Sure they do. Any team that doesn't fold when the team they're battling whips off 20 consecutive wins (as Oakland did this season) can deal with a little bad history.
OK, so the Angels have more than a little bad history.
The Angels, when they were the California Angels, were up three games to one on Boston in the 1986 American League Championship Series and blew it. They were a strike away from the World Series in Game 5 before Dave Henderson's home run won it for Boston. The Red Sox then won Games 6 and 7. The Angels were up 2-0 on Milwaukee in 1982 before the Brewers came back to win in five games.
The Angels blew an 11-game lead in 1995 to miss the playoffs, losing in a one-game playoff to Seattle.
But that's all past tense.
This season, while the A's were playing unbeatable, the Angels weren't far behind. They went 14-6 while the A's were winning those 20 straight. And at one point, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 15, the Angels were 16-1.
The Angels have a huge hurdle in the postseason-experienced Yankees. Most of the Anaheim players have never seen the postseason. The Angels' franchise hasn't been since 1986.
But Anaheim played the Yankees close this season, going 3-4. Both teams had 3.27 ERAs in the series. Both teams allowed 24 earned runs (though the Angels allowed four unearned runs in the series).
The Yanks won 103 games this season and they're gunning for their fifth straight trip to the World Series. If the Angels lose in the first round, it will undoubtedly have more to do with the Yankees' present success than the Angels' past failures.
Well, in terms of wins, they are. One better, in fact, than Giambi's A's were last season. With 103 wins this time around, the A's tied the Yankees for the most wins in baseball. (If the two meet in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees will have home field advantage because they won the season series with the A's.)
Giambi was the AL MVP with the A's in 2000 (.333, 43 homers, 137 RBIs) and could have been last season (.342, 38, 120) if not for Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. Oakland wanted to keep Giambi, but instead he bolted for the Yankees (don't they all?). So the A's turned to a couple of young studs to pick up Giambi's slack.
Shortstop Miguel Tejada hit .307 with 34 homers and 131 RBIs, all career highs for him. And third baseman Eric Chavez hit a career high 34 homers to go with 107 RBIs.
With those two playing like they are and a pitching staff that is widely considered the best in baseball -- Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson highlight the staff -- this could easily be considered a better team than any A's team Giambi was on. Whether that translates to more postseason success ... well, we'll have to see.
Oakland, remember, was up 2-0 on the Yankees in last season's AL divisional series before dropping the final three. The A's lost in five games in 2000, too, to the Yankees.
The A's have to first get past Minnesota if they want a rematch with the Yanks (who must get past Anaheim). If that works out, though, the A's will be reunited with Giambi, who now stands at first base for the Yankees, another solid year behind him (.314, 41 homers, 122 RBIs).
Then we'll really find out if the A's are better without their slugging ship-jumper.
The Twins love the baggy-walled, fake-grass, airplane-noisy hangar they call home. Nobody in the American League was better at home than the Twins, who were 54-27 in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, tying Oakland and Anaheim for the best home records in the AL.
The Twins are the best fielding team in the league, too, in large part because they know how to play the bounces of the turf and the so-called caroms off the soft walls of the outfield. They know the turf intimately, too, on offense. This is a middle-of-the-road team as far as power goes. They believe in banging the ball into the turf, or shooting it through gaps in the infield, as often as possible.
As good as they are amid all the Homer Hankies, though, the Twins have struggled away from Minneapolis. Their 40-40 record on the road is, by far, the worst among the playoff teams. In fact, three teams that didn't make the postseason -- Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston -- had better road records than the Twins.
The Twins were just eighth in the AL in on-base percentage (.332, which ties Atlanta for the worst among playoff teams) and just ninth in runs scored. They are not an offensively scary team.
But in the dome, with the noise and the turf and the whole Minnesota mojo, the Twins are tough. They have won two World Series there, remember, without dropping a game. They are 11-1 in playoff games there.
The problem for the Twins is that they don't get to use the so-called home field advantage in the divisional series against Oakland, and the only way they could use it in the American League Championship Series is if the Angels beat the Yanks (because the wild-card Angels can not have home field advantage in any series).
The whole home field advantage thing is greatly overstated anyway. Teams with the home field advantage are just 25-24 in postseason series since 1995.
Still, playing well at home is what the Twins have going for them. It's maybe the best thing they have.
Nobody knows for sure how healthy Mariano Rivera, the Yanks' one-time sure-thing closer, really is. He didn't pitch for more than a month late in the season, from mid-August into late September. He was nursing a sore shoulder slowly back to health.
Since his return, Rivera has looked good. He's pitched in five games, given up three hits and one run -- a homer to Baltimore Geronimo Gil -- in five innings for a 1.80 ERA. He's kept his pitch count down, and his devastating cut fastball has looked to be deadly as ever, shattering bats and causing weak outs all over the place.
The question with Rivera is whether the shoulder will hold up. This was a guy who converted 23 straight postseason save chances for the Yankees, from 1997 until he blew Game 7 of the World Series last season. The Yankees need him.
If Rivera can't go, or is ineffective, the Yanks probably will rely on the combo of Steve Karsay, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton. The bullpen, as a whole, also will get a boost from Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (8-5, 3.64 ERA in 22 starts), who has been relegated to the bullpen for the postseason. Jeff Weaver (5-3 in eight starts since coming to the Yanks in a trade with Detroit) also will pitch out of the pen. Weaver had an 0.96 ERA in September in three appearances, including two starts.
However the rotation or bullpen shapes up, the Yankees know they'll be a lot better off if Rivera is there at the end.
Wow. Rough room.
The Braves, the best in pro sports lately at making the postseason (11 trips in their last 11 chances), have had their problems once they get there, as everyone knows. One World Series win in five trips earns you a certain reputation.
