NEW YORK — Mark Teixeira and Bobby Abreu have plenty in common. Smooth swings, sharp eyes, opposite-field power.
And something else now, too.
As the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels prepare to meet for the American League pennant, both sluggers can easily recall what life was like in the other dugout.
“That team over there, just like us, expects to win every game they play,” said Teixeira, who left Los Angeles last off-season for a free-agent contract with the Yankees. “They’re so professional. They do everything right. They’re meticulous.”
And better than ever, perhaps, with Abreu in the lineup.
“It’s going to be something. Very interesting,” said Abreu, who spent 21/2 seasons in New York.
“I was there, and it gives you a lot of emotions, but right now I represent the Angels.”
After going coast to coast last winter, Teixeira and Abreu enjoyed similar success this season — albeit for disparate dollars.
Several teams offered big-money deals to Teixeira, who signed with New York for US$180 million over eight years. Abreu, despite a durable track record of steady production with the Phillies and Yankees, had to wait and wait just to land a job.
Seeking a multiyear deal, he filed for free agency following a solid season with New York. But the economic downturn and a crowded free-agent class left the 35-year-old outfielder with few attractive suitors.
Right before spring training, Abreu joined the Angels on a $5 million, one-year contract that’s turned into quite a bargain. He earned an additional $1 million in performance bonuses for reaching 650 plate appearances.
“I was shocked that Bobby Abreu was available — and I was shocked that we got him for $5 million, too,” Angels teammate Torii Hunter said. “It was a blessing. I can tell you that, man. We’re thankful to have him over here. I was excited in spring training because I know what he can do.”
What Abreu did was hit .293 with 15 homers, 103 RBIs, 94 walks and 30 stolen bases. He also batted .354 with runners in scoring position and reached 100 RBIs and 30 steals for the fifth time.
In a first-round playoff sweep of Boston, Abreu went 5-for-9 (.556) with two doubles, four walks and four runs scored. That performance improved his post-season average to .357.
“Bobby is a very consistent player that can beat you in a lot of different ways,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a very heads-up player and he knows how to play this game, and that’s why he’s dangerous.”
Next up for Abreu, a matchup with his former team in the AL championship series. Game 1 is Friday night at Yankee Stadium, with CC Sabathia scheduled to pitch against Angels right-hander John Lackey.
“I don’t have to prove anything. I’ll spread my wings and do the best for our team,” Abreu said. “Both teams are pretty good. Both have the talent to go to the World Series.”
Teixeira is a big reason the Yankees feel confident, too.
The switch-hitting first baseman has been everything New York could have hoped for — on offence and defence. He batted .292 and led the AL with 122 RBIs, tying Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena for the home run crown with 39.
Then, in a division series sweep of Minnesota, Teixeira hit a game-winning homer in the 11th inning of Game 2.
“He never puts his head down,” teammate Robinson Cano said before the Yankees worked out Wednesday. “That’s a guy that you want to follow.”
Only months before he could become a free agent, Teixeira was traded from Atlanta to Los Angeles in July 2008. He helped lead the Angels to an AL West title, but they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Boston.
Now, he’s on the cusp of his first trip to the World Series. But first, New York has to get past a longtime nemesis.
The Angels are 73-63 against the Yankees since 1996, when New York began a run of four championships in five years. That makes Los Angeles the only AL club to have a winning record against the Yankees during that span, according to STATS LLC.
The Angels also eliminated the Yankees from the post-season twice, winning division series matchups in 2002 and 2005.
Teixeira’s not sure why that is.
“I was only there for two months. That’s not very long at all,” he said. “I don’t know, I think maybe they just thought they had the Yankees’ number. It wasn’t because of anything. We didn’t have a meeting and said, hey, we have their signs, we have this, we have that, you know? They just expected to win.”
The Yankees acquired Abreu in a July 2006 trade with Philadelphia and he certainly provided the production they were looking for. He finished both full seasons in New York with at least 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 22 stolen bases.
But the Yankees never made it past the first round of the playoffs during his tenure and fans grew impatient with his shaky defence — he often appeared to shy away from the outfield fence.
Still, Abreu doesn’t expect a cold reception in New York.
“I think it’s going to be all right,” he said. “I didn’t do (anything) wrong over there. I think the fans still like me.”