Congratulations to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, on clinching the AL West. While we at LAist admit to a strong Dodger bias, and changing the team name didn't make us think the Angels were an LA team, we acknowledge them as a SoCal team. And we can't help but admire the work that Arte Moreno has done.
In less than three years, Moreno has helped turn the Angels into media darlings in LA, as the press has pounced on every Dodger in management from Frank McCourt to Paul DePodesta. Whether or not their criticisms have been fair (and we believe many of them haven't), Moreno has taken advantage of people like Bill Plaschke's appetite for an alternative.
In truth, the Angels have done everything right since fate smiled on them in fall of 2002. Moreno bought the team and lowered beer prices. He increased payroll, even if it meant overpaying for guys like Steve Finley and Orlando Cabrera. He got one of the best players in baseball, in Vladimir Guerrero, even though he got lucky that Vlad was available at a bargain price in a depressed market and that the Dodgers ownership transition prevented Vlad from heading to his first choice. Moreno has consistently reached out to fans, and helped make games at Angels Stadium an incredibly enjoyable experience.
This year's team had far and above more talent than any team in its division. It won the AL West on the strength of pitching, Vlad Guerrero, and barely enough pop around him to add some runs. And just when it seemed like their bats and bullpen had completely died, they had an impressive rally in the season's final few weeks to win the west with five games to spare.
If the pitching holds up, the Angels could make a run deep into October. They don't have the bats to slug with the Yankees or the Red Sox, but both teams have had their fair share of problems on the hill. Right now it seems like Boston's problems are greater than New York's. The White Sox have a pathetic offense, and their bullpen has had its issues as well. Cleveland is one team that no one should want to face right now. Their lineup is loaded, and their pitching is going strong. If we were really Angels fans, we'd be hoping to face the White Sox in the first round, and we'd like our chances with the Red Sox. A Yankees series could go either way. And we'd be worried about the Indians. Once we know the matchup, LAist will offer its full analysis, as it did a year ago.