The Dodgers Are Dead

Long live the Angels

It was understandable when the city of Anaheim kicked hard after the Angels decided they wanted to be known as the Los Angeles Angels—throwing in "of Anaheim" as kind of a "no hard feelings, hope we can still be friends" parting gift. Like many a spurned suitor, Anaheim let it be known it did not want to be friends, and if it couldn't have the Angels, no one else could and took the team to court. All so predictable.

What was surprising was that the Los Angeles City Council figured they ought to weigh in on the matter and sent deputy city attorney Edward Jordan to file a brief in support of Anaheim, which didn't ask for the help. It was so surprising that when Jordan presented the brief, a flummoxed Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos told him, "I'm not sure you really have any standing." Adding, "Isn't this something you should take up with Major League Baseball?"

Maybe it's something we should take up right here and now because what I'm hearing from you, Los Angeles, is a lot of fear. And I can understand it. For years, the Angels—Los Angeles, California or Anaheim Angels—have always been behind the Dodgers. Yet here we are in a new century, and it is the Angels who are closest removed from a World Series championship, the Dodgers having last won when Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson ran the world.

This year, the Angels surpassed the Dodgers in sales of season and single-game tickets. They have a dynamic owner and a star-studded roster including the reigning American League MVP. Sound familiar? That's right, they're the Dodgers! The Dodgers of the '60s, '70s and '80s. You remember those Dodgers, don't you, Los Angeles? Great teams with great players willing to go toe-to-toe with the titans of the game, whether it be Sparky Anderson's Big Red Machine or George Steinbrenner's Evil Empire.

The Angels are like that now, willing to slug it out for free agents with the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, which they did when they signed the best player in the game, Vladimir Guerrero. The Dodgers? They shy away from a fight with the Seattle Mariners and lose their best player, Adrian Beltre, coming off his best year.

That attitude comes from having an aggressive, dynamic owner, the kind who's willing to piss off a few—a lot—of people to get what's best for his team. The Angels have an owner like that: Arte Moreno. The Dodgers had one, too: Walter O'Malley, who nobody seemed to like, especially when he made it clear that he desired to have "Los Angeles" across his players' chests.

Of course, Walter died, and his son Peter took over and eventually sold the team to Fox, which, for all its WhenAnimalsAttackguilty-pleasure crassness, had a decidedly C-Span approach to baseball. The team was boring and remained so until last year, when it sold it to Frank McCourt, who most people believe didn't have the temperament—or money—to field a winner. He seemed to disprove when his team won the division in dramatic fashion on a grand slam by Steve Finley. Of course, he then immediately dismantled the team, apparently to save money, and Steve Finley is now the starting center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels.

Finley, the day he signed, said he was excited to be with an organization that was all about winning. See, players actually want to play for the Angels. You remember when they felt that way about the Dodgers—don't you? When the Dodgers were a Cadillac operation as opposed to just the latest stop along the way for Jose Valentin?

I haven't even mentioned the most obvious Dodger connection: Angels manager Mike Scioscia and coaches Alfredo Griffin, Mickey Hatcher and Ron Roenicke are all former Dodgers and brought with them the idea of pride in what was once known as the Dodgers way to play baseball. That's now become the Angels way: aggressive, tough, relentless, slightly reckless, always exciting. The Dodgers way is now, um, what?

So you see, Los Angeles? You're not getting a newteam; you're getting the old team that somebody somehow took away from you years ago. It's okay to root for this Los Angeles baseball team; you've been doing it for most of your life. Go ahead and say it: "Go Angels!"

And would it kill you to mix in a "thank you" while you're at it?

 
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