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Ferguson: Baseball's balance of power goes west

Scott Ferguson, TSN 1050
7/4/2014 2:46:04 PM
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Thursday night, the Blue Jays not only dropped out of first place in the American League East, they also fell below the threshold of qualifying for either of the two Wild Card spots in the American League. Their 4-1 loss at Oakland to kick off the 10-game road trip coupled with Baltimore's 5-2 win at home over Texas put the Jays in secondnd place place in the East,  one percentage point back of the Orioles. It also dropped them behind the second and third place teams in the West, the Angels and the Mariners, who now hold those Wild Card slots.

With 75 games still to play, its really too early to stress over that, but it did get me thinking about the West.

Major League Baseball didn't come to the left coast until 1958 when the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers moved there in tandem to cash in on a new and expanding market. The American League didn't get a west coast club until the league expanded in 1961 adding the Los Angeles Angels and the new Washington Senators, essentially replacing the team that moved to Minnesota.

There have been 53 seasons where it was possible for two west coast teams to have met in the World Series, from 1961 through 2013. Over that span there have only been four true western World Series.

In 1974, the Oakland A's won their third Fall Classic in a row, beating the Dodgers 4 games to 1. In 1988, 14 years later, Orel Hershizer, Kirk Gibson and the rest of the Dodgers upset Oakland 4 games to 1. The following year, 1989 in the infamous "Earthquake" series, the A's swept the Giants in four-straight. Finally in 2002, the Angels beat Barry Bonds and the Giants in seven games for their one and only World Series title in their 42nd year of existence.

Two teams that have never met in the World Series are the Dodgers and the Angels. Could it possibly happen this year?

Well, it's not so far-fetched. The Dodgers have won seven of their last 10 and have climbed over the Giants into first in the NL West by a half-game. They also have the second-best record in the National League to Milwaukee.

The Dodgers hitting stats are pretty impressive. They've scored 367 runs, fourth in the Senior Circuit, but second to Milwaukee in terms of teams holding playoff positions, They are third in team batting average in the National at .257 and third in OPS at .729.

But it's in the pitching department where they really impress. They are second in pitching ERA to Washington at 3.23. They've made 57 quality starts and four of their five starters have won at least eight games. The other, Josh Beckett has five wins and a no-hitter to his credit. The leader of the staff, and the best pitcher in the Majors right now, Clayton Kershaw, has nine victories and a no-hitter, in a near perfect game of his own. They have some flaws and a worrisome shoulder issue with shortstop Hanley Ramirez, but right now, the Dodgers look like the best all-around team in the National League with apologies to the Brewers.

Over in the American League, the Angels have won eight of their last 11 and have closed to within three-and-a-half games back of Oakland in the West. They have latched on to that first Wild Card slot. The Halos are second in hitting in the American League behind the A's. They have scored 408 runs, four more than the Blue Jays with three games in hand. They're also tied with Oakland in home runs with 91. They also have a .749 OPS behind only the Tigers and Blue Jays.

The Angels' pitching staff isn't as deep as the Dodgers, but their top three starters  Jared Weaver, C.J Wilson and Garrett Richards have combined for 26 wins. They are fourth in team ERA in the AL at 3.86 and have made 47 quality starts. Their bullpen has been up and down, but skipper Mike Scioscia is hoping Joe Smith and Jason Grilli, who was just picked up from Pittsburgh, can do the job at closing time.

The big plus-factor with both the Angels and Dodgers is hungry ownership. Arte Moreno bought the Angels from Disney in 2003, the year after they won  that World Series over the Giants, They haven't been back to the Fall Classic under his stewardship. The Dodgers ownership group, which includes Magic Johnson, bought  the club in 2012 for a record $2 billion. They are determined to win a championship, something the Dodgers haven't done since 1988.

The Angels, who have played out  of Orange County for the bulk of their existence have nearly always played second fiddle to the Dodgers in the L.A. market. The Dodgers hold the single game attendance record of 115,300, when they played their season opener at the old  Memorial Coliseum as part of a charity fund-raising event. But the Angels are no slouches in the attendance department either. Last year marked their 11th-straight season of drawing at least 3 million fans. They have also had 30 seasons of drawing 2 million, which  is second in Major League history to only the mighty Yankees.

We haven't had a so-called "Cross-town" World Series since 2000, when the Yankees beat the Mets in the battle of New York. The White Sox and Cubs haven't done it since 1906, when the " no-hit wonder " White Sox defeated the Cubs. These kinds of match-ups are few and far between.
They used to be commonplace in the early '20s and late '40s and throughout the '50s, when the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants all held sway in  New York.

 I'm not saying the Angels and Dodgers are definately going to meet in the World Series, but there is a decent shot, and it would provide some great storylines and some compelling viewing and listening.

- The Yankees are a hard team to get a handle on. They're sitting at .500 at 42-42 in the A.L. East and they've lost five more than they've won at home.Yet for all of that, in Derek Jeter's final season,  they are still only three-and-a-half games back of the  Orioles and Jays in the division. Still, what appears to be the weakest Yankees team in four decades will have to decide soon whether to become a buyer or seller at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

The new that C.C Sabathia has been shut down indefinately with a flair up of his swollen knee again, has got to have them thinking about next year and beyond. Still, they are the Yankees and this is Jeter's final season. Stay tuned.




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