Beyond Golf — 06 April 2012 by Bob Sherwin
AL West: Pujols-Powered Angels win?

Has there been a big-league power shift to the American League West? Certainly, the teams have been improved but more accurately power has shifted to the West, primarily in the form of Albert Pujols.

He joins a stacked attack in L.A., competing in the same division with the productive Texas Rangers lineup. Those two teams will play each other 19 times this season and every one could be a power display.

The Angels not only signed baseball’s power poster child during the off-season but they also robbed the division rival Rangers of their staff ace, lefty C.J. Wilson. Ultimately, that may be a more important free-agent signing because it dramatically improves the Angels staff to the detriment of the Rangers rotation.

The Rangers, in the meantime, emptied their pockets for more than $100 million to win the favor of Japanese sensation, RHP Yu Darvish. He has been described as one of the three best pitchers in the world.

By the time the dust settles sometime in September, Darvish and the Rangers bats may not be enough to overcome the loss of Wilson and the Pujols-powered Angels.  Here’s a look at the American League West:

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

2011 Record/Finish: (86-76, second place)

Rotation: RHP Jered Weaver; RHP Dan Haren; RHP Ervin Santana; LHP C.J. Wilson; RHP Jerome Williams.

Acquisitions: 1B Albert Pujols; LHP C.J. Wilson; RHP LaTroy Hawkins; RHP Jason Isringhausen; C Chris Iannetta; DH Kendrys Morales (back from injury).

Departures: RHP Joel Pineiro; RHP Fernando Rodney; RHP Tyler Chatwood; C Jeff Mathis; LHP Scott Kasmir

Comment: Manager Mike Scioscia – one of the top two or three managers in baseball – has plenty to work with. He’s got a veteran rotation, guys who has won a lot of games and started a lot of big games. He’s got power in his lineup with Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu and, returning from injury, Kendrys Morales. Plus, it may be the best first-to-third team in the big leagues as there’s a lot of speed at the top of the order. Jordan Walden had 42 saves last year and the club brought in veteran former closer Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins to keep Walden at that level. This is a team built for the playoffs. It just has to get there first.

Prediction: First Place

TEXAS RANGERS

2011 Record/Finish: 96-66 (first place; lost in World Series)

Rotation: RHP Colby Lewis; LHP Derek Holland; LHP Matt Harrison; RHP Yu Darvish; RHP Naftali Feliz.

Acquisitions: RHP Yu Darvish; RHP Joe Nathan.

Departures: LHP C.J. Wilson; OF Endy Chavez; LHP Darren Oliver; RHP Brandon Webb.

Comment: For two consecutive seasons, the Rangers enter the next year having lost their staff ace to free agency, Cliff Lee (after 2010) and C.J. Wilson (last year). This is a team that truly connects with the expression, you never have enough pitching. Pitchers struggle in Arlington because of the smaller dimensions and the heat. Free agent Yu Darvish is going to discover that by mid-summer. It’s been so tough to fill out a stellar rotation that the club moved quality closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation. Joe Nathan now appears to be the guy who’ll get the ball at the end. Hitting has not been an issue for years, as Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler can mash it. This team will score plenty. The key will be how well the staff can hold down the score.

Prediction: Second Place (wild card)

SEATTLE MARINERS

2011 Record/Finish: (67-95, fourth place)

Rotation: RHP Felix Hernandez; LHP Jason Vargas; RHP Hector Noesi; RHP Blake Beavan; RHP Kevin Millwood.

Acquisitions: C/DH Jesus Montero; RHP Hisashi Iwakuma; RHP Kevin Millwood; SS Munenori Kawasaki; LHP George Sherrill; C John Jaso; LHP Lucas Luetge.

Departures: RHP David Aardsma; RHP Josh Lueke; RHP Dan Cortes; 2B Adam Kennedy; SS Jack Wilson; DH Jack Cust; OF Milton Bradley; LPH Erik Bedard; RHP Michael Pineda; RHP Doug Fister; LHP Aaron Laffey.

Comment: At some point, prospects get it. They find their rhythm and their confidence to be consistent big league performers. This is not yet to that point for an exceedingly young Mariners roster – both pitching and hitting. The Mariners will improve offensively – which isn’t saying much because they didn’t do much. Guys such as Dustin Ackley, newcomer Jesus Montero, Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Casper Wells, Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager have potential. It would be a stretch to think they’ll all reach it this season. If two or three break out then this team could approach .500. It’s a team that has decent pitching with former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and a whole bunch of young arms – again with pretty good potential – on the verge of contributing. Give this team one more year to sort things out then it might have something.

Prediction: Third Place

OAKLAND A’S

2011 Record/Finish: (74-88, third place)

Rotation: RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Bartolo Colon;, LHP Tom Milone; RHP Graham Godfrey.

Acquisitions: OF Yoenis Cespedes; RHP Bartolo Colon; OF Josh Reddick; OF Collin Cowgill; OF Seth Smith; OF Jonny Gomes; RHP Ryan Cook; OF Manny Ramirez (50-day suspension).

Departures: LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Andrew Bailey; RHP Trevor Cahill; LHP Craig Breslow; OF Josh Willingham; OF Conor Jackson; OF David DeJesus, OF Ryan Sweeney; RHP Rich Harden; DH Hideki Matsui; 2B Mark Ellis; 3B Kevin Kousmanoff.

Comment: Who knows? This is a team that has seen half the roster depart. In their place, the club has signed or trade for a whole bunch of risk/reward players such as veteran Bartolo Colon, Jonny Gomes and controversial Manny Ramirez, who will not be available for 50 games while serving a PED violation. The guy to watch is former Cuban star OF Yoenis Cespedes, who defected last year. He hits for average and power and could one of the game’s most appealing players this season. Or the risk is that he doesn’t adjust to big-league pitching as the A’s had hoped. It’s rebuilding time again, which occurs every year around this time.

Prediction: Fourth Place

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 46th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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