By Ross Newhan
Both the Angels and Dodgers had 19 games remaining as of Thursday morning, and three things are clear (four, if you include the fact that the temperature is still hotter than either team):
1--Neither the Angels nor Dodgers are going to win their division.
2--Money, as proven often by the Yankees and others, doesn't guarantee success.
3--Both teams face an off-season of continued spending.
--The Angels and their $159 million payroll have fallen a surprising (shocking?) 8 1/2 games behind Texas and will see the Rangers win the American League West for the third straight year.
--The Dodgers and their $262.5 million long-term commitment to four players via the Aug. 26 trade with Boston are a Woolworth's 5 and 10 since then to fall seven games behind San Francisco, which will win the National League West for the second time in the last three years.
None of this is to say that the Angels and Dodgers are without playoff hopes, but only because of post-season reconstruction that will qualify two wild card teams in each league.
The Dodgers are only one game behind St. Louis, the second of the National League's two wild card contenders (Atlanta has the first spot wrapped up), as they open a four game series with the Cardinals tonight. The Angels, threatening to finish like they started in an 8-15 April, are 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles (who are tied for the American League's second wild card berth), and 4 1/2 behind front running Oakland entering today's series finale with the $54 million A's, whose rookie pitchers have left the fastball favoring Angel hitters appearing as if they've never seen a breaking ball in a three straight domination.
So, I suppose, if the Angels and Dodgers reach a respective wild card play-in game they can shrug off some of the division disappointment but not all the eventual questions.
The Angels, potentially, appeared to have their most potent lineup and best rotation ever, but Arte Moreno will need to keep his wallet out because that potential failed to become reality.
In fact, he should start working on Zach Greineke now because there will not be a better starter available in the market, and that rotation is a pitcher shy and an inconsistent enigma when it comes to Ervin Santana, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren.
The bullpen, a problem from the start, needs rebuilding, third base can be improved (Adrian Beltre was a missed opportunity in more ways than one but that was two years and one general manager ago) and the saving that once seemed feasible with the expiring of Torri Hunter's contract may have to be reconsidered off his performance behind Mike Trout and the slide of Mark Trumbo.
Also, is Mike Scioscia safe and does he want to be, even with a contract through 2018?
The Dodgers, with Gugenheim already committed to $170 million next year and certain to pass the Yankees at the top of the payroll standings, have to rebuild the pitching staff, look hard at the middle of the infield and hope that a recovering Carl Crawford and those four would be bellwethers in the middle of the order--Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez--will be more effective with more time together, although the rules won't be changing. Each will still be alone in the batter's box.
While all of that is getting ahead of those 19 games, the reality is unmistakeable:
The Angels and Dodgers face a winter of cold cash, wild card or not.