LA is on fire right now.
No, not in the usual way it’s on fire.
That happens too often for anyone to get excited about it (unless you’re trying to hide from the flames in your hot tub) but LA is EL FUEGO for the Dodgers and Angels right now, two teams separated by about 40 miles of the 5 freeway. The Angels are actually in the city of Anaheim of course, but three years ago became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, so essentially Orange County was annexed for marketing purposes. Imagine Hamilton’s Super 14 team calling itself The Auckland Chiefs of Waikato and you get the idea.
No matter. New York and New Jersey have been pulling this crap for years, so why not LA?
We’ve reached the part of the baseball post-season that starts to mean something, and LA’s teams find themselves facing the current World Champs (the bland but effective Philadelphia Phillies) and history’s World Champs, the Yankees. All four teams are terrific, and all have distinctly different personalities.
This is all about LA, so let’s break them down as if they were celebrities:
LA DODGERS vs PHILEDELPHIA PHILLIES
The Dodgers are BENJAMIN BRATT
Like Mr Bratt the Dodgers are mostly Hispanic, look good on paper, usually play the second banana to better stars/teams, and nobody’s taken them seriously for about a decade.
Like Mr Bratt they are a team looking to be relevant again, and its taken the steadying influence (and enormous good luck) of Joe Torre, the legendary Yankee manager enjoying his retirement in the sun (see video below) to bring the best out of a very talented team. How talented? You often forget now that Manny Ramirez is on the team. That’s a good thing.
LOOK FOR: Andre Ethier.
A young guy hopefully turning into a superstar. As Mr Bratt was supposed to do.
The PHILLIES are JON HAMM in MAD MEN
See how straight he looks? Tall, cleancut, a throwback to the good old days? Well its all a facade. He’s a lying, cheating sonofabitch that will stab you in the back and so are the Phillies.
They are a very bland team made up of excellent players very well managed. Even when they won the World Series last year Philadelphia (the city) barely took any notice of them. Philly is a town that likes to think of itself as aggressive, loud, and senselessly violent, and the Phillies are none of those in public. Just merely efficiently excellent, especially their ridiculous pitching staff. Where LA’s big bopper is the charismatically crazy Manny, Ryan Howard is so warm and nice he probably spends his evenings giving lost puppies warm baths. Does this mean he can’t crush a baseball? No.
LOOK FOR: Pitcher Cole Hamels. In baseball parlance he’s got filthy stuff. So has his wife Heidi Strobel.
WINNER: C’mon. I have to root for the Dodgers. In 7.
The ANGELS are PATRICK SWAYZE.
First thing: I have never seen as many hot women over 30 at a baseball game as I have seen at Angels games. Whole freaking rows of hot blond mommas. So there’s that. And then, there’s the tragedy angle. Rookie Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a traffic accident after winning a game early in the season. His image now hangs in the outfield, and the team memorialise him constantly. So they have the ‘ghost watching over them’ thing going too. That, and a killer lineup, means this may be the year that the Atlanta Braves of the West (year after year of good management producing solid teams) go back for the big prize they last won in ‘02.
LOOK FOR: Chone Figgins. ‘Chone’. GREAT name. He’s their leadoff man and is the vital spark of a team loaded with ageing hitters in the middle of the lineup.
The YANKEES are………DEREK JETER.
Ok, yes its a copout. But this is the YANKEES, where their current WAGs include Kate Hudson and Minka Kelly. They are the stars. They are the Show. And Mr Jeter is at the heart of it all.
He’s the real throwback in US sports. Not falsely modest, but not a grandstander, has played his whole career in the world’s loudest media market, probably not a steroid user, very rarely seen in tabloids despite a stellar dating record, leads by example. He is the true descendant of Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig, who he passed this year as the leading hitter in Yankees history. If the Yanks do it this year, and bring Jeter his FIFTH ring, I will cheer along with everyone else.
However that means that Alex Rodriguez will also get one, so fuck that.
LOOK FOR: Pitcher CC Sabathia. To do what he does at that size, and with that passion? Don’t miss it.
WINNER: The Angels.
And if both of those events happen, then it could be the cultural event that finally unites Mexican, Funky, Liberal LA with Uptight White Middle Class Anaheim.
Or at least gives us something fascinating to listen to as we spend another hour going nowhere on the 5.
– Mark Tierney