Angels vs. Rangers Could Be an American League Championship Series Preview

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IAugust 3, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 2:  David Murphy #7 of the Texas Rangers is tagged out by Bobby Wilson #46 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on August 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

Conventional wisdom says that television networks only want Northeastern teams in the postseason. Ratings suggest that the fanbases of New England, New York and even Pennsylvania draw bigger ratings than other regions.

While numbers show one template, Fox and TBS should be promoting the possibility of an American League Championship Series between the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers and their divisional rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Granted, Texas is considered to be a football-first state, and the Angels are not the main baseball focus of Southern California (that would be the Dodgers), but there is enough star power, intrigue and potential drama to hold the attention of even a casual baseball fan.

If the recently completed series between the two in Arlington was any indication, a short series between these two teams would be wild, unpredictable and help turn the spotlight on postseason excitement westward.

In terms of star power, few matchups could top the Angels and the Rangers. Albert Pujols, who helped sink the Rangers in last year's World Series with a three-homer Game 3 and the series-saving rally in Game 6, is back.

Josh Hamilton, one of the most exciting, dramatic and complicated stars in baseball is also returning. He nearly won the World Series last year with his 10th-inning homer in Game 6.

Yu Darvish would bring his star from Japan. And, along with Hamilton and Darvish, the Rangers sent eight players to the All-Star Game.

Pujols did not get the invitation to Kansas City for the midseason classic. But his teammates Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, C. J. Wilson and Jared Weaver all did.

With baseball constantly needing to market to younger fans and put the steroid era behind them, what better ambassador than Mike Trout? He could be a batting champ, stolen-base king, lead the league in runs, total bases and OPS+ and collect an MVP before his 21st birthday.

The matchups could bring heightened drama. Weaver, having a potentially Cy Young-worthy season that included a no-hitter, could face down the mighty Rangers lineup, including Adrian Beltre.

Likable veterans like Torii Hunter and Michael Young would be fighting for their first rings. Nelson Cruz would be seeking redemption for missing the fly ball that could have clinched the 2011 World Series for Texas.

And, of course, both teams have managers whose legacies could be secured by a World Series title. Ron Washington would join the likes of John McGraw, Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Earl Weaver, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre as a manager with three consecutive pennants.

Meanwhile, Mike Scioscia would be building a Cooperstown resume of his own with a World Series title and five other division titles to his credit already.

And their recent four-game series had twists and turns that would please any TV executive. After the Angels took the first two games of the series, they jumped out to a six-run lead in the third game and looked to close the gap in the division to two games.

The Rangers came back, tying the score in the ninth. When Pujols and the Angels scored three in the 10th, the Rangers countered with four to win the game.

The finale was another high-scoring game, with the Rangers coming from behind again with eight late runs to win the game.

After four games, the two teams played to a standstill, which is all anyone can ask for in a playoff series.

Sure, the Yankees might have a wider audience. But for pure baseball drama as well as regional intrigue, the playoffs should look west.


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