Sports fans everywhere are familiar with the heated passion behind a rivalry. In my time (the whole whopping 20 years I’ve conquered thus far) I have lived vicariously through my father and his Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.
This year, however, I have my very own rivalry to fawn over. Get ready, Angels’ baseball fans. This year marks the beginning of not only the “Pujols Era”, but also the era of a revamped rivalry between the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers.
It’s no secret that the Rangers have had the Angels’ number the past two years. Games in the latter half of the season were always tough to stomach. The team would come off of a solid series or two, and fall to the very next team they faced. In true Angels’ fashion, their inconsistency was showing. Again. The Rangers took advantage of this implosion, winning when we won, winning when we lost. It was almost as if the Angels couldn’t catch a break. Not only were the Angels down on their luck on the home front, but they weren’t fairing too well in Texas either. I’d like to thank Mike Napoli for that.
The Angels lost Napoli and acquired Vernon Wells for a great deal of money. This has been one of the most controversial signings the Angels have made in my lifetime, especially since Wells didn’t perform nearly as well as Napoli did in Texas. That stung, and boy did Napoli know it. Putting on the offensive performance of his life in Texas, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Angels had made a mistake of monumental proportions. The team might have been wondering the very same thing due to the noticeable gap in their line up. You might recall Vladimir Guerrero’s short offensive surge when he signed with Texas as a free agent. Moral of the story: keep Angels away from Texas. Please. It’s embarrassing.
This past off-season, the Angels took matters into their own hands during the Winter Meetings. Surprising many (myself included), the Angels signed Albert Pujols, LaTroy Hawkins, and the Ranger’s own C.J. Wilson. If spending over $300 million in a single off-season (let alone a single day) doesn’t scream determination, I’m not sure of what else does.
Now sure, the Rangers have made two consecutive World Series appearances, but in all honesty, Henry Heimlich himself wouldn’t have been able to help them out. Plain and simple, they choked. Their performances in the 2010 and 2011 World Series only added fuel to the fire.
With the acquisition of Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish, the Rangers’ organization can only hope to fill the bullpen void as quickly and as effortlessly as possible. This team is a force to be reckoned with. They’re hungry.
Naturally, this means war. Dealing with some form of embarrassment on both ends, players (and fans) have a point to prove. The race for the American League West will be a bloodbath to say the least. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see another flag flying in Angel Stadium. 2012 AL West title, here we come.
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