There are two main differences with this year's team. Gary Sheffield, who came to the Braves in an offseason trade and hit .307 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs, could help in getting some runs across in the postseason. And John Smoltz -- the closer John Smoltz -- should help in slamming the late-inning door.
Sheffield was to have boosted the Braves' offense, and he's done his part. But in a lot of ways he's only kept the Braves' bats from sinking lower. The Braves have had awful years from third baseman Vinny Castilla and catcher Javy Lopez, a down power year from Chipper Jones, and they've fought to find producers at second base and at first. The result has been one of the lowest-scoring Braves teams in years, and the lowest scoring of any of the eight playoff teams. The Braves also have a lower average, lower on-base percentage and lower slugging percentage than anyone in the postseason.
Smoltz, the former starter, came into his first full season as a closer not knowing exactly what to expect. He took some lumps early but persevered, and his high-90s fastball and split-finger have confounded batters for months. He has saved 37 of his last 38 games and since June 3 has a 1.70 ERA. The Braves have won all 49 games he's appeared in since then.
He finished the season with a National League-record 55 saves.
The Braves still have a very solid group of starters, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood. In front of Smoltz, they also have the best bullpen in baseball (including Chris Hammond, with an 0.95 ERA, and All-Star Mike Remlinger, with a 1.88 ERA in 67 innings).
The question for the Braves is whether Sheffield and the two Joneses can provide enough offense to get to Smoltz at the back end. If they can, then this truly could be a different postseason for the Braves.
The Cardinals can hit. Hoo boy, can they hit. They're second in the league (.268), third in home runs, with Albert Pujols, J.D. Drew, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Tino Martinez and a few other guys who all can go deep. From top to bottom, this is a lineup worth watching.
But the biggest question -- the only one -- that St. Louis has to answer this postseason is the same one the team has been trying to answer all season long.
The travails of the Cards' pitching staff have been well-documented, from the tragic death of starter Darryl Kile to manager Tony La Russa's use of 14 starting pitchers (and 26 overall) over the course of the season.
So the Cardinals arrive in October with Matt Morris as their main guy. He's a legitimate ace, 17-9 with a 3.42 ERA. Lefty Chuck Finley has started 14 games with the Cards since his trade from Cleveland and is 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA. Overall, he's 11-15 with a 4.15 ERA.
And after him, the Cards have Woody Williams (9-4, 2.53) -- maybe -- though he's been complaining of sore ribs and a bad back. And then, maybe, Andy Benes (5-4, 2.93).
Their prize rookie Jason Simontacchi, is scheduled for long relief in the postseason. Even their star closer, Jason Isringhausen (32 saves), has his problems. He's nursing a sore shoulder.
The best hope for the Cardinals is that their formidable offense takes some heat off the pitcher by scoring a lot of runs. With guys like Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds and the rest, they can do it.
In fact, they have to if the Cardinals stand any chance at all.
Everyone wondered last year whether Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson could carry an otherwise lightweight starting rotation throughout the postseason. No one wonders any more.
Now the question is can they do it again?
Schilling and Johnson have been just as impressive this season as they were last, maybe even more so. They're both 20-game winners (Schilling at 23-7, Johnson at 24-5). They were the first pair of teammates to strike out 300 batters each in a season in baseball history. And they both have very impressive ERAs. Schilling is at 3.23, Johnson at 2.32. They will be neck-and-neck in the race for the Cy Young award.
Johnson has been unbelievably good as of late. He was 11-1 in his last 13 starts and, in September, was nothing short of magnificent -- 5-0 in five starts with an 0.66 ERA. He captured pitching's triple crown, finishing first in the league in wins (24), strikeouts (334) and ERA.
Schilling has slid, almost inexplicably, in his last few starts, going 2-3 with a 5.01 ERA in his last seven appearances. But he proved himself last postseason. This is a guy who can get it done.
Schilling and Johnson, the co-MVPs of last season's World Series, are the only starters on the Diamondbacks with winning records, so Arizona again will lean heavily on its Nos. 1 and 1a. With run-producers like Luis Gonzalez and infielder Craig Counsell out for the postseason -- not to mention left-hander Brian Anderson -- pitching is at a super premium in Arizona.
Can the Big Two carry this team again?
If they can't, no one can.
You know, there was a time when John Elway had not won a Super Bowl. So, Barry bashers, back off. This guy could carry the Giants all the way.
Just to get them out of the way, here are the ugly numbers for Barry Bonds as he readies for his sixth try at the postseason. He is 6 for 29 in divisional series without a homer. He is 13 for 69 in the National League Championship Series with a single homer.
Add it up. It's 19 for 97 (.196). Five of those 19 hits are doubles. He has one triple. And that one home run.
Bonds went to the NLCS three times with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but this will be only his third time in the playoffs with the Giants after 10 years in San Francisco. He's a huge reason -- heck, you can't get much huger -- that the Giants are here in the first place.
He's won his first batting crown (.370). He had 46 homers and 110 RBIs. He finished the season with the best on-base percentage in history (.582), a direct reflection of his 198 walks, another major league record.
But Bonds will be the first to tell you that, in the postseason, those numbers mean squat. He'll be facing a veteran pitching staff in the Atlanta Braves who know better than to tempt fate. The only way that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or anyone else will pitch to Bonds is if they have to.
The chances of Bonds breaking out of his postseason slump are not good, especially against the Braves, if only because he won't have the chance to break out. No one will pitch to him.
But Bonds can do what Bonds does best. He can disrupt a game, force opposing teams to deal with him, give the hitting opportunities to Jeff Kent and others around him in the lineup.
And all Bonds has to do to accomplish all that is to show up, bat in hand.