Playoff Fever

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

You don't have to be much of a sports fan to appreciate the story possibilities that are out there as a result of both local baseball teams making the playoffs.

The Angels, down in Anaheim, have been ahead of the pack all season and next week will begin a quest to reach the World Series for the second time in this decade.

The Dodgers' ride into post-season play has been much more cinematic, with plot turns and hero characters, and with a third act that so far has been pretty smashing.

If you haven't followed the saga, the Dodgers began casting this season by giving star billing to Joe Torre, the old baseball hand with a classic face that would look right at home in a Godfather movie.

He came from the Yankees, where his teams won plenty of games year after year, but never enough to satisfy the ravenous New York sports media.

So Torre moved west, where Dodgers owner Frank McCourt – the executive producer of this picture -- was happy to put his name up on the marquee.

Torre spent his first few months learning who his players were and what they could do on the field. Which was not very much, as it turned out.

For most of the season the Dodgers languished in the middle of the pack – not bad enough to qualify as slapstick comedy, not good enough for blockbuster status. Just kind of average and bland.

Then in late July, the Dodgers imported a new leading man. Manny Ramirez was the star the Dodgers needed. He has won the World Series, knows the pressure of having the cameras on him, and shrugs it off.

Boy, has Manny lived up to his billing.

His first week in a Dodger uniform he began hitting home runs and getting on base, and he has never stopped. Manny almost instantly became the most popular Dodger hitter since Mike Piazza, which is a bit of shock since Manny only became available because his old team, the Boston Red Sox, came to loathe him.

In Boston, Manny would loaf on the field and, at least once, was late to take the field because he was on his cell phone.

But here, in Hollywood tradition, he's become a great rehab story. Manny is the first player at the stadium before games, the hardest worker on the team.

His gregariousness has loosened up what was a notoriously taut clubhouse. He's converted cynical sports columnists like the Times' TJ Simers into believers. And he's given $35,000, and counting, to the cancer ward at the Mattel Children's Hospital.

There's a buzz in the stadium whenever Manny comes up, and wigs showing his trademark dreadlocks have been popular sale items at the concession stands.

All this Manny love shows the value of star power in Los Angeles.

In Anaheim, the Angels have had a much better year -- and they have some great players like Vladimir Guerrero. Their late-season acquisition -– Mark Teixeira -– has been almost as potent at bat as Manny.

But other than Angel fans, nobody would know it.

That's because the Angels are an LA team in name only. Bill Dwyre, the former sports editor at the Times, devoted a column this week to explaining how it is the best team in baseball isn't even the biggest story in its own city.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

Banner image: Angel Vladimir Guerrero, Dodger Manny Ramirez