Thursday, April 2, 2009

Angels and D-Backs: Bests of Wests

And so, it's on to the Wests, divisions that just might combine to produce zero 90-win teams. On the bright side, the races - if that's what they'll be called - should be close come September.


1. L.A. Angels of Orange County & Other Non-L.A. Regions: Interesting that a team can subtract longtime hitting standout Garret Anderson, all-time single-season saves leader Francisco Rodriguez and the league's best first baseman in Mark Teixeira and still be the division favorite. Does that say more about the Angels or the division? Probably the latter, but the former is a possibility, too. The Angels did a decent job of retooling, bringing in Bobby Abreu to play left and Brian Fuentes to close, and they still have Vlad Guerrero, Torii Hunter and a very nice pitching staff. Should be plenty to rule this field.

2. Seattle Mariners: The rest of the division is a crapshoot, so let's take a shot and promote the league's crappiest team in 2008 to a second-place finish. This is all about pitching. (What? You thought I was going to say this was all about the homecoming of Junior Griffey, who proved during his South Side go-round that he was done, finished, kaput?) If Erik Bedard is healthy, Felix Hernandez is the ace-on-the-rise he appears to be and if 100 mph throwing Brandon Morrow is a bullpen stud, the M's should be able to get enough offense from Ichiro and Adrian Beltre to at least avoid humiliating themselves again.

3. Oakland A's: Not sure if Billy Beane has built a legitimate contender or if he has put together a group destined to crash and burn. Jason Giambi is back to play first base, Eric Chavez and Nomar Garciaparra are hoping to make it through a season in one piece, the A's actually are counting on Michael Wuertz, and ace Justin Duchscherer is going to miss at least a month after elbow surgery. On second thought, never mind on the "legitimate contender" half of the equation.

4. Texas Rangers: As usual, they're hoping to maul opponents into submission. It hasn't worked in eons, and I see no reason it should work now. But hey, it sure will be fun watching Josh Hamilton and friends hit the baseball.


1. Arizona Diamondbacks: If you like Strike 3, you gotta love this team. A starting rotation led by Brandon Webb and Dan Haren often gets opponents chasing at air, but that's just the start of it. D-Backs hitters strike out more often than Pauly Shore at a sorority pajama party. The hitters are young and talented, though, so I'm gambling that at least a few of them - maybe Mark Reynolds, maybe Chris Young, maybe Justin Upton, maybe Stephen Drew, maybe someone - will have figured out a thing or two about the importance of putting the ball in play every so often. Besides, how can one go against a team that has Augie Ojeda on its roster?

2. L.A. Dodgers: Well, Manny is happy, and that usually means good things for Manny's team. Still, the Dodgers actually have transformed themselves from a team that relies primarily on pitching and defense to one that hopes to out-mash opponents. It will be interesting to see how that plays at Dodger Stadium. It's hard not to like a lineup that includes the likes of Manny, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson. It's easy not to like a team relying on Randy Wolf, Jeff Weaver and Jason Schmidt.

3. San Francisco Giants: If only one could combine the Giants and the Dodgers, you'd have a team capable of winning this division by 20-some games. The Giants can pitch - and who knows? Maybe that actually will be enough in the NL West. Just when I wondered when we'd see another lefty as dominant and entertaining as Randy Johnson, along came Tim Lincecum and his 102 pounds of fury. And now look: San Fran has both. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, too. The Giants also have Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria as primary offensive weapons. Expect lots of 2-1 wins and 3-2 losses.

4. Colorado Rockies: Five words: Jason Marquis in Coors Field. This can't be a good thing. The Rocks also dumped their best player (Matt Holliday) and have some gaping holes. Nevertheless, this team is just one year removed from a World Series appearance ... and that has to count for something, right? Maybe all they need is the real Troy Tulowitzki to show up. Unless the 2008 version was the real one, in which case, they're screwed. 

5. San Diego Padres: Well, at least they still have Jake Peavy. Until they don't.

(Tomorrow: AL Central and NL Central.)

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