It is a well-known fact that there is a strong bond between the people of California and the Boston area. From politics to economics to race relations, both regions are at the forefront of liberalism. In the realm of baseball, California is a place where many Red Sox stars finish their careers, from Mo Vaughn to Manny Ramirez. Look at the Dodgers - Manny, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Loretta - and our perennial trade partners the San Diego Padres, where Theo Epstein started his baseball career.
But for some reason, all these natural similarities and East Coast - West Coast connections have not improved relations between the fanbases of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Boston Red Sox.
Accordingly, in the spirit of cultural exchange, I'm listing the ten things I like about the Angels.
As a devoted Sox fan, I'm a big fan of steroids. A huge, ripped fan. So when I heard that 16 current and former Angels, from HGHary Matthews Jr. to Brendan "Drug Donkey" Donnelly (briefly a Sox player) to Troy "World Series MVP" Glaus, who had used steroids, my respect for the team grows immensely. I can't even think of that many confirmed Sox users. You've got Manny Ramirez, Ortiz (although what he tested positive for remain unclear) and um... Eric Gagne. The Halos deserve massive, bloated, engorged props for out-steroiding us.
When I read Halos Heaven, my favorite Angels fansite, one word can sum up the overall feeling there: humility. Not only are Angels fans not proclaiming how their team is the best ever and will run roughshod over the Sox, Yankees and Cardinals to win its second World Series; they are modestly declaring why this will not happen. [My personal favorite reason is because of Umperialism, the clear East Coast bias evinced by the ironically named Joe West, crew chief of the ALDS.]
This is also true on a corporate level. While other teams are named for their region (Yankees), their footwear (Sox), their fishiness (Marlins), their connections to the occult (Devil Rays), or their plunderous and rapacious treatment of fans (Pirates), the Angels are named for their service and devotion to God. As the Puritan settlers of Boston would readily tell you, few things are more humble than annointing yourselves the Chosen agents of Divine Will.
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3. Regional Fealty.
When the Angels added 'Los Angeles' to their name, some claimed that the move had all the grace and subtlety of the Mexican-American War. Not me. The unfurling of the Angel flag over the conquered denizens of LA was a true sign of progress. Sure, the insurgent Dodger fans and the millions upon millions of SoCal Sox fans might reject the benevolent divinely-chosen authority that rules them, but those dead-enders will eventually knuckle under. I've got a "Mission Accomplished" banner for just that occasion.
Some people who make huge amounts of money in a brief period of time behave in a way unbecoming of their acquired station. Boston Blueblood Brahmin derisively refer to such individuals as the 'Nouveau Riche,' when they talk at all to commoners.^ While the Angels and their $100+ million payroll might have changed the organization and its fanbase, they remain committed to their proper station. Rather than behaving like a major market team chasing marquis free agents, they content themselves with hiring 2nd-tier outfielders. They show true respect for the Yankees and Red Sox, the Barons of Baseball, by not having the indignity of competing with them for the Mark Teixeiras of the world.
Meanwhile, their fans continue to emphasize the scrappy, underdog nature of their team, and never demand more from it. For this they are to be commended. I mean, imagine the controversy if the Angels were a legitimate playoff threat!
5. Mike Scioscia.
This man is one of the true cavaliers of baseball. Not only does he guide his team to October, year after year, but in the finest spirit of medieval nobility, he gives the opposing team every opportunity to win. Sac bunts, squeeze bunts, suicide squeeze bunts, bunting with two outs, telling the pitcher to bunt instead of throw the ball, Scioscia is a true gem.
6. Great farm system.
Here in New England, we're great at growing rocks. So farming talent is something we appreciate. And the Angels' farm system is one of Baseball's most productive. Kudos.
7. Monkey in Diaper.
This needs no explanation.
8. Allowing Boston to get Casey Kotchman.
He's a standup guy, and hopefully a walk-off guy too.
9. Memorable late-inning home runs.
Only an Angel closer could set up a Boston left fielder for a towering home run. Brian Fuentes has big shoes to fill here - will his blown save, walk-off losses be as memorable as K-Rod's? Only time will tell.
10. Chone Figgins.
Just when I think I've learned all the multifarious ways to spell this name (Shawn, Sean, Shaun), LAA of A throws a curve. This guy has tremendous command of the strike zone, and his high OBP and great speed make him one of the few legit lead-off hitters in baseball.
"Stand!" "Shake!" "Sit!" "Speak!" "Roll over!" "Play Dead!"
"Good boy! See you same time next October."
* Insider sources at MLB tell me that the Angels are planning on renaming their team to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Austin, Acapulco, Athens, Augusta, and America.
^There's a great epigram for this: "And this is good old Boston / The home of the bean and the cod / Where the Cabots talk only to Lowells / And the Lowells talk only to God."