The American League West will be one of the divisions I will be keeping an eye on this summer. The biggest stories of the offseason revolve around the West. First of all, and most importantly, the Houston Astros, one of the saddest stories in recent years, have moved from the National League Central to their new home in the West. The Astros were World Series runner-ups in 2005. Last year, they had their worst season ever, losing 107 games. What happened? Other major stories of the offseason were signing of Josh Hamilton to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, giving them the best offense in the majors as he joins Rookie of the Year Mike Trout-who was runner up to the American League Most Valuable Player by having the single greatest rookie season ever and Albert Pujols. The Oakland Athletics continued their ‘Moneyball’ ways, parting ways with expensive free agents to bring in new talent through trades and signing Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seattle Mariners also made noise this offseason by signing Felix Hernandez, the greatest pitcher west of the Mississippi to a mammoth extension. So, here are my predictions for the AL West:
1) Oakland: This is my prediction that I am least confident in, sorry to say. The Oakland As shocked everybody and their grandmother last summer by going on this insane stretch during the second half of the season, sweeping the Texas Rangers in the last series of the season to win their division. They eventually lost to the Detroit Tigers in five games but put on one of the best shows in recent memory. The thing is Oakland does not have any real superstars. They had excellent rookie pitching and a do-it-all offense focused on getting on base, with everyone playing to their strengths. The Athletics have been very patient. They have waited years for this moment. They made trades that worked out great, acquiring Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey d some that didn’t-trading Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies. The key to the Athletics success will lie in patience, confidence and a little luck. But this roster is almost identical to the one that won the division last year. New additions will fill holes the roster had last year-Jed Lowrie for the infield, Chris Young for the outfield. I expect the Athletics to win the division and would love to see them make a deep run into the playoffs.
2) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-I know, I went on and on about this offense in my opening paragraph. And you know what? Offenses don’t win championships. Pitching does. And the Angels don’t have enough pitching. Jared Weaver is a great pitcher, ace material, threw a no-hitter last year and is a contending Cy Young candidate year after year. CJ Wilson is an excellent number 2 starter. Apart from that, the Angels are lacking in the pitching department. They have Tommy Hanson, but who knows how he’ll do in a new league. The Angels’ pitching staff will be their downfall this year, but they will be very exciting to watch on offense. I look forward to what they can do.
3) Texas Rangers-Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Rangers blew it last year, losing four straight games to the Athletics to close the season. Thus, they had to play a one-game, winner-take-all match-up with the Baltimore Orioles to see who would play in the American League Division Series. Then, they lost Josh Hamilton to the Angels because their fans are too idiotic to recognize that even the great Hambone is mortal. Then, Nelson Cruz is likely facing suspension because of being on the Miami clinic list. So, where do we go from here? Actually, the Rangers still have a few good pieces. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis make up a good 1-2-3 order for their pitching staff. Elvis Andrus is an excellent shortstop and Adrian Beltre is defying his age by continuing his career revival at third base. Ian Kinsler, despite the numerous injuries, is the third best second baseman in the league. Texas will be good. But there is not enough where it is needed to win in this league.
4) Seattle Mariners-The Seattle Mariners have an excellent pitcher. The Seattle Mariners have a good young catcher. And that’s it. Felix Hernandez and Jesus Montero are good. Great even. Heck, Felix is the second best in the league I’d say. But that is not enough. The Mariners have no pitching apart from Felix. Charlie Furbush, God love him, is average. As much as I love seeing somebody from Maine pitch in the majors, he is not that good. Offensively, the Mariners have Kendrys Morales, who is a welcome addition but still it is not enough. The Mariners are just glad Team Number Five joined the division so they won’t finish in dead last again.
5) Houston Astros-Oh God, there’s nothing to say. The Astros are a terrible team. They don’t have anything going for them. Their pitching staff is the worst joke in the long, sad history of bad jokes. They have Chris Carter for their offense and he hasn’t played a full season yet. This is going to be one of the worst seasons ever for a baseball team. If the Astros don’t suffer their worst record for the third consecutive season, it will be a miracle.