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AL West: NorCal vs. SoCal
On Friday night, Yankees-Red Sox takes center stage for the first time this season. As the preeminent clash in our nation's pastime (and by most accounts, all of American sports), Yanks-Sawx receives more hype than every other MLB rivalry combined. (In a surprise to no one, every matchup of the three-game set will be seen on national TV.)
But far from the glitz and glamour of Yankees-Sox, two AL West teams have recently bolstered a rivalry that could challenge Boston-New York in competitive balance, if not overall significance. Over the past five years, no season series has packed more excitement than A's-Angels.
Since 2002, the AL West crown has made its home in either Oakland or Anaheim (A's in '02, '03 and '06; Angels in '04 and '05). The teams have faced off 103 times in that time, and after Oakland's two-game sweep this week, the A's hold a slight 53-50 advantage. An inordinate amount of these games have hinged on a single play, too, with 21 of the last 43 showdowns being decided by one run. As Mike Piazza said following his first game in the rivalry (which he won with a ninth-inning home run) two weeks ago, "If these games are going to be like this, I'm going to need a lot of antacid on the bench."
Both teams have succeeded recently behind their strong pitching. But like any other great rivalry, A's-Angels flourishes behind the teams' inherent differences. These discrepancies can be broken up into three main subjects -- front office approach, playing style and fanfare.
Front office approach: Especially since Arte Moreno bought the team in 2003, the Angels have shown little monetary restraint. They annually lead the AL West in spending, and this season rank fifth in baseball with a $108,704,524 payroll. On the other hand, the A's have always worked on a reduced budget under GM Billy Beane. Although this year's A's boast the highest payroll in franchise history ($79,938,369), it's still in the lower half of the MLB.
Playing style: The A's and Angels employ two vastly different offensive strategies. With Beane's reliance on Moneyball philosophies, the A's rarely utilize small-ball tactics like the steal, hit-and-run or sacrifice bunt. The Angels couldn't be more opposite. Manager Mike Scioscia's teams run wild -- every player steals bags, including catcher Mike Napoli.
Fanfare: Anyone that has lived in California or known a California native is privy to the fact that the Golden State is a state divided. NorCal prides itself on a down-to-earth, hippy demeanor, smog-free air, the Silicon Valley, wine, the beauty of Yosemite and Tahoe, Hyphy and old money. SoCal natives dig their laid back disposition, sunshine, Hollywood, gnarly waves, fish tacos, beautiful people, G-funk and new money. But when these two sides collide on in the world of sports, they share a passionate hatred of each other.
The A's hold a 4-2 advantage in the '07 campaign and sit atop the division standings. Thirteen regular-season games remain between the two teams this season, and it's safe to say their outcomes will have a broad affect on the AL West race.
• On Wednesday, "King" Felix Hernandez left his third start of the season after just 24 pitches with elbow tightness. Needless to say, the vagueness of the injury has Mariners fans inching closer and closer to the edge of the Space Needle. In The (Tacoma) News Tribune, Dave Boling provided a telling description of the scene at Safeco Field: "As Hernandez left the game, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove had the look of a man who'd been kidney punched, the crowd of more than 20,000 sat in stunned silence, and a passing train chose that moment to blow its ominous whistle."
• Tuesday marked the latest in a season the Mariners had been in first place since Aug., 24, 2003.
• Having hit a combined .316 over the past four seasons, Texas shortstop Michael Young is off to a slow start, currently posting a .175 average. In March, the Mariners locked up Young through 2013 with a five-year, $80 million extension. The folks at U.S.S. Mariner claim that this contract makes Young the fourth-least tradeable player in baseball.
• Texas' Sammy Sosa returned to Chicago to play the White Sox on Tuesday, and was greeted by large-scale booing from the South Side crowd. But Sosa quieted the Sox faithful in the eighth inning. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen chose to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira with two outs in the inning and take his chances with Sosa. And Sosa made him pay, launching a three-run home run off of Mike MacDougal that gave Texas an 8-1 lead. After the game, Guillen had no regrets about choosing to face Sosa over Teixeira, saying "I will walk Teixeira tomorrow and pitch to Sammy Sosa every day this year. I'm not scared of Sammy. He had a ball right in the middle of the plate."
Labels: AL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
For the umpteenth time -- Moneyball is NOT an "offensive" philosophy. If it was, it would be plaigarism, because the garnering of walks and waiting for the 3-run homer was Earl Weaver's philosophy. Moneyball tries to take advantages of the player market so that a lower-revenue franchise can compete with the big spenders (hence the name MONEYball). It doesn't necessarily mean looking at on-base percentage and shunning stealing bases. That has to be the most misunderstood aspect of the book.
Odd stat: Through 6 games between the A's and Angels, Oakland has had 6 stolen bases to the Angels' 2.
i got more out of this blog than all the other news on this site,
"In March, the Mariners locked up Young through 2013 with a five-year, $80 million extension."
When did the MARINERS sign Michael Young to a five year extension to play of Texas? Though if you listen to the USS Mariner, its something that would help the M's just as much as the Lopez extension.
Just to echo mnapier, Moneyball is not synonymous with sabrmetrics. The A's utilize both theories, but while Moneyball is about exploiting market inefficiencies, sabrmetrics is about OBPs and SLGs and that sort of thing. Maybe I'm being nitpicky but it's a stupid error that is made incredibly frequently. Moneyball and Sabrmetrics are extremely different. In recent years, the A's haven't been perfect from a sabrmetric standpoint, because such metrics are no longer dramatically undervalued by the market.
If it's "SoCal", shouldn't it be "NoCal" (as in, nutrition-less)?
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