Hey, L.A. baseball fans. We didn’t see this one coming, did we? It kind of hit us over the head like Juan Marichal’s bat, didn’t it?
The San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers are in the World Series. It was supposed to be the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies again. We could have lived with that. We could just ignore the whole thing and chalk it up to another East Coast conspiracy.
We could scoff at the Yankees for buying more postseason glory and further ruining whatever pretense there once was of competitive balance in the major leagues. And we could nod grudging respect toward the Phillies and, after a couple of beers, theorize that had Jayson Werth not been hit on the wrist by that A.J. Burnett pitch, the Dodgers would have kept him right here in Chavez Ravine, where he belongs, and this Phillies’ run might never have happened.
We wonder what kind of TV ratings the Giants-Rangers series will bring, especially since the entire L.A. market is likely to hit the off button on the remote. It’s Lakers season now, so we can rationalize our indifference.
If we are honest, we would admit this is painful.
It isn’t just Dodgers fans this time.
Obviously, there is nothing subtle about their dislike for anything to do with the Giants, especially any success. That is long established. These two teams have been playing each other, in New York and California, since 1883. That’s 127 years of festering.
There is no way of estimating how many delighted San Franciscans will be e-mailing acquaintances in L.A. a link to Russ Hodges’ magic radio call in 1951, just after Bobby Thomson took Ralph Branca yard, as we say in baseball-speak.
“The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants” … never mind. He said it at least three more times, but who’s counting?
Dodgers fans may be able to counter with Vin Scully’s call of Steve Finley’s grand slam in 2004, but that would be a bit feeble.
So much has built up over the years, and Marichal’s connection to John Roseboro’s head is only part of it. There is Barry Bonds hitting that homer in 1997 and twirling his bat. There is Jackie Robinson, retiring from the game before the 1957 season, rather than going to the Giants in a trade. Of course, Tommy Lasorda probably made up that story, but who cares. It just feels right.
Don’t forget Angels fans in this.
Just because Dodgers fans have established, cultivated, time-honored hate to fall back on doesn’t mean there aren’t some churning stomachs down the freeway around Anaheim. The American League World Series team is recent divisional doormat Texas — the old choke-when-it-gets-hot-in-August Rangers. They are now where Angels fans thought their team would be. It’s somehow more palatable to see the Eastern elite Yankees or Boston Red Sox playing for the big prize.
The Angels-Rangers isn’t really a big rivalry yet, or maybe not a rivalry at all. Compared to the Dodgers-Giants, it’s a couple of guys sticking out their tongues at each other. But it has the makings of something, starting with the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson sniffing at the Angels’ chances at midseason by telling reporters his team was clearly better and adding, “It might not even be that close.”
That he was so right sticks deeper in the craw.
Then there was the Vladimir Guerrero deal. The Angels superstar and power hitter was deemed to be well into the twilight of his career and was allowed to leave after the 2009 season via free agency. So, of course, he goes to the team against whom the Angels have battled most closely in the division for the last three seasons and always won out. This year, Guerrero has an All-Star season with Texas. Guess who is the center of the classic Rangers celebration photo, viewed by millions, in the clinching victory over the Yankees?
Yes, that’s our Vlad, signature hair flying around, leaping into the center of the victory pile.
The Dodgers and Angels have recently begun their ticket sales push for next season. Now, rivals in their respective divisions are playing in the World Series. Kind of clouds the sales pitch, doesn’t it?
Ned Colletti and Tony Reagins, respective general managers of the Dodgers and Angels, were behind the eight ball before this happened. Think about now.
And then there is Mike Scioscia, Angels manager, who had to suffer through a season of Texas swaggering and Angels stumbling, and who also spent his major league career as a Dodgers catcher, blocking home plate against various spikes to the groin, the most aggressive probably coming from players wearing Giants uniforms.
So, L.A. baseball fans, think of Scioscia. No matter how bad you feel, he feels worse.
This, too, shall pass, like most things that are miserable and unfair. But for the moment, get all the razor blades out of the medicine cabinet.