- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

Well, I guess the powers that be in baseball are thanking their lucky stars that the Minnesota Twins are not in the World Series, and it has nothing to do with the embarrassment of trying to contract that franchise.

Can you imagine having the face of baseball for the entire World Series be Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett and his bizarre arrest on sexual assault charges? It would have overshadowed the entire Series.

They can thank the Anaheim Angels for saving baseball that embarrassment and instead presenting the country with a Disney-like event literally, since Disney owns the Angels, though it tried all season to dump the team, even talking to baseball's tire-kicker, Donald "Duck" Watkins.

The only embarrassment going into tonight's Game1 between the Angels and the San Francisco Giants at Edison Field is that Fox has to promote and broadcast a rival's team Disney also owns ABC in the same market where Fox also owns a club, the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be more galling when Fox has to broadcast the scene in the Angels' clubhouse when they win the World Series, with Disney chief Michael Eisner holding the championship trophy. Rupert Murdoch will have paid baseball millions of dollars for the right to do that. That's synergy, baby.

The Angels were the best team in baseball this year. They were forged into that by playing in baseball's toughest division, the American League West, against probably the second- and third-best teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners. Then they beat the big, bad New York Yankees. The San Francisco Giants are fourth on that list, in terms of a threat.

The World Series is a pressure cooker that acts as a lie detector, and it will expose the Giants for the team they are not and will provide evidence that the Angels are more than the team they appear to be. The Giants have come up short recently in the postseason for good reason: They are a team that revolves around a planet known as Barry Bonds a large and powerful planet but a cold one that does nothing to warm the planets circling him.

I'm not talking about his place in the lineup and how it helps the hitters around him get better pitches or some other sort of baseball strategy. I'm talking about inspiring your teammates to do better simply because of your presence and to come up with performances when the center of their universe can't supply the needed power.

You can dismiss such a notion if you like, but the World Series has often been a stage for the player you didn't count on to be the hero and not the superstar who gained all the attention and acclaim. Names like Scott Brosius and Pat Borders and Rick Dempsey come to mind. The mega-stars like Barry Bonds only seem to shine on the center stage when they embrace the limelight like a Reggie Jackson. Barry Bonds is no Reggie Jackson.

Despite all of the revisionist history going on lately in the press, Bonds is still the same guy that his teammates have said they privately despise. You can see it in his body language, the way he forces himself to congratulate and celebrate with his teammates. Bonds would like to play baseball in an empty stadium if he could, just like the clubhouse he works in and the world he would like to live in.

The Angels, meanwhile, are a team full of players like Brosius and Borders, a roster full of players like David Eckstein and Scott Spiezio and others who held together after a 6-14 start to win 99 games.

"To do what they did after that start was incredible," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who knows a thing or two about inspiring performances from his 1988 playoff performance with the Dodgers (before Fox). "I think it's a credit to these players keeping it together and believing in themselves."

The Giants believe in Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds believes in Barry Bonds. Starting tonight, we'll see which team has made the better investment of its faith.

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