It called this space two sources ago. And, well, sometimes you’re on target and sometimes you throw it to the backstop.
From the editions of March 29, 2018:
“It’s the beauty of spring training. When it ends, everyone is still unbeaten.
So, in that spirit of optimism, why not enjoy that wild dream that baseball fans in Southern California have had for nearly six decades? The Dodgers and Angels, playing in October. Play each other in October. SoCal as the epicenter of the baseball world.
Yes, wild toss.
In any case, the Dodgers did their bit and came to the Fall Classic that year. For the Angels, it has now been six seasons since their last playoff (and the only one in Mike Trout’s career to date), 12 since their previous mooring season and 18 since that magical night of October 27, 2002, when Darin Erstad expressed the final in midfield and the Anaheim Angels were world champions.
For a baseball region blessed with such great players and great moments over the years, it’s been way too long since a SoCal team won the Commissioner’s Trophy. The oddsmakers and experts seem convinced that if that has to change in the crazy sprint of 60 games in 2020, it will be a one-sided effort. The Dodgers and Yankees are the favorites to disable it at the end, if the corona virus allows. Most forecasts, including all but one of the beat writers and columnists in this publication, have chosen the Angels to be third or worse in the AL West.
(You can always thank me, Angel fans.)
“I have not been convincing so far?” said manager Joe Maddon on Tuesday from Dodger Stadium, asked to defend his case before his team.
That so many interrupt the Angels should probably come as no surprise. The Astros have been to two World Series in three years and the A’s have won 97 games each in the past two seasons. Even with Anthony Rendon and a completely healthy Shohei Ohtani – hitting and pitching – complementing Trout, most experts seem to forget the part about past results that aren’t indicative of future performance.
“Our pitching is somewhat vilified, but I think it is better than what it is praised for,” said Maddon.
“I like that people may not evaluate them at the same level. I think there’s a lot more talent than we get the credit for. Once Rendon is healthy and Ohtani gets into his rhythm, we can go with Michael and the rest of “The group is also a very miraculous offense. But I like that we can catch baseball too.”
Maddon noted that he was in this kind of situation earlier, staring at the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East at Tampa Bay, then dealing with the Cardinals in the NL East when he was with the Cubs.
“It really comes down to it, if we think we can do it, then we can,” he said. “If we believe we can’t, we can’t. I think we can. And from what I’ve seen from our boys, (they) believe that too. “
And if there ever was a year for an underdog to quickly get out the gate and create problems for the favorites, this seems to be the year.
One problem for the Angels: they play 10 percent of their schedule against the Dodgers, which is perhaps a higher order than anything they will see in the AL West. The Dodgers grabbed a 106 victory team and added former MVP Mookie Betts, one of the game’s top five players and a player who is entering his running year, simultaneously exciting and scaring Dodger fans. The latter lasts unless and until the Dodgers get their signature on a contract.
Starring Betts only adds to the danger factor of a violation that, in its many permutations, is capable of terrorizing opposing pitching rods at night. Consider: Joc Pederson, who was anything but hidden from left-handed pitching last year while hitting 36 home runs with a .876 OPS, looked pretty good (or at least less than matched) against left-handers in the small sample size we’ve seen seen so far.
What is the most impressive thing about this club’s offensive approach? Strike zone discipline? Power? Versatility? All of the above?
“I think I love their ability to interact with left-handed and right-handed people most,” said Dave Roberts before Tuesday’s Freeway Mini-Series. “There’s a lot of versatility. Guys appreciate any pitch. We can snail you, and we really appreciate a free pass to first base if that’s the case. And I like the team aspect, the team offensive approach.
“You run with our boys, it is (possibly) a big inning for us.”
There’s also this: Betts’ work ethic and approach goes a long way in explaining his success. And so he got up shortly after the start of spring training and addressed his new teammates at the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, emphasizing the urgency of the moment and telling what it takes to win a World Series.
The last Dodger newcomer to do that in spring training, under slightly more emotional conditions? Kirk Gibson in the spring of 1988. See how it worked.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter