Your National League Championship Series matchup: L.A.’s team vs. L.A.’s team.
There is a disclaimer, of course: the Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers each have to win one more game to get there. If they do, the team that calls Los Angeles home will play the team with three lineup anchors who have long called Los Angeles home.
“I don’t think there’s any team that has more L.A. connections than we have,” Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said.
Braun attended Granada Hills High. Outfielder Christian Yelich, the MVP-to-be, attended Westlake High. Third baseman Mike Moustakas, who attended Chatsworth High, said all three players now live in Malibu.
So does Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, who last month tore his Achilles tendon on the beach, charging to the rescue of his labradoodle, who was under attack by a larger dog. His dog is fine. His rehabilitation includes a modified scooter, decorated in Brewers gear.
Milwaukee is the smallest market in the major leagues, and a long way from the Pacific Ocean.
“We’ve got a lake,” Attanasio said. “Maybe not an ocean, but a lake.”
Attanasio loves to tell the story of how, not long after he bought the team, a guy driving a garbage truck ran up to welcome him to Milwaukee.
“And he took his glove off too,” Attanasio said.
The kids that grew up in the big city swear by Milwaukee, even if they did not know much about the place before playing there.
“I just had the vision of watching Brett Favre play in the snow, so I just assumed that it was cold,” Braun said.
Braun, a six-time All-Star, twice skipped the chance for free agency to sign contract extensions with the Brewers. Attanasio calls him “a cheerleader for the city.”
Said Braun: “It’s such a special place to spend the summer, because it’s such a small window of good weather. In L.A., we’re spoiled. We have good weather year-round. In Milwaukee, it’s a three- or four-month window, so every day, there’s a carnival, concert, festival, something going on. Everybody is outside. It’s 45 degrees, and they have shorts and T-shirts on.
“The time we spend there is the best time of the year in Milwaukee.”
Braun, in his 12th season there, said he has helped newcomers Moustakas and Yelich find good places to eat, nice neighborhoods, and ways to navigate what relatively little traffic there might be.
“It’s an awesome city,” Moustakas said. “I’m from L.A., but I try to keep to myself. I’m not a big-city guy.”
“It’s a great baseball town,” Yelich said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
The Brewers ranked in the top 10 in attendance this season and last, despite ranking 30th in market size and playing in a city with a population closer to the size of Fresno than L.A. In Attanasio’s 14 seasons as owner, the Brewers have had seven winning seasons, three postseason appearances, and one 90-loss season.
The smallest market in the majors might be the easiest one in which to sell tanking, but Attanasio wants no part of it.
“You can break things down, but it’s not easy,” he said. “Just because you break them down doesn’t mean you’re going to get back to where you want to get to.
“Plus, I just hate to lose.”
Attanasio could have eliminated his frequent Milwaukee commute without sacrificing ownership of a major league team. However, he declined to assemble a group to bid on his hometown Dodgers when Frank McCourt put them up for sale in 2011, even though one of Attanasio’s investors in the Brewers has season tickets “literally behind the dugout” at Dodger Stadium.
“I’ve got things set up, where God willing, my kids can take this over some day,” Attanasio said. “I’m dug in here, for the long haul.
“Every ownership group is different. This is all mine. It’s all the fun, and all the pain. It’s all on me. I have other investors, but I’m the only decision-maker.”
The Brewers and Dodgers each hold 2-0 leads in the best-of-five division series. The Brewers play Game 3 against Colorado here Sunday; the Dodgers play Game 3 in Atlanta.
“We’re a long way from worrying about L.A.,” Yelich said.
And if the Brewers were fortunate enough to play the Dodgers, and the kids that grew up in the stands at Dodger Stadium take the field against them, with the World Series on the line?
“It’s going to be way different than when we played there during the regular season,” Yelich said. “It’s going to be strictly a business trip. You won’t be able to cater to anybody’s needs. You’re not going to be able to say hello. You have to minimize the distractions.
“I may even turn my phone completely off.”
But how will all your friends track you down to ask for tickets?