Isn't it time to take it to the next level?
Well, the 20th edition of the Freeway Series is over, in terms of games that count in the standings, at least until 2018. It had spills and chills, but how did your really feel about it?
The series was a split. The Southern California rivals traded 4-0 victories at Chavez
Latrine Ravine, then went to the Big A where the Angels won 3-2 thanks to the generosity of a Dodger comedy show of a defense, then lost 6-2 being mowed down by none other than Clayton Kershaw. He's well accustomed to breaking out the lawnmower.
For the record, the record between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Angels in interleague play stands at 63-51 in favor of the Orange County team. The series still divides fans into their own communities, each with their own history and traditions and memes , the series still divides counties, and it even divides on our favorite jersey color, despite the Angels' obvious superiority.
But sadly, the Freeway Series, despite the rivalry and excitement, hasn't really been brought to a boil yet. The reason, is because the red and blue sides of SoCal have yet to square off on the final stage -- in a World Series.
I hope that happens in my lifetime. In fact, I hope it happens soon. Because it would be beyond awesome.
There are lots of reasons for this, primarily that the both sides are armed with bonafide generational talents like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw. We'll leave the "not sure yet" guys like Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and possibly Jordon Adell to the side for now until they prove what they can do.
It could happen this year, even. The mighty Dodgers have Arizona and Colorado nipping at their heels, while the Angels are staying above surface without the injured Trout and are amongst a dozen or so AL teams that have a chance for a wild-card playoff spot.
The odds, last time I checked with the Vegas guys, the Dodgers are 8/1 to win the World Series. The Angels started the season as 100/1 underdogs (hope you made your bet early!) but have since shortened to 60/1.
I'm not much of a betting man, but I'm guessing that if a person wagered $100 on each team to win the World Series, than gambler would stand to win roughly a $6,800 payout. Not bad at all.
There are lots of reasons to believe it won't happen this year. Both teams are scuffling with injuries, and both teams have flaws that can be exposed by other teams, especially in short situations and high leverage.
But as the Beach Boys sang, "Oh wouldn't it be nice!"
As far as geographical rivals, the Yankees and Mets have already had their World Series (2000). Going further back, the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants squared off in the earthquake-shaken 1989 World Series. The Royals and Cardinals played for all the marbles in '85, and going way back, the 1906 Chicago White Sox and Cubs had a dead ball World Series.
Historically, for the most part the Angels have played the role of the little runt. The Angels served notice in 2002 by beating the Dodgers' hated rivals, the Giants, for their only world championship. Even the most Dodger of Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, admitted to rooting for the Angels in that series, mostly because the Dodgers hate the Giants more than the Angels, going back to the Bronx and Brooklyn days.
The heavily armed Dodgers are waiting for their first title since 1988, when almost everything went right for them -- a string of 59 consecutive scoreless innings by Orel Hershisher, and a classic game winning homer by Kirk Gibson,
But as far as the Angels and Dodgers are concerned, it's been close but no cigar. The closest it got was in 2009, when both teams were knocked out in the their leagues' Championship Series -- the Dodgers to the Phillies (really?) while the Angels fell to the eventual champions, the Derek Jeter-led Yankees.
As recently as 2014, there was a chance, when both the Angels and Dodgers won their division titles. But the Angels, in their only chance at postseason glory in the Mike Trout era, got swept in three games by the Kansas City Royals. That one hurt.
So until the cosmos align or the baseball gods intervene, the Dodgers and Angels are still waiting for their chance to play for it all.
Until then, and for the last 20 years, we've had the Freeway Series to establish bragging rights, and provide entertainment.
For the most part, between fans, the rivalry is mostly polite and civil. Angel and Dodger fans hang out together. At an interleague game, you'll see married couples, one wearing a Kershaw jersey and the other wearing a Trout shirt.
The unifying factor between the two teams is the major leagues' longest tenured manager, Mike Scioscia. The long-time catcher on the Dodgers' fearsome teams of the 1970s, Scioscia was hired by general manager Bill Stoneman to become the Angels' manager in 1999.
