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The Trouble With Angels

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This weekend the Yankees played the Angels, allowing me to reassess my antipathy towards them. The (so-called) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are high on my shit list of  Major League teams. Oddly enough, every team on my shit list wears a red uniform: the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Angels, and Atlanta Braves. Maybe it’s a blue state/red state thing.

Why do I dislike the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?  We can begin right there, with the phony name. These guys are based in Anaheim, not in LA, near America’s Great Escape, Disneyland. The Dodgers are the team that’s IN Los Angeles. Several years ago the Angels decided they wanted to be called the LA Angels, and insisted that everyone line up behind them. Pure pretension, revealing a pathetic aspiration to be seen as urban hip. Well, it takes more than a name to be hip, and an Angel by any other name would still be hopelessly provincial.

My antipathy for the team began way before the name change, though; it started when they played the SF Giants in the 2002 World Series. First it was the thundersticks, which their fans beat incessantly, creating a deafening roar of static on the televised games. Then there was that ridiculous lucky monkey of theirs; as the Giants’ charming catcher at the time, Benito Santiago, said, with real passion, “I don’ wan’ see that damn monkey!” Another thing: the original owner of the team was the late Roy Rogers, and while  I’ve nothing against him, the players were forever saying they “did it for the cowboy” in a tone of false sentimentality — ironically, they were actually then owned  by the Walt Disney Corporation. (In 2005 ownership changed hands again, to Arte Moreno.) All this stuff grated on my nerves. And, of course, being from the Bay Area, I was rooting for the Giants — who, sadly, lost, thanks to muddled management.

But hey, it’s nuts to carry a grudge for so long, and besides, during this weekend series I realized that very few of the  2002 players are still with the Angels; in fact, the most irritating ones are gone. There was David Eckstein, the twitchy little pest who had the distinction of being the most hit-by-pitch player in baseball; to my mind he got hit on purpose because it was the only way he could get on base. Then there was his sidekick, Darin Erstad. The sneering John Lackey. The ferocious, scary Troy Percival (whose pitching I  grudgingly admired).Vladimir Guerrero, Troy Glaus, and Chone Figgins — all of whom seemed to lack personality and a sense of humor.

Every one of the players I’ve named is gone. In their place is my beloved ex-Yankee, Hideki Matsui, and Bobby Abreu, another ex-Bomber. The rest of the guys on the current team seem to be less annoying than the earlier group.

So I’m letting go of my 8-year grudge. However, I’ve got a new, perhaps even more serious, reason not to like them: they lack proper respect for the Yankees. This was confirmed by an announcer, who noted that, unlike almost every team in MLB that’s in awe of the Yanks, The Angels remain nonplussed. To them, the Yankees are just another team to beat (and they did so in two out of three games). Lacking respect for the Yankees is a major transgression in my book. So, while I’m turning over a new leaf and letting go of my 8-year grudge, I’m counting up the Angels’ current sins in a new case against them. No Surrender!

Note: David Zirin, Sports Editor of The Nation, is calling for a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks as protest of AZ’s new draconian immigration law. Zirin says he won’t be writing about the D’Backs as long as the law is on the books. Ditto (though I rarely write about that team anyway.)

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