One doesn't tend to think of the rivalry between the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers as being one of the great rivalries in baseball. It's certainly not Red Sox-Yankees, nor does it come close to Dodgers-Giants.
Among interleague rivalries, Angels-Dodgers isn't even close to Mets-Yankees or Cubs-White Sox. It's a territorial rivalry, to be sure, but there's not a whole lot of bad blood between the two teams themselves.
Instead, what exists between the Angels and Dodgers is more like indifference.
"It's for the fans. That's why it's still here. The players don't really think too much about it," said Angels legend Garrett Anderson to The Orange County Register in June. "If it's favorable with the people who are paying, you keep it in. It's simple."
After the Angels went out and signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to massive contracts this offseason, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was not impressed. He told MLB.com that the Dodgers were still king in Southern California.
"It's like the Mets and the Yankees. The Yankees are the team. I'm not badmouthing the Angels at all and Mr. [Arte] Moreno and Mike [Scioscia] do a great job and had a great run, but we're the Dodgers and that's not going to change," Mattingly said.
Fighting words? Not quite. No war of words was exchanged.
Despite the kerfuffle over the whole Los Angeles/Anaheim thing, there are good reasons why the Angels and Dodgers don't hate each other. Chief among them is the fact that both clubs have more pressing rivalries to worry about.
The Angels have developed a rivalry with the Texas Rangers in recent years, one that has played out both on the field and in the front offices of both clubs. The Dodgers, of course, have the Giants to worry about, and that's not going to change anytime soon (nor should it).
What the Angels-Dodgers rivalry needs in order to sink in as an actual rivalry is a good kick in the pants; a heated affair that will get the bad blood boiling straightaway.
An offseason bidding war would do the trick, and ESPN's Buster Olney proposed an idea on Wednesday that would do quite nicely.
How about a bidding war over ace right-hander Zack Greinke?
The Angels, of course, just executed a trade for Greinke a few days before the trade deadline, giving up three of their best prospects to land him from the Milwaukee Brewers. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has reported that the Angels aren't looking to sign Greinke, a free-agent-to-be, to an extension in the immediate future, but signing him long term is definitely the organization's top priority.
The Angels have the capacity to re-sign Greinke. They have a ton of TV money to play with, and they're going to be able to clear some payroll space this offseason if they decline to pick up Ervin Santana's $13 million option. They can also re-sign Torii Hunter at a discounted rate (he's making $18 million this season) if they so choose.
When it comes to funds, however, the Angels can't hope to go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers in a bidding war.
The Dodgers are swimming in cash these days now that Frank McCourt is out and Magic Johnson and his merry troupe of billionaires are running the show. They paid over $2 billion to acquire the Dodgers, and they've shown in the last few months that they're more than willing to make it rain if it means improving the club.
They signed Andre Ethier to an extension worth $85 million. They took on the rest of the $30-plus million remaining on Hanley Ramirez's contract when they acquired him from the Miami Marlins. They spent $42 million on Yasiel Puig, an unproven Cuban outfield prospect.
They even showed a willingness to take on the $100 million or so remaining on Cliff Lee's contract when they claimed him off waivers last week, according to a report from ESPN's Jayson Stark. Had they been so inclined, the Phillies could have dumped Lee and his contract on the Dodgers without getting anything in return. The Dodgers were apparently well prepared for that eventuality. In fact, they were probably hoping for it.
As rich as the Angels are, they're not as rich as the Dodgers. Nor do the Angels have the payroll flexibility that the Dodgers have. Per USA Today, the Angels' payroll is over $150 million this season. The Dodgers' payroll is under $100 million. They'll be able to afford a contract worth $100 million or more fairly easily.
That's what it's going to take to sign Greinke, as he supposedly turned down a five-year offer worth $100 million to stay with the Brewers (see: the DiGiovanna report). If that's where the bar is set, the Angels will be in trouble if the Dodgers get it in their heads to sign Greinke. They can't go as high over that bar as the Dodgers can.
It's a good bet that the Dodgers will enter the bidding for Greinke. They need a second ace to pair with Clayton Kershaw, and signing Greinke would essentially be a case of them wrapping up unfinished business. They were looking to acquire an ace at the trade deadline this season, but they couldn't get it done due to a variety of circumstances.
If the Dodgers do steal Greinke from the Angels, that's when we'll be able to cue a Michael Bay-style 360-degree tracking shot. Things will have gotten real in Southern California.
The Angels would feel cheated, and rightfully so. They gave up three of their best prospects to get Greinke, but the idea never was (and still is not) to enjoy his services for only the final two months of the season. The Angels would not have made the trade if they didn't think they had a legit shot at re-signing Greinke.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, will have proved a point if they manage to steal Greinke from the Angels. They will have shown that, no matter how much the Angels want to play at being kings of the hill, Southern California is still Dodger territory.
The fanbases of both clubs would be riled up, and don't think that the men on the field level for both clubs wouldn't be riled up as well. A sense of cockiness would pervade the Dodgers' side of the fence, and there would certainly be hard feelings on the Angels' side of the fence. Ideally, players and coaches on both sides of the fence would quit trying to downplay the rivalry and let loose a little bit.
Next thing you know, interleague games between the Angels and Dodgers would resemble small wars.
You can think back to when the New York Yankees signed Jose Contreras in the winter of 2002, thus yanking him from the clutches of the Boston Red Sox. That inspired the "Evil Empire" moniker, and then came the two greatest years in the history of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
That incident goes to show that front-office dealings can indeed heat up a rivalry. The same will be true if the Dodgers sign Greinke away from the Angels this offseason.
It may not elevate Angels-Dodgers to the same level as Angels-Rangers or Dodgers-Giants. But for the first time in the rivalry's history, it will feel like Angels-Dodgers actually means something.
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