A's vs. Angels: The Rivalry That Should Be (And Eventually Will)

Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Sean Doolittle delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels at O.co Coliseum. Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

The Oakland A's are starting a crucial series against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. Why don't these two teams have the same kind of rivalry the Giants and Dodgers do?

This is the 45th year the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels have played in the same division. The two teams have played 695 games against each other in that time, with the A's winning just over 55 percent of those games. The Angels have eight division titles, a Wild Card appearance, and a World Series championship. The A's have 14 division titles, a Wild Card appearance, and four World Series Championships.

They've had a lot of time to build up some hate for each other, that is. Both teams have played enough head-to-head games against each other, and both teams have had enough success that it seems natural for the two teams to be bitter rivals. Not only do they have the intra-division thing going on, but there's the regional component, too. The A's play in Northern California, which is an area that represents the best part of America, and the Angels play in the poisonous hellscape of Southern California. The difference between the two has often led to regional rivalries, what with the bitterness and envy.

That last part might be opinion, but it seems like good science to me.

Jokes aside, the A's and Angels don't have the same rivalry that the Giants and Dodgers do. There are a lot of reasons -- longer shared team histories, the New York connection -- but Giants/Dodgers will get the Game of the Week treatment from Fox and ESPN, whereas A's/Angels is more of a regional curiosity for the big networks. I'm pretty sure the fans hate each other -- at least on the Internet -- but I'm talking a big-picture, nationally recognized, Holmes/Moriarty kind of feud.

Here's my actual guess at why there hasn't been much of a historical rivalry:

Angels' finish when A's make the playoffs

1971: Fourth
1972: Fifth
1973: Fourth
1974: Sixth
1976: Sixth
1981: Fourth
1988: Fourth
1989: Third
1990: Fourth
1992: Fifth
2000: Third
2001: Third
2002: Second (four games back)
2003: Third
2006: Second (four games back)

A's finish when Angels make the playoffs

1979: Seventh
1982: Fifth
1986: Fourth
2002: First
2004: Second (one game back)
2005: Second (seven games back)
2007: Third
2008: Third
2009: Fourth

The peak of the rivalry was in the early part of the millennium -- both teams were stellar and perennial contenders. But even then, there were only two down-to-the-wire finishes between the Angels and the A's during that time. There was 2002, where the loser had the safety net of the Wild Card locked up, and 2004. In the 45 years the Oakland A's have been in the AL West with the Angels, 2004 was the only season in which one team directly kept the other out of the playoffs.

That's where the rivalry went. But you can see the trend up there: not much for the first 30 years, and then a flurry of activity.

So that leads us to some bad predictions:

  • Eventually the A's will get a new stadium, whether it's downtown Oakland or San Jose, and they'll draw well
  • The Rangers and Astros will become something of a rivalry, even if that seems hopelessly silly right now
  • The Wild Card era will allow for more opportunities for the Angels and A's to finish 1-2 in a taut playoff race
  • The Angels and A's will develop a fierce, nationally recognized rivalry at some point
  • And the Mariners will, hell, I don't know. But then that's usually true.

The first one is a stretch, sure, but in Selig we trust. Dude gets stadiums built, and as long as it isn't in Las Vegas or something, it'll help the A's become a draw in Northern California. With the fans will come interest. And the only other thing needed for a rivalry would be more seasons like this one, where the two teams are consummating their blood feud in a heated playoff race.

It should be fun this year. But it should be even better as the years progress. Just a guess, but I hope it's a correct one.

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