Is the American League West about to become the Major League Baseball equivalent of the footballs NFC West?
Will 2011 see the AL West be a four-team division without any team commanding respect and exhibiting staying power?
It could happen, because the Mariners arent the only team to have fans complaining about the remake of the roster since the end of the 2010 season, when the Texas Rangers won 90 games and made it to the World Series but no other team in the division won was over .500.
For all of having won the West and made it to the World Series for the first time (losing to the Giants in five games), the Rangers are arguably a worse team now than they were in October.
Theyve lost Cliff Lee from the starting rotation, and while they did everything but rename Arlington, TX., for former Mariner Lee, he bolted to the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving the Texas starting rotation noticeably weaker. True, the Rangers added Adrian Beltre, but its hard to say a Lee-less Ranger team is better than the one of a year ago.
The Angels went 80-82 last year as their two-year title run in the AL West came to an end, and they havent done much of anything except see DH Hideki Matsui head north to Oakland and have veteran reliever Scot Shields floating in the free agent breezes.
The As did make it to .500 exactly last year by going 81-81, but other than adding Matsui they havent spruced up the roster all that much. And Matsui, while he is a World Series MVP (2009) and a legit 90-RBI man, doesnt have numbers in the last couple of years appreciably better than the DH the club let walk, Jack Cust.
In the last three seasons, both men have been up and down. Matsui has 219 RBIs and 58 homers over that span while Cust has 199 RBIs and 71 homers.
When Oakland decided that Cust needed to be replaced, the Mariners were quick to snap him up. But hes been the biggest incoming name in a season in which Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has traded for an slick-fielding infielder, Brendan Ryan, let a poor-fielding infielder, Jose Lopez go, and signed former Seattle catcher Miguel Olivo.
Almost certainly as the season plays out, more than one of these teams will be better than they were in 2010. That being said, its hard to see any of them being a good deal better, and all have a chance to be the same or worse.
Angels general manager Tony Reagins is hearing it from his fans that Carl Crawford eluded the club as a free agent, landing instead in Boston, and Adrian Beltre wound up in Texas and not Anaheim.
Reagins had to go so far as to tell the Los Angeles Times that he wasnt “ready to admit that the off-season has been failure. The fact that such a thought is even a consideration has got to scare the Angels.
The As have some of the best young starting pitching in the game with Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden combining for 44 wins last year, all of them with an ERA of 3.50 or lower. But no one on the roster drove in more than 71 runs and while Matsui should do better, hes 37, so its far from a sure thing.
The Rangers thought they had Lee locked up and were privately devastated to learn that hed gone elsewhere. Then they missed out on trades for Zack Greinke and Matt Garza. They have added Brandon Webb, but thats clearly not enough. Offensively, theyve added Yorvit Torrealba in addition to Beltre, but the catcher, another former Mariner, is not going to rev up the offense. Hes never had 50 RBIs in a season.
That brings us to the Mariners, who are about tapped out financially. They just added veteran infielder Adam Kennedy, signed to a minor league contract, this week, and Zduriencik said hes looking for more help, but he admits the money available to spend is down to pocket change.
Will Seattle be better? The Mariners could hardly be worse. But the additions of Cust, Olivo, Ryan and Kennedy arent ones that scream out “pennant contender.
On the other hand, they may be in just the right division for that to matter less than it should.
I think you are underselling the A’s offensive improvements and slightly overstating their pitching. Josh Willingham and David Dejesus are nice pick-ups for the Athletics and greatly improve (with Matsui) the A’s offensive expectations. As for the pitching…Cahill was the beneficiary of a lot of good fortune last season. No one with a barely 5/9IP K rate can be called an ace. He is good….not star quality. Gonzales will never ascend to star quality as long as he continues walking over 4 batters per 9IP. Braden had the perfect game, but he is, essentially an innings eater….a poor man’s Mark Buehrle. Ironically, the one true ace of the staff, Brett Anderson, was not even mentioned. Probably because he has trouble staying healthy, but he is, likely already one of the 5 best LH starters in the game, from the perspective of pure talent.
Texas isn’t going to miss Lee that much. He had troubles pitching in Arlington. Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter both have talent and, with incremental improvement can replace most of what Lee gave the team. Moreland was pretty solid at 1B and probably improves as well. Beltre helps immensely. His defense gives the rangers the best left side defense in MLB and Arlington is perfect for his offensive profile. If Texas signs Thome…..look out. I see the same record if not slight imrovement for texas. Clearly the class of the division with the A’s methodically closing the gap. I will boldly predict the Mariners slipping into the 3 position in the division (not as bad last season as the record indicates……at least 5 players HAVE to regress i.e. improve on poor 2010’s) and the Angels falling to the cellar.