- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The old adage of being careful of what you wish for, because you might get it, certainly holds true for the American League Championship Series, starting tonight in that wonderful old ballpark in Minneapolis known as the Metrodome. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

You wanted competitive balance, you got it.

It doesn't get any more small-market than the Minnesota Twins, a franchise that baseball officials considered such a disaster that they wanted to shut it down at the end of this year.

Then there are the Anaheim Angels, a team that the Mouse, who owns everything that Time-Warner doesn't, decided it didn't want anymore, and then couldn't find anyone willing to buy the franchise.

Of course, that's changed now. Disney chairman Michael Eisner told the Los Angeles Times that the Mouse may decide to hang onto the team, or at least remain a partner. Talk about front-runners.

The Yankees are gone. That is what you wanted, right? To have New York win or compete year after year was destroying the game, and what baseball needed was a chance for the smaller, poorer teams to win. That's the whole essence of the recent labor agreement, right?

Now you've got it. No Roger Clemens. No Derek Jeter. No Joe Torre, all disposed by the Angels.

I've never bought into the notion that Yankees domination was bad for baseball. Then again, I've never bought into the notion that the golden age of baseball was when a number of teams could start the season with the hope of actually making the World Series. Save for the decade of the 1980s, when the Yankees' money didn't keep them from making one bad decision after another, there has not been any era in the last 50 years of baseball that wasn't dominated by the richest teams in the largest markets.

Not this year. It's Minnesota and Anaheim (a team with no "there" there after all, it changed its name three times over the past 41 years, from the Los Angeles Angels to the California Angels to its current Anaheim identification).

Not that this won't be a good series. Both teams have talented and entertaining players Garrett Anderson and Troy Glaus for the Angels, and Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones for the Twins but not a single player with star power.

Both teams have the same identity. There is no villain. If you like rooting for the underdog, you are going to be conflicted (although it may be tough to consider any Disney property as an underdog).

Here's Angels manager Mike Scioscia on the low profile of his team this year: "Whether they were on the cover of a magazine every week, it wouldn't make any difference to this club. This club is about keeping it all on the field and winning. They aren't affected one way or another by accolades they might get, or hiding in the shadows. They're fine with it, either way."

And Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on the obstacles his team faced this year: "We were just lucky to get to spring training, after everything our club went through this winter. That was an accomplishment. We used all of that as a motivating factor."

Both are very good baseball teams the Angels were probably a better team than the Yankees actually, having to complete in a much tougher division against Oakland and Seattle and could produce a memorable series.

But one team doesn't care that nobody paid any attention to them, and the other feels fortunate to have survived this long. Small market baseball. Enjoy it.


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