So yesterday was a good day to be an Angels' fan, huh?
My college buddy Jesse, an Angels' fan, shot me a text yesterday morning as news broke that his team had signed Albert Pujols: "Best day for angels fans since pap's blown save in the alds... So this is what it feels like to be a sox fan."
Jesse and I were chatting online later when the Angels scooped up C.J. Wilson. Needless to say, Jesse had an awesome Thursday.
Jesse's text struck me. Yesterday was the best day for Angels' fans since Jonathan Papelbon blew Game 5 of the 2009 ALDS? Really?
Of course. It all makes perfect sense. Jesse and I watched that 2009 series together. I was confident that the Red Sox would, as they had the previous two seasons and for the fourth time in six seasons, knock of the Angels, our pesky yet ultimately wimpy little brother.
The Angels had other plans however. They swept the Sox, winning Game 3 at Fenway 7-6, thanks to a stunning two-out, three-run rally in the ninth against Papelbon. Little bro had finally won.
I was shattered. Jesse was ecstatic. It didn't really matter that that the Yankees beat the Angels in the ALCS. The Red Sox monkey was off the Angels' back, avenging a history of October stumbling versus Boston with its roots in the 1986 ALCS.
Red Sox fans should be familiar with this narrative. The Sox were to the Angels what the Yankees were to the Red Sox...before 2004 happened. Before the 2004 ALCS, New York always edged out Boston, no wound more scarring than the ALCS in 2003.
Angels-Red Sox is obviously not Yankees-Red Sox, however there are fewer contexts that bring out legitimate rivalry more than repeated, recent and one-sided postseason frustrations. When the other side finally breaks through, an important dynamic is changed.
The paths of the Angels and Red Sox have not intersected in any meaningful way since 2009, even with Boston's doomed John Lackey experiment. Regular season series have come and gone, with the expected good baseball played between two quality teams. But there hasn't been anything meaningful on the line the past two seasons.
With yesterday's double-whammy the Angels served notice—they really can't be called "little bro" anymore. Arte Moreno has decided to spend his money like John Henry and the Steinbrenner brothers.
Welcome to the Big Boys' Club.
Larry Lucchino's take on the Angels' big day?
"It just makes for an even keener rivalry between the Red Sox and the Angels," Lucchino said.
That's what it comes down to, from the Red Sox perspective anyway. Pujols and Wilson have brought the Angels back to true relevancy. After worrying about the Yankees, Rays and Rangers the past two seasons, the Angels are firmly back in Boston's crosshairs. The Red Sox will not see the Angels next year until late August. Both franchises obviously hope to have a ton of meaning on the line at that juncture.
And, if these two teams are destined for another October clash in the near future, Red Sox fans should remember that the Angels have been there and done that. The Angels are no longer the Red Sox perennial postseason punching bags.
It's a new baseball order in Orange County.