The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

4/01/2005

Baseball preview: AL West

Prediction:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (93-69)
Texas Rangers (82-80)
Oakland Athletics (78-84)
Seattle Mariners (75-87)


2004 Final Standings:
Just Anaheim (92-70)
Oakland (91-71)
Texas (89-73)
Seattle (63-99)

The Angels, a team in transition, are the class of a division in transition.

The L.A./California/Anaheim/L.A.-again Angels are neither particularly young nor old, yet still have a very similar roster to their 2002 World Series champion incarnation. That’s a nice amount of stability in the modern era. To what was essentially their 2002 World Series team, they added MVP Vladimir Guerrero last year. Interestingly, they struggled to make the playoffs and, basically, failed to show up once they did. This offseason, they added ageless CF Dorian Gray (a.k.a. "Steve") Finley, switched out SS David Eckstein for Orlando Cabrera (a very slight upgrade), and lost the Two Troys: slugging 3B Glaus and closer Percival. The loss of Percival should be unnoticeable with the continuing development of the amazing Francisco Rodriguez. The loss of Glaus eventually should be offset by the predicted development of Dallas McPherson (assuming healthiness). This team should win. They should contend for the World Series. Just like last year.

The DFW Metroplex Rangers should experience their consolidation year. They have a great manager in Buck Showalter, but he wears out welcomes quickly. They are struggling this spring and looked awful the one game I caught in Surprise, Arizona. They have the best hitting infield in the game (especially after the offseason bloodletting in St. Louis), with superstars at both corners in 1B Mark Teixeira (Georgia Tech alum!) and 3B Hank Blalock. And incredible SS Michael Young is a more complete player than either, anchoring the infield defensively with his intelligent play. The problems in Texas are not limited to pitching, however, as their weak-hitting outfield will produce too many offensive outs. Great leap forward predicted in ‘06. Small step backwards for ‘05.

It’s trendy to say the Oakland A’s will not be as bad as everyone thinks. But, since everyone is saying that the A’s will be better than "expected," exactly what are people predicting for them? I’ll go out on a limb and be the one who says that the A’s will be a below-.500 team in ‘05. There. That makes the "everybody" against whose opinion the A’s can over-achieve. Fat chance of that happening. Despite the Moneyball hype, the A’s have ridden the three pitching arms of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito as far as they could thrown them. Once the playoffs hit, the Earl Weaver offense (built on walks and three-run homers) would struggle. The reason was easy to see: a team designed around taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes saw far fewer mistakes facing post-season caliber pitching. Add that the inability to execute the fundamentals and the Billy Beane A’s would waste a playoff spot, year in, year out. Now that the Big Three are two-thirds gone, and the lone remainder Zito is of diminished effectiveness, how in the world would one expect the A’s to compete? Maybe when the young pitchers mature, the period of regular-season non-competitiveness will be brief. And the roster has enough talent that the A’s will not fall very far (although what they plan to do with ex-Brewer 3B Keith Ginter is beyond my comprehension). But their most certainly will be a fall.

And bringing up the rear, once again, will be the Seattle Mariners. It definitely has been a long time since their 116-win season in 2001. The M's declined by 30 wins from 2003. A basic rule is that a team that worsens by 20 games or more does not decline further the next season. (The rule held for 2003 M’s, barely, as they held at 93 wins after their 23-game decline in 2002.) There will be a little dead-cat bounce to this team. But not enough to again be competitive. 3B Adrian Beltre had a career year which cannot be repeated in pitcher-friendly Safeco. New 1B Richie Sexson is something of a loss-magnet, after his years starring for some awful Brewer teams and his 2004 cameo with the 111-loss D-Backs. The index finger of steroid scandal pointed briefly at Bret Boone: think that might affect his play? And 42 year old Jamie Moyer is finally acting his age, bad bad news in the Pacific Northwest. Mike Hargrove is a great manager. He will get the most possible out of this team. That means wins will be like Seattle summer temps. In the mid 70s. Chance of upper 60s.

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