Welcome back, Angels and Dodgers. Los Angeles needs you.
I uncovered a new species of Angeleno sports fan the other day. It was scary. It was surreal. It was the type of fan I long feared was coming, but never believed would actually appear.
I met someone who had never heard of Kirk Gibson’s home run.
She is the vice president of an established Westside business who had lived here six years and loved sports and followed the Dodgers and, yet, she had no idea. Can you imagine how odd that sounded? Worse yet, can you imagine having to explain it?
There I sat, full of ums and ahs, talking about one leg and one swing and the most famous fist pumps in baseball history, all the while thinking, do I really have to do this?
The only thing even remotely as crazy is being forced to explain to a perfectly rational sports fan about Scott Spiezio.
This also happened to me recently at spring training. I was talking with a young guy who professed to know all about the Angels but had no idea about the most famous hit in their history.
I explained about a 5-0 deficit, about Russ Ortiz keeping a baseball and Felix Rodriguez serving one up, about a little pop fly that miraculously fell into the right-field stands, a moment so sweet it could not even be tainted later by a suspicion of steroids.
It was momentarily nice to resurrect the moment. But, as with Gibson, it was both shocking and a little bit sad that it needed resurrecting.
Has it been that long? Have we forgotten that much? While those examples are extreme, the message is clear.
With every year that passes without a championship, baseball around here slowly loses its buzz. It’s losing its sense of history and its cherished spot in the hearts of fans who find their attentions stretched and their memories fading.
The crowds have never been larger, but the faith, it seems, has never been weaker. Two teams, one combined championship in the last 21 years, that just doesn’t cut it. During that time, the Lakers have won four titles, USC football has won two and baseball’s entire title output has been exactly matched by the Ducks.
Last fall, there was the jolt of both teams advancing to league championship series. But once again, the jolt fizzled, Jonathan Broxton cringing in Philadelphia, Angel fielders fumbling in New York, a Freeway Series turned SigAlert.
With another season beginning next week, Los Angeles baseball needs to come out swinging, find a way to sweep up the city through the Laker playoffs and USC football opener, produce a summer that will remind everyone around here that, at its roots, this is still a baseball town.
Isn’t it? I don’t know. I forget.
Los Angeles needs the McCourts to take their divorce underground, settle it quietly, make it go away. The details have become distracting to the baseball operation, demeaning to the brand and permanently damaging to their legacy. Isn’t that something they can both agree upon?
Los Angeles needs the Angels to shoot their All-Star party to the heavens. Can you imagine the noise at the midsummer classic at Angel Stadium if both a Dodger and Angel are in the starting lineup? How about Kendry Morales for the Angels and Matt Kemp for the Dodgers? Vote ‘em up.
Los Angeles needs Clayton Kershaw to be an ace. The easy-smiling Texas kid with the Koufax attributes could be the almost perfect summer baseball story
Los Angeles needs Jered Weaver to be an ace. The surfer-splashed Southland kid with the Valley genes would be the absolute perfect summer baseball story.
Los Angeles needs the Dodgers to clean up the Dodger Stadium stands, crack down on the thugs, toughs and Raider rowdies, make it safe for families and opposing fans again.
Los Angeles needs the Angels to mess up the Angel Stadium stands, pelt them with home runs from what could be the most powerful lineup in years, mashers from Matsui to Morales, from A (Abreu) to W (Wood), as frightening as all Godzilla.
Los Angeles needs Manny Ramirez to continue keeping his mouth shut and just play. The steroid talk will disappear when the swing returns.
Los Angeles needs Torii Hunter to keep talking, moving past the criticism about his misunderstood Latino commentary. No player in town is more thoughtful and entertaining.
Los Angeles needs Don Mattingly to learn how to manage, and quick. He really is going to replace Joe Torre, perhaps as soon as this winter, and it should scare the heck out of people that he has never managed before. People, meaning him.
Los Angeles needs Mike Scioscia to just keep being Mike Scioscia, forever and ever, amen.
Los Angeles needs the Dodgers to sweep the Yankees at home on June 25, 26, and 27, a milestone series with season-long implications.
Los Angeles needs the Angels to sweep the Yankees in their Yankee Stadium home opener April 13, 14, 15, if only because it would be such great fun.
Los Angeles needs Vin Scully to stay on his feet when he’s walking across the bathroom floor. OK? Please?