Angels vs. A's: The Forty-Year Rivalry That Never Was
[Note: this was written prior to the first game of the Angels-A's series.]
The A's and Angels opened up a big four-game series tonight in Anaheim with only two games separating them for first place in the AL West. Next Monday they do it all again with another four-game series, this time in Oakland. They are the two hottest teams in baseball: Oakland has won 22 of 23. The Angels have won 10 straight.
The oddest thing is that even though these two teams have been in direct competition for 42 years, this is only the second time that they have been in a pennant race at this time of year. Looking back at their collective history, it appears that they have been doing their best to avoid each other as much as possible for over forty years. When it comes to pennant races, they ain't the Dodgers and the Giants. It seems to me that they led their lives like a candle in the wind.
In 1961, the American League added a team in Los Angeles that took the name of the old Pacific Coast League team, the Angels. They played their first full season in the PCL Angels' old ballpark, Wrigley Field (not that one). The Angels did OK as an expansion team finishing eighth of ten teams at 70-91, 38.5 games out of first. They were 10 games ahead of last-place (tied) Kansas City. Of course, this KC team was not the Royals-they were the Fightin' Athletics.
In 1962, the Angels surged up to third with an 86-76 record but were still 10 games behind the Yanks. The A's were last again, 25.5 games back.
In 1963, the A's led the Angels by 2.5 games, the closes they have ever finished in the standings. However, they were in 8th and 9th place in the AL.
In 1966, the re-dubbed California Angels led the A's by 5 games-they were in fifth and sixth places respectively in the AL.
1967, California finished 7.5 behind the Red Sox in fifth place in a tight AL race. The A's finished last in their last season in KC.
1969, the AL is divided into East and West divisions. The Angels and A's moved into the West, where they reside to this day. The finished second (Oakland) and third (California) in the division. However, the A's are 9 games behind the Twins; the Angels 26.
1970, they finished in the same position as the previous year with only three games separating them. However, they are 9 and 12 games behind Minnesota.
1971, Oakland wins its first division title. California finished 25.5 games back in fourth.
In 1972, Oakland wins the division again. The Angels are fifth, 18 back.
1973, the A's win their third straight division title. The Angels finish fourth, 15 games back.
1974, the A's win again. The Angels are last (sixth), 29 games back.
1975, Oakland wins its fifth straight division title. The Angels are last again, 24.5 back.
1976, the A's finish in second, 2.5 games behind the Royals. The Angels rise to a fourth-place tie, 14 back.
1978, the Angels tie Texas for second, 5 behind KC. The A's are in sixth, 28 back.
1979, the Angels win their first division title. Oakland is seventh (last), 43 games back.
1980, the A's surge to second (14 behind the Royals); the Angels fall to sixth (31 out).
1981, Oakland wins the first half title in the strike asundered season and have the best record in the division for the year. The Angels are fifth overall, 20 games back. (In the first half, the Angels are fourth, 8.5 behind Oakland. In the second, they are last 8.5 behind KC-the A's are second, two back).
1982, the Angels roar into first; the A's snore into fifth, 29 back.
1983, they are four games apart-the A's are fourth, the Angels fifth.
1984, almost a pennant race-California ties the Twins for second, 3 behind the Royals. The A's are fourth, seven back, but 77-85 in a weak division.
1985, the Angels finish one game behind KC; the A's tie for fourth, 14 back.
1986, California wins its second division title. Oaklabd is tied for third, 16 back.
1987, the A's finish just two behind the Twins in third. The Angels are tied for last, 22 out.
1988, Oakland wins its first division title in 7 years. The Angels are 29 back, in fourth.
1989, their only pennant race: Oakland wins, but California is only eight out in third. On May 31, they co-lead the division with only percentage points separating them. On June 15, the Angels drop to four back in third. On June 30, they surge to a half-game back. At the All-Star beak, California leads Oakland by 1.5 games. The lead dwindles to a half-game by July 31. At the end of August, Oakland leads by 2.5. September 1, the Angels drop into third. On September 20, the Angels climb into second, 2.5 out but lose 7 of the last 9. A dreadful end for their only pennant race.
1990, Oakland is first; the Angels are 29 back (fourth).
1991, California is in seventh but only 14 behind the Twins with a n 81-81 record as the entire division finishes .500 or better. Oakland is fourth, three games ahead of the Angels.
1992, Oakland returns to the division lead. California is 24 back, tied for fifth.
1993, the Angels lead the A's by three in fifth and seventh places respectively.
1994 brings about the three-division AL (only four teams from now on in the AL West) and a strike-shortened season. The entire division finishes under .500 in the short year. The A's are one behind Texas in second; the Angels are 5.5 back in fourth.
1995, the Angels lead the division most of the year but fade to tie the Mariners and then lose a one-game playoff to Seattle. Oakland is 11.5 back, in fourth.
1997, the re-dubbed Anaheim Angels finish six behind Seattle in second. Oakland is last, 25 out.
1998, the Angels again finish second, three behind Texas. The A's are last, 14 out.
1999, Oakland is second, 8 games back. The Angels are last, 25 games out.
2000, Oakland wins the division. The Angels are 9.5 back in third. Oakland chases Seattle for most of the year and after three months in which they do not have sole control of first for one day, they take the division in the last weekend of the season as Seattle loses one of three to the Angels. Anaheim stays about 5 games back for all of July, drop to 9 out August 11, surge to 4 back (1.5 behind the A's for second) on August 30. They quickly drop like a stone to 9.5 back.
2001, the Angels are A's flip-flop for second and third place most of May and June. On July 1, they are tied for second but 21 behind the M's. By July 31, Oakland is three games ahead of Anaheim. By the end of August, they are 10 ahead and headed for the wild card. The Angels fade to 12 games below .500, 41 behind historic Seattle.
So where does this now leave us? If history holds true, one team will pull very quickly away from the other, and history does not seem to favor Anaheim. But what does history know? Here we are with three weeks left in the season, with a great pennant race between the only two teams in the AL to have had three names in the last 50 years (isn't that a killer stat?), so let's enjoy it while it lasts.