Scioscia is the most polarizing figure in the rivalry. Much criticized by the Angels fans of today who feel he has run his course, Scioscia has spent much more of his career sporting Angels colors than Dodgers -- 2,833 games as Angels manager, versus 1,441.
Scioscia also has used a lot of his former Dodger buddies as coaches -- to great effect with Ron Roenicke, Alfredo Griffin and Dave Hansen , who are still with the Angels. Maligned hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was finally fired by former GM Jerry DiPoto in one of his most significant moves. Dino Ebel, former third-base coaching windmill and current bench coach, comes from Dodgers stock.
The teams share bloodlines in other ways as well. Dozens of players have played for both teams, too numerous to be named here, but amongst them big names like Fernando Valenzuela, Rickey Henderson, Eddie Murray, Raul Mondesi, the infamous Joe Blanton, Zack Greinke, Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick.
And sadly, Garret Anderson, long-time holder of many Angel records, retired as a Dodger. Can't the Angels sign Anderson to a one-day contract so he can finish his career as an Angel? The Angel front office is too "GA" to do anything like that.
Yes, blood flows across these county lines, 30 miles of freeway, mostly Interstate 5.
Sometimes blood flows between fans. Fights are rare at Angels stadium, but on Monday an Angels fan got knocked senseless and bloodied and Chavez Latrine by a pack of Dodgers fans. The most serious incident was in 2014, when two US Marines, apparently preparing for action in the Middle East, intervened on a bar fight in Huntington Beach (of all places!) between Angel and Dodger fans, and got stabbed in the process.
Ah well, can't we remember the fun times?
Before interleague play was introduced, the Freeway Series was an annual get-together to mark the end of spring training. Those were big events and big draws, because it meant to Southern Californians that their teams were coming back from Vero Beach or Palm Springs or Arizona, and they'd play exhibitions in the real MLB stadiums. It was a sign that baseball was back on the near horizon, and bragging rights were all that was at stake.
Even now, since interleague, the spring training cappers remain big draws. This year, the Angels had 31,465 in attendance to watch a 3-2 meaningless win for the home team, and on April Fool's Day, of all things, the Dodgers drew 39,411 fans to watch a 4-4 tie.
That's only one of many memorable moments between the two SoCal teams (sorry, Padres).
In 1997, Angels ace closer Troy Percival gave up a walk-off bomb to Todd Zeile in the inaugural interleague game that counted in the standings.
The rivalry got a literal kick in 1999, then Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park laid down a bunt against Angels pitcher and red-ass Tim Belcher. When Belcher tagged Park a little bit hard on the first base line, Park reacted with a kung-fu kick at Belcher, resulting in the only serious bench-clearing brawl between the teams.
In 2004, the Angels handed the Dodgers a 13-0 butt-kicking at the Latrine. The Dodgers returned the favor two years later with a 16-3 smackdown of the Halos at the Big A.
In 2008, somehow the Dodgers won a game 1-0 in which they didn't get any hits. Jared Weaver and Jose Arredondo combined to no-hit the Dodgers, but a Blake DeWitt (who?) sacrifice fly was the difference maker.
The year 2009 featured an all-Weaver affair, as Jeff Weaver (Weaver the Elder, or the bad Weaver) beat his younger and better brother Jared (Weaver the Younger), 6-4.
And the highlights keep coming.
On Wednesday night, there was a walk-off win for the Angels on a strikeout-wild pitch-throwing error by the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth that brought Ben Revere racing in to score.
And just last night, the two teams "sort of" squared off when Yunel Escobar got into some chirping on the first base line and the benches emptied, but neither side cared enough to really do anything about it.
It's time to make the Freeway Series real. Not just real in the fact that the games now count in the standings.
Because everything would be on the line in a Freeway World Series. Trout, Kershaw and all the fans are waiting.