No Playoff Baseball in Los Angeles
Let’s quickly recap the events of both teams’ seasons.
The Angels made the biggest splash in the offseason, landing the future Hall-of-Famer Pujols, while the Dodgers’ biggest pre-season acquisition was new part owner Magic Johnson. As the season started, the two teams quickly became the two most talked-about clubs across the league. While the Angels stumbled out of the gates, struggling to put runs on the scoreboard, the Dodgers looked like the cream of the crop in the NL, winning 9 of their first 10 games (and remember when Matt Kemp hit 12 home runs in April!?).
After Kemp’s injury, the Dodgers started to slow down. They had difficulty finding consistency from their starters and were struggling to find hitting out of lower lineup spots.
Things were also starting to change about 30 miles down the I-5, where the Angels found their wings behind a 20-year-old named Mike Trout. The Angels put together an 8-game winning streak in the end of May and won 17 of their 26 games in June while cutting down the Rangers lead in the AL West. Thus the ‘Trout for MVP’ campaigns began taking hold.
The Angels buffed up their pitching staff at the trade deadline, acquiring Zach Greinke from the Brewers, while the Dodgers – in the midst of a dogfight with the Giants – reached out to every and any available player who could potentially help make a playoff push: Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton, and Brandon League. Oh, and 4-time All-Star Carl Crawford, but injuries have kept him off the field since mid-August.
Both teams were in the running to squeak into the final five going into this past weekend, but their respective late-season rallies fell short. So now we enter an offseason leading up to an extremely important 2013 for both teams.
The main free agents the Angels need to worry about going into next year are Zack Greinke and Torii Hunter. I’d be surprised if they were to let go of Hunter, who is coming off a really solid season and is still in search of his first championship, but Greinke is another question. The 29-year-old will definitely be a highly coveted free agent and the Angels may not have the money to keep him on as a number 2 or 3 starter.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, received a lot of expiring contracts near the end of the season. Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, and Brandon League are the most noteworthy upcoming free agents on the team’s roster, and it wouldn’t surprise me if all three found a new home for 2013. League was effective out of the bullpen and could have the best chance of staying on between the trio, but Blanton and Victorino really struggled in Dodger blue and may test the market as I couldn’t see the Dodgers extending too much gratitude their way.
For the Angels, things could have been a lot worse (look at the mess in Miami). Even though the playoff run fell short, they discovered a superstar Centerfielder in Trout and will most likely have him paired up with the always-dangerous Pujols for the next decade – an extremely encouraging duo. Mark Trumbo proved he can be one of the league’s top power hitters, Jered Weaver put up another Cy Young worthy season, Kendrys Morales got himself back to 20+ home run form, and role players Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick were as reliable as ever at the bat and in the field. 2013 figures to be a big year if the team continues its growth.
Like the Angels, the Dodgers will have a world’s worth of expectations behind them going into next year. With a full season batting order that includes Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, another shortened season would be a tremendous disappointment. We’ve yet to see the team play to their full potential, and in due time we’ll begin to find out if this group of sluggers ever will.