Four years ago, the New York Yankees were the talk of the baseball world. After missing the playoffs in 2008, they went out that winter and paid big money to three players in starting pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira. The following season, the Bronx Bombers went on to win the World Series against the Phillies as we all know. As we shift the scene to 2012, the whole focus of baseball might just be shifting to a whole other region of the United States.
In 2000, we talked about the Subway Series, but in 2013, will we talk about…the Freeway Series? That is a distinct possibility after the money the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent this offseason. It started with small moves for the Angels with the signings of relievers Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson, starter Joe Blanton, and trades for starters Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas. This came a year after they spent a combined $317 million on two players! (Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson).
After the Dodgers were sold, they went out last season and acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett in a mega-deal with the Boston Red Sox. Despite missing the playoffs, LA felt they still needed to spend the money they had with the new ownership and the new TV rights deal. So, last week, they went out and signed former Angel Zack Greinke to a six-year, $143 million deal to be the number-two pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw.
Now, the Angels struck back recently with the signing of former Texas Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton. You imagine that lineup with Mike Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton to go with Mark Trumbo and you have one of the best middle of the orders in the American League.
Unlike the Subway Series in New York would be now, the Freeway Series has two teams with legitimate World Series aspirations. Even when the Mets were competitive in 2007 and 2008, the Subway Series did not have the juice that the Freeway Series will have this year.
Ask yourself this; if you are a general baseball fan, are you waiting for the 7 o’clock Yankee game or are you going to wait till the 10 o’clock games on the West Coast? Right now, the balance of power in baseball has shifted out West. I haven’t even mentioned the two World Championships won in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Giants in the last three years as well as the resurgent, Moneyball Oakland A’s.
The Giants and the Athletics have done it a different way than the two freeway teams. Instead, the Bay Area teams have focused on platoons at certain positions with an occasional big splash signing (Oakland) or keeping the core of their title teams together (San Francisco).
With the Yankees not looking to spend money on big-time players presumably for the next two off-seasons and with only one team east of the Mississippi River being in the Fall Classic since 2009, the center of the baseball world has the potential and most likely will shift toward the West Coast.