The 2011 World Series gets underway Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Texas Rangers in Game 1. While neither the Dodgers nor Angels are involved in the Fall Classic, there are still plenty of ties to the local teams.
The man with (loose) ties to both the Dodgers and Angels is Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers. Beltre spent the first seven years of his career with the Dodgers, and finished second in the National League MVP balloting in 2004. Beltre in 2004 was the only Los Angeles Dodger to lead the league in home runs until Matt Kemp turned the trick this season.
Beltre was pursued by the Angels last winter albeit briefly, and the slugging third baseman ultimately signed a five-year, $80 million contract with Texas. Beltre is a part of a compelling "what if" scenario for the Angels, which ties into the next World Series participant with a local connection.
Mike Napoli is the thorn in the side of the 2011 Angels season. Napoli spent five years in Anaheim and was always known for his bat — Napoli (.514), Mike Piazza (.545), and Roy Campanella (.4996) are the only catchers in major league history to slug .500 in at least 1,000 plate appearances — but this season with Texas Napoli has been off the charts. He hit .320/.414/.631 with a career-high 30 home runs in just 113 games with the division-rival Rangers.
To make matters worse, the Angels willingly traded Napoli (and Juan Rivera) away in order to get Vernon Wells and his bloated contract. Wells took up space the Angels outfield this season and had a paltry .248 on-base percentage, all for the price of $23 million (of which the Toronto Blue Jays paid $5 million in 2011). Now the Angels are stuck with Wells and the $63 million remaining on his deal for the next three years. Toronto flipped Napoli to the Rangers, and the Angels have to watch their former catcher play for a division rival in the World Series.
On a less bitter note, the Dodgers have Rafael Furcal to watch in the World Series. The shortstop spent five and a half years in Los Angeles before getting traded to St. Louis on July 31. Furcal had been injured for nearly half of the last four seasons, and was hitting just .197/.272/.248 with the Dodgers, so it's amazing they were able to get anything at all for Furcal, who has a $12 million option for 2012 that would have been declined.
The Dodgers saved about $1.4 million in salary by trading Furcal and also got Double A outfielder Alex Castellanos from St. Louis. But more importantly, the shortstop position in Los Angeles was opened up for Dee Gordon, the top position-playing prospect in the Dodgers system. Gordon hit .304/.325/.362 in 56 games with the Dodgers and stole 24 bases.
Furcal hit .255/.316/.418 with seven home runs in 50 games for the Cardinals, and has hit .204/.220/.388 in 11 playoff games with St. Louis. He is playing in his first career World Series.
The Cardinals have three other ex-Dodgers on their roster, including second baseman Ryan Theriot and relief pitcher Octavio Dotel, both of whom spent a few months in Los Angeles after getting acquired at the 2010 trade deadline by the Dodgers.
At this year's trade deadline, the Cardinals picked up Edwin Jackson, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 2001 and traded in 2006. Five teams later, Jackson went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts for St. Louis, and picked up a win in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies. Jackson struggled in two starts in the NLCS, but just about every starter forgot how to pitch in the last round. Neither the Cardinals nor Rangers -- the winning teams -- had a quality start in their respective league championship series, and starting pitchers from all four teams in the LCS had a collective 6.48 ERA.
Another former Halo on the Rangers is ageless reliever Darren Oliver, who has been to two straight World Series in Texas after three years of quality bullpen work with the Angels from 2007-2009.
Be sure to read Baseball Nation for complete World Series coverage, from the first pitch to the last out. To keep track of teams watching from home, be sure to read True Blue LA (Dodgers) and Halos Heaven (Angels).