Who will win the great L.A. debate: Dodgers or Angels?

Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke will help determine who wins the great LA debate: Dodgers or Angles?
Dodgers or Angels: Who will win the battle for Los Angeles?

With the year the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels had last season, and the moves each has made in the offseason, one has to think: Who will be the better Los Angeles team entering the 2013 campaign, the Dodgers or Angels?

Los Angeles Angels

2012 season: The Angels missed the playoffs. When the dust settled, they were third in the West. In a nutshell, Albert Pujols started slow and finished strong, Mike Trout came out of nowhere and amazed, Jered Weaver pitched his first no-no and won 20, and Mark Trumbo made his first All-Star appearance.

2013 payroll: $146,774,107

AL West: The Houston Astros recently made the switch over to the AL, but they’re not a threat in the West. The Rangers are Hamilton-less now, which will spark a newfound rivalry; still, they’re not the same team they were, so to side with them is a risk. Seattle is still trying to figure out who they are. That leaves the Oakland A’s. This team is scary-good. Their postseason appearance was no fluke. Look for them to make things interesting.

Key losses: Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana, Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, Kendrys Morales

Key newcomers: Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett

Concerns: Publicity is tops here. With all eyes on the organization again, they understand they can’t afford to fail this season. The expectations couldn’t be any higher. If the Angels miss the postseason in back-to-back years, expect manager Mike Scioscia to be sacrificed to the fans. The scrutiny would then fall on the hands of the then-assumed overpaid free agents. Remember, the Angels aren’t the Yankees or even the Dodgers; they don’t hold that sort of special heritage. They can’t get away with losing on this big of a payroll nor can they risk it. On the other side of that, they are a big-market team now, so dumping and reloading might be a trend we see from them season to season, if they prove to be unsuccessful.

A second concern would be Pujols’ right knee. For precautionary purposes, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean it up a bit. The three-time NL MVP will get plenty of at-bats before opening day, so this shouldn’t be an immediate concern. However, he did mention recently how “things feel different now.” At 33, he’s not exactly past his prime, but he’s not exactly young in baseball terms either. As he continues to play, his body will ache a little more now. Injuries will take a little longer to heal. Last August, he strained his right calf and was limited the rest of the season. That being said, Trumbo might start at first base more.

Quote to sum it up: “Just going out and signing a huge free agent, obviously history tells you that you’re not guaranteed that you’re going to get there. There’s so much more that goes into it.” — Manager Mike Scioscia talking about the expectations of this season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2012 season: The Dodgers also missed the playoffs last season. Matt Kemp started out hot before a hamstring injury placed him on the DL for two months. After returning, Kemp injured his shoulder and left knee hitting the outfield wall hard at Coors Field. It should be noted that Andre Ethier stepped up huge and became the go-to player in Kemp’s absences.

The 2012 season also brought the likes of stars Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett from the East Coast. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, and by the end of the season, the Dodgers remained a couple games back in the wild card hunt.

2013 payroll: $220,128,572

NL West: It’s no secret the Giants are the team to beat. True, San Diego is making a case as a franchise to be taken seriously, but let’s be honest; the division is going to be a shootout between the Dodgers and Giants in the end.

Key losses: Victorino, Blanton, Randy Choate, Bobby Abreu, Jamey Wright

Key newcomers: Greinke, J.P. Howell, Skip Schumaker, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Mark Lowe, Mark McGwire (hitting coach)

Concerns: Kemp and Crawford’s health are at the top of the list. Kemp is coming off shoulder surgery and Crawford is coming off Tommy John surgery. With Victorino’s departure, these two will have to stay healthy and be the generals of the outfield, as well as maintain consistent at-bats near the top of the lineup. They don’t have the depth to carry them through like the Giants or their L.A. counterpart, the Angels.

Clayton Kershaw should be noted, too. Late last season, he experienced right hip problems that set him back some. He says he’s at full health now and ready to go, but he will be carefully monitored during spring training.

A second concern is having a true leadoff hitter. Crawford might start games atop the lineup, but as Mattingly has mentioned before, infielder Mark Ellis will take on this role regularly. Ellis suffered a setback last season, staying on the DL from May through July.

Quote to sum it up: “At the end of the day, they are going to have to do their job. Our job is to create the environment — the culture — that we’re putting them in the best position to play their best baseball. And at the end of the day, they’re going to carry us.” — Manager Don Mattingly talking about the stars of the team.

And the winner is …

Dodgers or Angels? Angels or Dodgers? It’s close, but I still have to give the edge to the Angels. They’re the better team when all is said and done. They’re younger and have more to work with. There’s enough talent on this roster — even if a man, or two, goes down — to carry them through.

Even though they cut ties with Greinke, Santana and Haren, they still have their top aces in Weaver and C.J. Wilson. The additions of Blanton, Vargas and Hanson, who can easily win 10 games each, are decent enough arms to fill out the rotation. Still, I do believe the Dodgers have a better rotation and a little more depth in the bullpen, but the Halos still have solid pitching all-around to make them tough to hit — better than most teams in the AL.

Both teams are scheduled to faceoff in a three-game series from May 27-May 30 during interleague play.

Let the debating begin.

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