It could be World Series bust for Dodgers, Angels

first_imgThe stage is set.Again.Since the late, great 1988, Dodger Stadium has been the site of an outdoor NHL game, the annual launch to the L.A. Marathon, motocross and monster truck rallies, an international soccer tournament, the finals of the World Baseball Classic, the starting point of the “Amazing Race” reality show, concerts by the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen and “The Three Tenors” and even a pretend concert starring Tom Cruise in the Hollywood musical “Rock of Ages.”What would it take for the Dodgers to rock some aged Angelinos and cruise to a World Series now that a quarter century has passed since their last one? Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error In Orange County, it’s only been since 2002 when Angel Stadium put on a Game 7 celebration in October. Heck, it wasn’t even named Angel Stadium back then. And the Angels weren’t more than just another Disney-owned amusement.In the time spent waiting for another Mike Scioscia supernova, there have been more high school football championships crowned at the Big A. You, too, may have seen U2 perform there. Even perhaps attended a mass evangelical gathering or two.Anyone think to put in a good word to the heavens that maybe a Fall Classic falls into the Angels’ laps before Arte Moreno threatens a move to a new home field?The Dodgers and Angels have done admirable jobs trying to distract their loyal following with sideshows and circus acts in the absence of world championships.Enough about the drought the state of California faces with its water supply. These teams should be watering down their outfield grass with sparkling champagne coming out of the sprinklers.center_img It may not take a governor’s state of emergency declaration to get this thing moving forward, but there should be a sense of urgency to get something done sooner than later.To get either the Dodgers or Angels to book a date on the calendar for a more baseball-related extravaganza later in 2014, we’ve set up these staging areas to see what needs to happen. Turn down the house lights:ACT I: COSTUME CHANGESThe Dodgers didn’t need to do much in the offseason to bulk up, but new second baseman Alex Guerrero hasn’t been given much time to prove what he brings to the lineup. Patience apparently is not the team’s greatest virtue here.The Angels’ most noteworthy move last winter may be landing Don Baylor as hitting coach (handy if there’s ever a Dodgers-Angels bench-clearing brawl and Mark McGwire decides to step in). Planting former World Series MVP David Freese at third base and veteran Raul Ibanez (a .394 career mark at Angel Stadium) as designated hitter may not make Angels fans fret over the loss of Mike Trumbo, but they’ll have to get over that.ACT II: BUILDING BUZZThe Dodgers’ 2-0 record in the NL West before they even become part of the false ESPN Opening Night festivities seems to have come despite all their greatest fears about going to Australia. Now, 15 of their 23 games in April are at home. A year ago, the Dodgers had a 13-13 first month of the season.The Angels have compiled the fourth-worst winning percentage in all of baseball for April the last two seasons combined. The killer road trip comes quickly in 2014 — nine games in 11 days at Detroit, Washington and the N.Y. Yankees, from April 18-27. Maybe it’s one of those team bonding experiences. Maybe not.ACT III: PITCH PERFECTThe Dodgers used it to ignite their drive to the NL Championship Series a year ago, only to see Cy Young ace Clayton Kershaw crumble in the decisive game at St. Louis. Even with precautions taken about Kershaw’s recent back problems, the Dodgers have about as deep a starting five as anyone, and that includes dragging Josh Beckett back into it. If there comes a point where they’re plugging Stephen Fife into a game for a spot start, that shouldn’t be a sign of weakness.In the bullpen, Kenley Jansen’s emergence as a stone-cold lockdown closer could put him in the franchise’s top five all-time save leaders by the time the season ends. Not bad for a 26-year-old converted catcher. Brian Wilson’s re-inventing himself as the black-bearded set-up man gives the group plenty of character assassins.The Angels have really nothing bright and shiny to offer past Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and that will hurt them when the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots come up against the best of the AL West on a regular basis. Not even Joe Blanton could have fixed things if they kept him around. Expect Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher to get butchered again in the media if nothing materializes.Their best-laid plans to once have Ryan Madsen as their closer ended late last year when he couldn’t come back from injury, leaving Ernesto Frieri as the de-facto back end man (37 saves in 41 opportunities last year) and keep that role moving forward. Is he supposed to be the next Francisco Rodriguez?ACT IV: DANCING WITH THE STARSAdrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig will continue to be the ongoing dynamic to watch play out. Gonzalez could have 75 RBIs just from driving in Puig from somewhere on the diamond, unless Puig runs himself, and the team, out of an inning.Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols may be weighted down by their wallets, but it’ll be The Year of the Trout if MLB has anything to say about it. He’s already on Sports Illustrated’s preview cover with the headline: “The Game’s Best Player is Ready to Mash.”ACT V: INTERMISSIONThe Dodgers have proven to be one of the more daring teams with making mid-season adjustments since the Guggenheim takeover, giving GM Ned Colletti the tools to make things happen. Whatever issues may have shown themselves from April to June will be fixed, based on their track record.The Angels have only lately used the summer months to grab pitchers about to go to free agency, such as Zach Greinke and Dan Haren. And where are those two high-priced hurlers now? Jerry DiPoto will have to prove his creative ability to do something more substantial this time around.ACT VI: THE UNDERSTUDIESMaking Skip Schumacher, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr., disappear while replacing them with Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon and Justin Turner may prove to be the most ineffective way to cut corners for the Dodgers. This, along with allowing Mark Ellis to leave, will be their most obvious holes as the season moves on.The Angels’ bench has Hank Conger, Brennan Boesch and John McDonald. Excited yet?ACT VII: THE TRAP DOORMatt Kemp’s recovery from his ankle problems will be an ongoing issue. So will occasional flareups by Ramirez, Carl Crawford and, most likely, Puig (depending on what day it is). Don Mattingly’s challenge is having the players be honest with him about their injury status — the communications problems he’s had in the past with this issue seems to drag him down. Here’s another thought: How messed up would they on many fronts if A.J. Ellis took a foul ball off a vital body part and suddenly was inactive?Pujols’ worth ethic gives the Angels hope their 34-year-old star will be all good coming back in decent shape from the foot problems. How much Hamilton manages to balance the disabled list with left field will be the other ongoing backstory.ACT VIII: REWRITESThe Giants may be the only other NL West team capable of winning 90 games, so the health of players like Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain always will come into play. Arizona’s 2013 All-Star Patrick Corbin (Tommy John surgery) is already done for the year. If Washington is the preseason NL favorite to make the most noise, a lot depends on whether Stephen Stausburg, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth avoid rehab assignments.A saving grace for the Angels is Texas is without pitcher Derek Holland, second baseman Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto until midseason, and Oakland’s former Opening Day Starter Jarrod Parker will miss the season with Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, there’s a light at the top of the AL West.ACT IX: CURTAIN CALLThe Dodgers will have the tagline “baseball’s biggest payroll” with that $235 million ball and chain to drag behind them everywhere they go. Can money buy glory? Anything less than a World Series appearance will be considered a cash-call failure. At least the new, supposedly improved Dodger Stadium Wi-Fi may keep fans distracted in the meantime.The reason why the Angels have missed the playoffs for the last five seasons vary. Says Weaver, “We gotta get back there.”Or else maybe the Angels start firing up the center field waterfall display more often to keep the crying kids happy. Sorry, no refunds on another non-playoff season. It doesn’t say so on the back of the ticket, but it’s implied.Maybe you can trade them in for a discount on an off-season dirt bike event instead?last_img

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