Los Angeles Angels: Are Baseball Fans Ready for a 3rd-Place Champion?

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer IJuly 31, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 30: Kendrys Morales #8 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is congratulated by his dugout after hitting a 2-run homer in the 6th inning against the Texas Rangers on July 30, 2012 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

Right now, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim appear to have one of the best squads to contend for a World Series title. They have three solid starters in Jared Weaver, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren. They have a reliable bullpen. And any lineup where Albert Pujols is the third biggest threat cannot be trifled with.

They have depth, experience and the energy that feeding off young stars can bring. They also have Mike Scioscia at the helm. The Angels skipper is one of the most reliable in the game. And with the 2002 World Series title and five other Division Championships to his credit, he is assembling a Hall of Fame-caliber resume.

In any short series against any team, the Angels would be given at the very worst a fighting chance if they didn't come in as favorites.

And yet as of this writing, they are in third place in the American League West. The Texas Rangers, on the strength of their hot start, remain in first. The Oakland Athletics, riding their amazing July, are in second place.

In any previous year, the Angels would need to find their inner resolve to pass at least one of those two teams for a wild-card spot or leapfrog both for the Division Title.

That could still very well happen.

However, if the season were to end today, the Angels would play Oakland in the Wild Card Game. 

When the Wild Card Round was first played to its completion in 1995, many baseball purists wrung their hands worrying what would happen to their sport if a second-place team won the World Series.

Bob Costas trashed the Wild Card system before broadcasting the 1997 World Series, the first ever Fall Classic featuring a second-place team. The wild-card Marlins would go on to win it all.

Since then, the 2002 Anaheim Angels, the 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2004 Boston Red Sox and the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals all won the World Series as second place clubs. The 2000 New York Mets, 2002 San Francisco Giants, 2005 Houston Astros, 2006 Detroit Tigers and 2007 Colorado Rockies all won the pennant as a wild-card entry.

Baseball seemed to have adapted, thrived and moved on.

Now a third-place team could win it. Are the purists OK with that? Do they see that a team that runs the gauntlet like last year's Cardinals should actually be praised? Or are they still clinging to the notion that nobody but a first-place team should be playing in October?

Either way, this Angels team could test that sentiment this year.