2009 AL West Preview
The American League West is the smallest of the six Major League divisions. Over the years, the West has often featured one dominant team and three also-rans. And although the Los Angeles Angels, a club that has dominated much of this decade, still look to be the team to beat, the fact is that both the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics are gaining on them.
The Angels feature what has to be the best pitching staff in the American League. The number two and three guys could be number one starters on many other clubs. The starting rotation includes John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. Closer Brian Fuentes, a quality specialist, replaces the recently departed K-Rod. Manager Mike Scioscia knows baseball, players and coaches. He's a tough competitor who always keeps his team in the game. The Angels notched 100 wins last season and ran away with the division. This season, they may not be as dominant as they were in 2008, but they are certainly still the team to beat.
Look for the Texas Rangers to continue to show improvement. Slowly but surely, they are starting to be a number one club. With some of the best hitting in the league and an up-and-coming pitching staff, the Rangers are no longer a joke. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz are all fine hitters. Starter Vicente Padilla shows a lot of potential. The team's fielding continues to be dicey and the bullpen is thin with the closing role especially troublesome. If a team can hit its way to a division crown, the Rangers would do it.
The Oakland Athletics are coming off a season where the wheels simply fell off. Injuries took their toll. The 2009 pitching staff is good and run production should be helped by the addition of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi. GM Billy Beane has his own distinctive take on baseball that deemphasizes base stealing and focuses on developing talent. He's all about value when it comes to players. Although the purse strings tend to be tight in Oakland, the club can usually compete. This season, they should be on the heels of the Rangers. Next season could be the year for the Athletics.
For the Seattle Mariners, it seems like there's nowhere to go but up. The team lost 101 games in 2008! Ichiro is a show unto himself. He does everything better than most. The club, though, can certainly use more hitting. The starting pitching looks sound, which is good news, however the bullpen is in disrepair. This team still requires some major rebuilding.
This is the Angels' division to lose. However, if a few things go the Rangers' way, Los Angeles could be doing something Satchel Paige said someone should never do: “Looking back.” Why shouldn't you look back? “Because you never know who might be gaining on you.” This could be an interesting season in the AL West.
2009 American League West Predictions
Projected Order of Finish:
Click on team name for individual team preview.