The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won the American League West Championship last week.
As I type these words, they have the best record in all of baseball. And with only a handful of games left, they must be considered one of the favorites to make it to the World Series.
Is anyone excited about this prospect? Are there huge throngs of fans who are giddy at the concept of the Angels playing deep into October?
I have been a resident of Southern California for a while now. I have witnessed up close both the Dodgers and the Angels making it to their respective LCS. In my years of living in California, I have met maybe 10 Angels fans, and very few wearing Angels gear.
I remember seeing someone with an Angels cap and sweatshirt not long after Albert Pujols signed his long term deal with the Halos.
I said to him, “You must be excited about Pujols coming over, right?”
He responded, “Oh yeah, the new first baseman. I hear he is pretty good.”
Listen to sports talk in Southern California, and save for the playoffs, the Angels will scarcely get a mention.
And as a fan base, the they hardly can be considered one of the strongest. Yes, I know there are individual Angels fans out there whose love and devotion to the team has no boundaries and who wept a tear when Jim Fregosi passed away last year.
But as a whole, they are not a team that inspires much emotion, negatively or positively. There are not a lot of transplanted Angels fans across the country. People who move from where they grew up tend to keep the teams of their youth. That’s why Arizona has so many Cubs fans, and Florida’s most popular team is probably the Yankees.
Not a lot of people move out of California. Maybe that’s why California has many “Boston Bars” and “New York Bars,” but you would be hard pressed to go to Brooklyn and find an “Orange County Bar.”
Their metrics put the Angels near the bottom in all categories, including the worst Social Media Equity in the American League. I confess I do not understand all of the math. But I do know that doesn’t look good.
Who do the Angels play for anyway? California baseball is intriguing, with the North and South rivalry between the Giants and Dodgers, and the chip on the shoulder and carnival atmosphere in Oakland.
Even San Diego fans, few that there are, have pride in their city and their underrated misery.
But the Angels?
Since 1996, the Angels haven’t moved, but have had three different location names, a state, the city they actually reside in, and the metropolis in another county that the residents of Anaheim seem to resent.
With the awkward “of Anaheim” suffix in their name, they represent the 56th biggest city in the country, playing for fans that only exist in between Irvine and Long Beach, who need prompting from a primate to cheer in a ballpark that has the Thunder Mountain Railroad in center field.
Ladies and Gentlemen your World Series front runners!
Fox might consider bringing back The X Factor because ratings for the World Series might be too low to record.
But before the cyanide capsules are consumed, the TV executives should keep something in mind:
While the Angels could be the World Champions nobody WANTS, they could be the exact champions that baseball NEEDS!
Kind of like eating vegetables, the Angels winning it all might not be so pleasurable, but it will be good for us.
What is the nourishment of the Angels?
Seafood… specifically Trout. Mike Trout.
As Derek Jeter fatigue has swept the nation a year after the Mariano Rivera celebration got the best of us, baseball finds itself lacking a marquee national star.
There are wonderful players to be sure . Die hard fans of the game like myself see that Buster Posey, Giancarlo Stanton, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez and many more are thrilling and worth watching.
But no player has yet become that bigger-than-the-sport figure that a new generation can have as their own star.
The Angels just happen to have a candidate for that role. Mike Trout is the best in the business and arguably its greatest all-around player. Loved by traditional fans for being a 5-tool, hustling player, and the new stats crowd for his off-the-charts numbers, Trout has something for everyone.
He plays with a flair for the dramatic, and has the humble, team-first quality that gave Jeter his aura while still being a decent pitchman.
Trout could be the new face of the game as attention shifts from the Northeast out west. In fact, the anonymity of the Angels franchise could work to Trout’s advantage.
Most of the annoyance fans have regarding Jeter’s farewell is based on their hatred for the Yankees. People have hated the Yankees for generations. Often times, their team lost at the hands of Jeter and the Yankees.
But the world doesn’t hate the Angels. There is no musical called Damn Angels. Save for a few A’s and Rangers fans, or maybe someone who doesn’t like those strange Head and Shoulders commercials where women are sniffing C. J. Wilson’s hair, people aren’t lining up to HATE the Angels. They have no baggage as a franchise.
When Michael Jordan took over the NBA, he played for the Bulls, a franchise that didn’t have the animosity of the Celtics or Lakers. Most people could not find Edmonton on the map when Wayne Gretzky showed up.
If the rest of the country could discover Trout, they would be rooting for HIM rather than the team. And what better showcase for Trout than a World Series?
Baseball has had potential national stars, especially in the wake of the 1994 strike, but they never took off with the World Series as a showcase.
Ken Griffey Jr. was a transcendent talent playing for an obscure team. He got the 5 homers and the Division Series-clinching mad dash home in 1995, but never saw a pennant with the Mariners nor the Reds.
Barry Bonds was one of the great players of all time. But nobody ever liked him, even before his body expanded faster than Bruce Banner on a bad day.
Alex Rodriguez couldn’t win a pennant in Texas nor Seattle, and by the time he arrived in New York, he was public enemy number one. Seeing him fail in October became a national pastime.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the Milli Vanilli of baseball.
Cal Ripken became that beloved pre-Jeter figure, but his lone World Series took place in 1983 when his consecutive game streak was only a few hundred long.
With Trout, the best young superstar in the game is currently in his prime. Since traditional northeast teams are out, and that regional bias will not not applicable this October, this could be a time for Fox, MLB, ESPN and Turner Sports to shine their spotlight on a new superstar.
He isn’t going to jail. He isn’t on steroids (we hope). He is in his prime. He is signed long term. He is the consensus pick for best player in the game. And he plays on a team that most have no ill will towards.
Other than that, he has nothing going for him.
So sitting here in late September, does anyone WANT to see the Angels in the World Series?
Not many do.
But not many enjoyed eating carrots and broccoli, either. In the end it was good to do, made bodies stronger and helped you live longer.
Baseball could use some of that nourishment.
Time to eat your veggies. A post-Jeter, bigger-than-life star plays in a tiny sliver of land between Los Angeles and San Diego. That could be the game’s future.
Paul Sullivan is a Contributor for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @SullyBaseball.