It’s been a roller coaster-ride of a first half in the world of Southern California baseball.
Starting from spring training, when expectations and excitement were at an all-time high for both the Angels and Dodgers, followed by a maddening period in which both teams struggled to live up to said expectations, and now, the close of the first half with one team making a run and the other still trying to find its way.
Here is the best, worst and what’s left to come with the Los Angeles baseball teams in the 2013 season.
Before pitchers and catchers even reported, talking heads and fans alike were projecting both the Angels and Dodgers to win their respective divisions. In Anaheim, with Mike Trout coming off an MVP-caliber season and Josh Hamilton added to the mix, the Angels managed to steal some of the thunder from their neighbors to the north whose new owners had added payroll and lofty expectations. The Dodgers were nicknamed “Yankees West” and it was shaping up to be an exciting and dominant season in Los Angeles.
The Angels opened the season 9-13, the Dodgers were only slightly better at 13-13 in April. Hamilton got more attention for eating Butterfingers on the field than his play, and the Dodgers’ prized offseason acquisition in right-hander Zack Greinke was lost for nearly the first two months of the season after breaking his collarbone in a melee with the Padres that marred much of the early season for the Dodgers.
The Freeway Series
Late in May, the rumor mill was up and running. The Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly were both rumored to be on the chopping block before and during the four-game Freeway Series. Should one team have earned a sweep, the other squad’s manager would have been out. But the two split the series, and both skippers are still at their respective helms.
The reversal of the course
The streaky Angels won 10 of 13 to end May and took six in a row to finish up June. The Dodgers won six in a row, including a sweep of the Giants and eight of nine to end June, as well. While the Angels resumed some struggles in July, the Dodgers are suddenly the hottest team in baseball, going from last place to second in the National League West. The biggest difference was made when one key player was added to the roster.
The Puig factor
June 3 marked the highly-anticipated arrival of outfielder Yasiel Puig. The Cuban defector broke rookie records and electrified crowds with his long home runs and all-out style of play in the outfield. This re-energized a Dodgesr lineup that desperately needed a boost. Puig took baseball by storm and was nearly named an All-Star, but failed to make the cut in the Final Vote candidates. Although he ultimately lost out to the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, Puig has been the subject of much of the baseball discussion as of late, as fans, players and coaches have all weighed in on whether or not a six-week career should warrant an All-Star spot.
What to watch for: The second half Pujols’ 500th home run
Angels’ first baseman Albert Pujols is just 10 home runs shy of reaching 500. The slugger will become just the 26th person in history to achieve the feat. Pujols has 15 homers already this season.
The reset button The Angels have been up, down and everywhere in between in 2013. The second half of the season will provide a clean slate of sorts. Should Jered Weaver regain his dominance and Hamilton find his stroke, the Halos could see themselves in the thick of the AL Wild Card hunt.
The Dodgers traded away three minor league arms for Marlins’ right-hander Ricky Nolasco to show that they are serious about contending. The hot streak has them in second place in the NL West and confident going into the break. Look for the Dodgers to make another move for another arm.
Will the rookie sensation hit a possible second-half slump? Until then, he’s still the most exciting player in baseball.