Sunday afternoon, Texas travels to Tempe to play the Angels. It’s Yu Darvish’s day to pitch, and C.J. Wilson’s.
But they’ll pitch to minor leaguers that day, away from the cameras and away from what Jon Paul Morosi (Fox Sports) calls “the most interesting rivalry in the game.”
Let the games begin.
This is not your Gerald Laird-Adam Kennedy brand of the Rangers-Angels rivalry. Or Feldman-Kennedy. Or Lackey-Kinsler. Or chip-on-his-shoulder Vlad.
It’s Beltre and Napoli, Wells and Napoli, Weaver and Napoli, C.J. and Napoli, Moreno and Napoli.
(“Our baseball people,” the owner recently told GQ Magazine, “felt that Napoli’s arm was not gonna hold up for a season and they made the decision that they wanted to move him.”)
(Moreno also said, in the same interview, that Darvish would have been a bad investment for the club that will pay Albert Pujols $30 million to play baseball at age 41, or 45: “We did not bid on [Darvish]. I’m not saying our scouts hadn’t discussed it, but there was never any discussion with me about Darvish. Probably [because of] price. I mean, we can sit there and have a couple beers and sort of have fantasy baseball but the reality is you try to look and to say objectively how do you economically balance your fans and your radio and your television—the whole package, right?”)
It’s Fox Sports contracts and Scott Servais and tweeting cell numbers and a first baseman for the 1993 Arizona League Angels named Harold Herdocia.
It’s Darvish vs. Pujols, C.J. vs. fill-in-the-blank. Eventually.
It’s ESPN’s Buster Olney calling the Angels’ early schedule the second-easiest in the American League. And Sports Illustrated crowning Los Angeles as the 2012 winner of the AL West, the ALDS (over Texas), the American League (over New York), and the World Series (over San Francisco).
And King Felix telling USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he loves Pujols but that “the Rangers still have a tougher lineup and team than the Angels.”
It’s waiting until May 11 for a matchup that counts, and circling that season-sending three-set in Arlington on September 28, September 29, and September 30.
This franchise, and you and I, went a very long time without a World Series. But we’ve gone longer without a real rivalry, a nemesis-nemesis competition with a mutual “bring it” intensity.
We’ve got one now, and as far into the baseball future as you can see. Sunday afternoon’s exhibition game will be marked by a little tactical gamesmanship rather than Darvish against Wilson, but even the decision not to show those two to lineups who have never faced them has a way of pushing the sports needle a lot more than wondering what Adam Kennedy is plotting next.