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The Angels' angle

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  September 29, 2008 01:58 PM

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Catching up on a few links and tidbits regarding the Red Sox' opponent in the ALDS . . .

  • The Angels led the major leagues with 100 wins this season. They also know that means absolutely nothing as of 10 p.m. Wednesday, but that doesn't mean they are tempering their expectations.

    Writes Kevin Baxter in the Los Angeles Times:

    The Angels have . . . made early exits from the playoffs three times since winning the World Series in 2002, losing their last seven postseason games. But [manager Mike] Scioscia said none of those teams could do what this year's club has done. And he wasn't talking about 100 wins.

    "This year we've got the deepest lineup we've had here," he said. "Our expectations are to go out there and play much better than we did the last couple of times we had opportunities to get in the playoffs.

    "We're where we need to be. Some guys that were banged up are in the lineup. Our pitching is reset. We like our team. We like where we are. And we're ready for Wednesday."

    The Angels, who were swept by the Sox in the ALDS last year, have lost their last eight playoff games against Boston beginning with Game 6 of the 1986 ALCS.

  • The most notable development concerning the Angels' personnel is that reliever Justin Speier will be left off the ALDS roster in favor of rookie Kevin Jepsen.

    Speier, who signed a four-year, $18 million contract before the 2007 season, had a rough second season with the Angels, finishing with a 2-8 record and a 5.03 earned-run average while permitting 15 homers in 68 innings. However, he was unscored upon in his final four appearances.

    Jepsen had a 4.23 ERA in 8 2/3 innings over nine appearances.

  • Angels outfielder Torii Hunter has a theory as to why home runs were down this season to their lowest level since 1993, and it's probably the same suspicion most of us would have:

    "I think the steroid testing has something to do with it," he said. "If there were any guys who were taking it, they're not taking it anymore. I'd say it's a small percentage, but of course it's going to have an impact."

    According to the Associated Press, an average of 2.01 home runs per game were hit this year, down from 2.04 in 2007. The average hadn't dropped that low since 15 years ago, when it stood at 1.78, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

    The homer high of 2.34 was set in 2000, and the average stood at 2.14 in 2003, the last season before drug testing with penalties began.

  • In a leftover from the LA Times's Sunday edition, Ross Newhan writes that the Dodgers and Angels need to sign their respective free-agent sluggers -- Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira -- at all costs this offseason. Writes Newhan of Teixeira:

    There will be a battle royal for Teixeira between the New York Yankees and his hometown Baltimore Orioles, among others. He may not get the 10-year, $250-million deal that Boras got from the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez when he was 26, but six- to eight-year deals have become common for "top-tier" sluggers in their 20s, and he will step up from his $12 million this year to at least $18 million or more.

    Teixeira, who is in his sixth big-league season, will be making his postseason debut in Game 1 Wednesday, so it's fair to say his sticker price could be affected by his playoff performance.

    As far as that other slugger Newhan references, well, we can't get enough Mannywood news, even in a post ostensibly about the Angels. So, here's Newhan's take on Manny's importance to the Dodgers:

    [Ramirez] enlivened the clubhouse, energized the young players as the team's incumbent veterans hadn't, switched leagues as if playing T-ball and -- according to multiple club sources not authorized to speak publicly -- has already made Frank and Jamie McCourt several million dollars more in added ticket, merchandise, food and parking sales.

    The echoes of Boston and the accusation he quit on the Red Sox may always cloud his resume, but the long-denied Sox won two World Series with Ramirez and he annually enhanced Hall of Fame credentials that he is smart enough, at 36, to realize could be threatened if he resorted to disturbing behavior during a final five- or six-year contract.

  • While this won't come as news to Boston fans, the Orange County Register's Mark Whicker points out to his Manny-crazy readers that the trade also helped the Red Sox, noting that "the Sox are full of winners who get extra hemoglobin when they sense external doubt."

    I'm not quite sure what that means, but I think he's suggesting the Angels would be making a mistake to overlook the Sox in this series.

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