It may be a lost season for the Angels, but in all of this mess they might have finally found something I’ve been searching for for years: a real rival.
The Rangers and Angels are on a collision course for a real rivalry if this keeps up.
I’ll be the first to admit that the overwhelming coverage the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry gets has always annoyed the crap out of me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of my annoyance was due to jealousy. As long as I have been an Angel fan, I can’t ever really recall the Halos having a real rival.
That may seem inconsequential, but for me, having a rival to root against and generally despise is all part of the overall fan experience. For example, I also cover the Lakers, and I assure you, hating the Celtics is an absolute blast. Sure, I’ve always strongly disliked the rest of the AL West, but never have I really had that depths of my soul hatred for any of them. There was a brief flirtation with loathing the Athletics a few years back, but that didn’t last very long and I think I was kind of forcing it anyway. What I need is something to develop organically and last for years to come.
I think I might be about to get my wish.
What has always held the Angels back from having a bitter rival is that until this century, they just weren’t that good, and nobody wants to start a feud with a mediocre team. They’ve since held up their end of the bargain by becoming a perennial contender; however, they’ve done so at a time when the rest of the AL West has largely been a large pile of rubbish and the Halos have been the ones not wanting to pick on a lesser ballclub.
Now, though, the stars are beginning to align. This sub-standard Angel season has brought the Angels back into the rest of the pack a little bit, while the Rangers have simultaneously taken major steps forward to become a potential contender and one that is built on so much youth that you have to believe that they aren’t going to go away anytime soon.
But a rivalry can’t be built on competitiveness alone. No, a quality rivalry needs a solid foundation of bad blood. It can’t just be the fans not liking each other, the players have to hate each other too. When it comes to the Rangers and Angels, that shouldn’t be a problem.
While it may not get a lot of media attention, it is pretty clear to any fan of either team that there isn’t a whole lot of love lost between these two rosters. Dating back to Adam Kennedy and Gerald Laird getting into some fisticuffs during pre-game batting practice a few years ago, there has been some legit bad blood boiling for awhile now. That little skirmish has been followed up by some brawls, plenty of beanballs (mostly of the Vicente Padilla aiming at Vlad Guerrero’s head variety) and even some trash talk (lest we forget Ian Kinsler’s premature “get the eff off our field”).
Though Texas hasn’t committed any particularly egregious offenses against the Halos this season (unless you count them always wearing their red uniforms when hosting the Angels), their mere presence atop the standings is more than enough to cast them as public enemy #1 amongst Angels fans. They just need to make it last.
As strange as it sounds, yes, I am actually “rooting” for the Rangers to be good. Texas has had some good years every now and again, but this is going to be their first division title of the new millennium. If they wind up fading away again after this season and don’t challenge for the top spot for another 10 years, then the rivalry will be dead before it ever really began. But with their glut of young talent, a still bountiful farm system and new owners that actually seem to understand that carrying mountains of debt is a bad idea, this looks like a franchise with staying power.
As painful as it will be to watch Texas pop the champagne at the end of this season (and maybe more seasons in the future), I look forward to it being vastly outweighed by all the hotly contested and meaningful games the two squads would be poised to play for years to come. If the rivalry hatred can continue to grow to the point that it becomes part of each team’s identity, then eventually it won’t matter if both teams aren’t good at the same time.
For the sake of the blooming rivalry, Angel fans everywhere should give the Rangers a big hearty congratulations. Congrats on your impending division title and best wishes on your future success. I really can’t wait to start hating you with a fiery passion that consumes my very soul.