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A Wish List Like Never Before

ESSAY /AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

October 12, 2002|MIKE PENNER

Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications, maintains that the Angels, as an organization, have never competed with the Dodgers: "We've never sat in staff meetings and [said], 'The Dodgers do this, the Dodgers do that, woe be us.' But the fact of the matter is, aside from their success as an organization, the Dodgers brought baseball to the West Coast. So to think that we're just going to unseat that is somewhat naive.

"If you go up to the Bay Area, the Oakland A's have been to six World Series, from the '70s through 2002. It's still a Giants town. Think about it. The A's have arguably had more success than the Giants have had up there.

"So I don't know if there's squatter's rights or whatever, but I think our responsibility is to not worry about other people. We had a great decade in the '80s--I think we gained that 'upper-division' credibility. We saw some of it slide away in the '90s.

"Probably one of the most satisfying feelings for the organization is now, by winning our first postseason series and defeating the Yankees, there's a credibility associated that you know is going to carry into 2003."

The key, Mead acknowledged, is what the Angels do with 2003. Consider how the Angels have followed their first three appearances in the playoffs:

1980: 65-95, sixth place.

1983: 70-92, tied for fifth.

1987: 75-87, tied for sixth.

"It's obvious that in the short term, everybody's going to be 'the Angel fan,' " Mead said. "You know, [Angel Manager Mike Scioscia] always uses that term, 'perennial contender.' He believes in that. We will convert people as we become a perennial contender."

So this is what this Angel postseason run is about: Missionary work.

Guy Gruppie of Arcadia describes himself as "lifelong Dodger fan" who never cared for the Angels, even while growing up in Yorba Linda. "No one has been more skeptical about the Angels than me," he said. "[Even] when they won their division in '79, '82 and '86, I was skeptical. I didn't take a liking to the team--there was no emotional attachment to the team, even though I grew up in Orange County. Largely because it was a team assembled through free agency.

"But this team is different. And I have to admit that I followed their progress late in the year and I've come to the realization that they're a special team. They're a team built through the farm system the way the Dodgers used to build their success. And coupled with the dramatic changes in the Dodgers, from players to ownership to the [Mike] Piazza trade, and the fact that the Dodgers have had a long period of no appearances in the postseason, I have more interest in the Angels than I ever have.

"It hurts me to say it, but it's true: I think there's the potential, especially if the Angels get in the World Series, that the traditional balance of power is going to be challenged here. I think the Dodgers need to be cognizant of that and they need to be aggressive, even given their budget constraints, to make sure they have a better team on the field next year.

"Or they may find themselves in the unenviable position as the second-class team in town."

This is what's at stake in the weeks and months ahead. As the Angels are just discovering, they have everything to play for.

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