It seems fitting that the Yankees ended the break with the Red Sox and opened with the Angels…their chief AL rivals for a decade now. I think it’s safe to assume that most of you rank both teams at least in the top 3 of most-hated Yankee foes.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but the Angels are the absolute last team I’d want the Yankees to see should they make the playoffs. The Rangers are the class of the league by run differential, and they knocked the Yankees out of the 2010 playoffs, but I’d still prefer them to the Angels. Any Yankees – Angels series would have its share of the traditional anti-Yankee voodoo, especially in Anaheim (Had tonight’s game been played in Angels Stadium, that three-run homer Teixeira smashed in the eighth inning would undoubtedly have hit a seagull and dropped into the leftfielder’s glove…that place is pure evil.)
More important than the Angels’ black magic home field advantage is their current roster construction – with a starting staff headed by Weaver , Haren and Wilson, the Angels would probably take the coveted title of “Team Nobody Wants to Play in October” They currently sit five games back of the Rangers, but first in the race for the Wild Card. By the old Wild Card rules, if the Rays and Red Sox continued to struggle the Angels could afford to coast through the second half, setting them up for a potential first round matchup with the Yankees, regardless of where the Yankees and Rangers finished in the AL standings (I don’t see the AL Central winner overtaking either team). That kind of embarrassing Wild Card Era Division “race” – like the Yankees and Rays put on in 2010 – is the kind of farce I’d like to avoid witnessing for the rest of my life.
This is where the dynamics of the new Wild Card setup come into play. Bud Selig should be thanking his lucky stars that both leagues have turned out as they have so far. Look at the standings – the second Wild Card is working out just as it should, at least for this year. The underachieving traditional powers – the Rays, Red Sox and Angels – are being punished while the overachieving long-suffering franchises – Orioles, Pirates – may potentially be rewarded. I think any Orioles fan would take a one-game playoff, whereas any Rays or Red Sox fan would dread it. Of all the teams the Angels probably have the most to lose. They might be favored in any five-game series, but a one-game series is practically a coin flip.
Call me biased, but I think the Angels would make a fitting sacrifice to the first ever American League Wild Card Playoff. A “built for October” wild card team like the Angels getting blanked by David Price and the Rays would be a fitting reminder that the division suddenly matters again.
…now if the Rays then go on the beat the Yankees in the ALDS, I will probably sing a different tune.