Beyond Golf — 04 April 2016 by Bob Sherwin
AL West: Texas tandem in the playoffs?

What does it say about a five-team division that sent two teams to the post-season a year ago. It means those other three teams had better buckle up. This could be a wild ride in the West this season.

Texas won the division last season but Houston, the wild card, has emerged as the favorite to reach the World Series this season. The young and improving Astros can only get better while the Mariners, Angels and A’s need to step up to the competition.

Here’s a brief look at the AL West

HOUSTON ASTROS

2015 Record/Finish: (86-76, second place).

Rotation: LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Lance McCullers, RHP Collin McHugh, LHP Doug Fister, RHP Mike Fiers

Acquisitions: RHP Doug Fister, RHP Ken Giles

Departures:  LHP Scott Kazmir, 1B Chris Carter, LHP Oliver Perez, RHP Chad Quills, RHP Mark Appel, IF Jed Lowrie, RHP Joe Thatcher

Comment: Keuchel (pictured), the Cy Young Award winner, can’t possibly have the type of season he had in 2015? Can he? 20-8, 2.48 ERA. At 26 with a live arm, he could. He also has some rotation support with lefty Doug Fister, not a hard thrower but deceptive. Losing Kazmir and Carter takes some of their sting away but there’s still plenty of punch to go around.

Prediction: First place.

TEXAS RANGERS

2015 Record/Finish: (88-74, first place).

Rotation: LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Yu Darvish,  LHP Derek Holland, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Colby Lewis

Acquisitions: RHP Tom Wilhelmson, OF Justin Ruggiano, OF/IF Ian Desmond, OF James Jones, RPH A.J. Griffin

Departures: RHP Yovani Gallardo, 1B Mike Napoli, OF Leonys Martin, RHP Anthony Bass, OF Will Venable, OF Drew Stubbs, RHP Ross Ohlendorf

Comment: This is the best rotation in the division and the Rangers will have Hamels for a full season and Darvish back from injury. The other three starters are veterans. Rookie lefty fielder Joey Gallo could be the spark that starts this potent offensive engine.

Prediction: Second place.

SEATTLE MARINERS

2015 Record/Finish: (76-86, fifth place.

Rotation: RHP Felix Hernandez, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Nathan Karns

Acquisitions:  OF Leonys Martin, OF Nori Aoki, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Nathan Karns, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Joel Peralta, RHP Tony Zych, Chris Innetta, OF Daniel Robertson

Departures: OF/1B Logan Morrison, RHP Carson Smith, OF/DH Mark Trumbo, RHP Tom Wilhelmson, RHP Roenis Elias, SS Brad Miller, manager Lloyd McClendon

Comment: Who knows? Really. This is a whole new team. New bullpen, new lineup, new manager (Scott Servais), new general manager (Jerry Dipoto). Dipoto is the guy who added all the question marks. Is there enough talent to overcome the Texas duo? Who knows. Does it have enough tested pitching? Who knows. Let’s just put them in the middle and see if they can over-achieve.

Prediction: Third place.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

2015 Record/Finish: (68-94, fourth place).

Rotation: RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Jesse Hahn RHP Chris Bassitt, RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP R.J. Alvarez

Acquisitions: LHP Ryan Madison, OF Khris Davis, Inf. Jed Lowrie, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Rich Hill, RHP Henderson Alvarez, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP John Axford, RHP Liam Hendriks

Departures: 3B Brett Lawrie, RHP Jessie Chavez, RHP Drew Pomeranz, 1B Ike Davis, RHP Fernando Abad, RHP Dan Otero, RHP Pat Venditte

Comment: Same same? Like the Mariners, who knows? A’s General Manager Billy Beane does each year what DiPoto did during the Mariners off-season. Beane turns the roster and rotation over like hot cakes. Most times he strikes gold. Not last year. And it doesn’t seem like this year either. Too many questions in the rotation, but great potential.

Prediction: Fourth place.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

2015 Record/Finish: (85-77, third place).

Rotation: RHP Jared Weaver, RHP Garrett Richards, LHP C.J. Wilson, RHP Hector Santiago, LHP Andrew Heaney

Acquisitions: SS Andrelton Simmons, 3B Yunel Escobar, C Geovany Soto

Departures: 3B David Freese, C Chris Innetta, RHP Trevor Gott, SS Erick Aybar, OF Collin Cowgill, OF David DeJesus, IF Conor Gillaspie, OF Shane Victorino, OF David Murphy

Comment: This is a veteran rotation. But by veteran that means, over the hill. Weaver and Wilson are just hanging on. They are not who they once were and they are critical to the team’s success. Mike Trout is still here and wonder to watch but he doesn’t have much help.

Prediction: Fifth 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 44th 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 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. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have 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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