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Say Goodbye to the Freeway Series

Does this mean there's not going to be a Freeway World Series? Think of all the gas they'll save in Southern California. The kind that goes in the fuel tank, not the type C.C. Sabathia was throwing.

No entertainment personalities. No inside info on the breakup of Jamie and Frank's marriage. No Tommy Lasorda anecdotes. No confusion whether they're the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles or Charlie's Angels.

The Yankees are supposed to be that good, aren't they? A-Rod has the largest contract in history. Sabathia got enough to bail out Wall Street. He certainly bailed out a team that last year didn't even get to the playoffs. Mark Teixeira is earning $20 mill a season, or thereabouts. Then there are Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and a cast of thousands.

TV loves the Yankees. Because so much of America hates them. Or did. It was the Red Sox who stepped in for the Yanks as target of our disenchantment the last few seasons. They became the very Evil Empire that the execs in Boston called the Yankees.

The theory here is "In cars, wine and ballplayers you get what you pay for, with exceptions.'' Alex Rodriguez has hit a home run in three straight post-season games, five total. He's acting like a guy who should be getting millions.

Long ago, the Yankees of Ruth, Gehrig and their teammates were nicknamed the "Bronx Bombers,'' a label shortened in the New York tabloids to Bombers. As in Bombers crush Angels. And in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series they certainly did.

Not a great 24 hours for the folks along the Pacific Ocean. The Phillies rally with two outs in the ninth to beat the Dodgers on Monday night, and then the Yankees do some freeway wheeling, 10-1, Tuesday evening.

A Yankees-Phils World Series isn't quite as glamorous as Yankees-Dodgers or, as the West Coast crazies would have preferred, Angels-Dodgers, but the baseball itself should be fascinating.

One team is the defending World Series champ, the other long has been the template for judging American sports. Arguably the three most famous franchises on the planet are Manchester United, FC Barcelona and the New York Yankees.

In the case of all three, they're the best teams money can buy. But in a way that's incidental. Pack together a lot of star players and it results in success on the field, or pitch, and at the gate or on the tube. Did anyone notice Friday night the Yankees-Angels had a TV rating nearly twice that of Dodgers-Phils?

You sort of wish the problems with the economy were as easily correctly as those with the Yankees. Sign C.C. Sign Teixeira. Pick up Nick Swisher and that's that.

All the agonizing in March, about A-Rod on steroids, about A-Rod undergoing hip surgery, about A-Rod struggling to find his form has quieted considerably.

He's knocking balls into the stands. He's scoring from second on singles. He's playing like a $250 million man.

Rodriguez went from Seattle to Texas to the Yankees, but he's never gone to the top, never been a World Series Champion, a point emphasized on the back pages of the tabs.

They've been waiting for a new Mr. October. He's arrived.

Only a week ago, after the Angels and Dodgers swept their division championship series from two very good clubs, the Red Sox and Cardinals, euphoria was on the loose in L.A. and vicinity.

Thirty miles or so from Anaheim to Dodger Stadium. Randy Newman's song "I Love L.A.'' on the radio. Great fall weather. Eat your heart out Manhattan while we roll back our sun roofs and roll down Interstate 5.

It isn't going to happen. Not even half of it. No Angels. No Dodgers. Instead it's going to be the very underappreciated Phillies and the very impressive Yankees. Instead it's going to be two teams who have a beautiful blend of pitching and hitting.

Southern California was getting just a bit cocky. The Lakers won the NBA title. USC is no worse than the fifth best college football team in the land (despite what the BCS says). And then the Angels and Dodgers had made it one step from one short drive to a regional World Series.

But unlike so many Hollywood productions, this one will end without the hero getting the girl, or more specifically the two baseball teams getting what they thought they would an opportunity to meet for a title.

A bummer. Or should that be a Bomber?

 

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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