovering, sorting things out. He was just rounding back into shape himself in the two weeks since he came off the DL, still getting his timing.

Three hits should help him. And Erstad’s first home run of the season could get him back in the mix after being a virtual non-factor through the first three months. In the ninth inning he even managed a single off “feared” closer Robin Ventura. (Yes, things got a little out of hand Friday night).

The Angels caught all the breaks.

They survived a baserunning mistake by Chone Figgins (who hesitated before rounding second and was thrown out at third) and still scored a run in the third inning. A high fly by Adam Kennedy, the type of ball that usually dies at Dodger Stadium during the early summer, carried into the right-field seats for a home run. Figgins, who has struggled at third base since replacing Glaus, turned two tough grounders into double plays.

The Dodgers saw a rally fizzle in the bottom of the sixth when Anderson made a sliding catch to rob Green and Washburn snared a liner by Beltre.

Good, good and more good.

Angel fans showed plenty of love for Arte Moreno last year. They turned out in record numbers -- 3,061,094 of them, in all -- to bask in the afterglow of the 2002 World Series, even though the 2003 squad finished 19 games out of first.

So Moreno did what an owner should do. He returned the favor and brought in $146 million worth of players.

When fans pay their money they don’t want to hear about debt servicing or fiscal responsibility. They want results. Show them some players. Moreno and Bill Stoneman produced Kelvim Escobar, Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen and then the spectacular finale, Guerrero.

While the Angels were buying, the Dodgers were selling. First the franchise, and then the notion that they’d be better off by dumping Kevin Brown’s salary on New York for Jeff Weaver.

Amazingly, Dodger fans kept snatching up tickets. The Dodgers announced a sellout crowd of 54,617 Friday, giving them as many sellouts (11) for the season as they had all of last year. A historic visit by the New York Yankees helped.

Good thing the Angels are still around to fill seats for the rest of the weekend. The bad news for the Dodgers is they’ll be available for viewing all season long down Interstate 5.

Ah, choices.

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J.A. Adande can be reached at j.a.adande@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Adande, go to latimes.com/adande.


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