Battle: Los Angeles

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Two former Cy Young winners, two former MVPs, two teams and one city suddenly exploding with baseball talent. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recently broke the bank to snare the best free agents available on the market. With the financial backing of Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Baseball Management, the Dodgers continued their spending spree and bolstered their starting pitching by signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract. The spending spree appeared to be contagious. The Angels and Arte Moreno signed division rival slugger Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 million contract just a few days later. Eyes are turning towards the gold rush going on out west and both the Dodgers and Angels enter the 2013 season with high expectations. The high payrolls and amount of talent on each team, invoke playoff expectations and World Series hopes. Most exciting for Southern Californians (unless you need to take I-5 to get somewhere quick in late October), it creates the potential for a Freeway World Series in the years to come.

With the Dodgers’ gross expenditure and addition of talent, anything less than a World Series berth can be called a failure of a season. The Los Angeles Dodgers have become the Yankees of the west. When you carry the highest payroll in baseball, you’re paying for championships. Good seasons and playoff berths simply won’t cut it.  Magic’s mountain of cash has raised Dodger fans’ expectations high, but will free-fall if the Dodgers fail to win. One of the largest hurdles for the 2013 Dodgers will be to overcome the world champion San Francisco Giants and win the NL West crown. The off-season acquisitions of Greinke and South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin bolsters the starting pitching of a team that already includes the best left-hander in the NL, Clayton Kershaw. While the starting rotation seems solid, the Dodgers will need more to match expectations. Dodger fans will need to hope for the health of all-star Matt Kemp and that the late acquisitions from the Boston Red Sox trade will perform better than last year. If Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier’s bats can be as big as their names and contracts, the Dodger’s lineup can have solid output in 2013.

While the Dodgers become a contender, Arte Moreno is making sure that Los Angeles is not solely a sea of Dodger blue. Even with the Angels’ addition of Los Angeles to their name, the city has always been Dodgertown. The Angels have been unable to penetrate the market to the degree that Moreno hoped. The Angels stole the spotlight by inking Albert Pujols last year, and again captured the nation’s attention by signing Josh Hamilton this offseason. The Angels have created a lineup that is not only terrifying to opposing pitchers, but also arguably the most marketable in baseball. Featuring Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo, the line-up resembles the Fantastic Four rather than reality. It’s only a matter of time until Trout, Pujols and Hamilton are plastered amongst billboards along I-5 and commercials throughout Los Angeles in a Moreno marketing campaign. In addition, he may want to make sure his star pitcher gets some coverage as Jered Weaver figures to have another great season. While Weaver can be relied upon to perform well, the starting rotation lacks some depth. C.J. Wilson is certainly solid but the rotation of Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas leaves something to be desired. Regardless, the Angels can be expected to be more than just hype in the coming season.

Baseball’s Battle: Los Angeles transcends the traditional freeway series or a possible World Series. Wins and losses are not the only things that the Angels and Dodgers are competing for; there is immense competition for the Los Angeles market. With the ever-increasing growth of television deals and the enormous market of Los Angeles, both the Angels and Dodgers want to soak the market. Los Angeles has long been considered a city of fair-weather fans, with popularity correlating directly to wins. While recent signings by both teams show an emphasis to ‘win now’, the Angels’ additions display Moreno’s desire to expand their market. By signing Pujols and Hamilton to long-term deals, the Angels paid big money for big names and big bats. Moreno knows that guys like this get national attention.  Surely Moreno hopes that their popularity will creep beyond Anaheim and Orange County, and into the profitable Los Angeles and national markets.

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Tye Masters
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
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