Beyond Golf — 06 April 2012 by Jim Street
NL West: Duel between Giants, D-Backs

Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership dilemma has been settled and Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson moves front-and-center with the once-proud organization, some magical things could happen in the future – though probably not in 2012.

The defending division champion Arizona Diamondbacks have a solid team from top to bottom, but the San Francisco Giants have perhaps the most dominant starting pitching corps in the NL West and the return of catcher Buster Posey is sure to bolster the offense.

I look for these two clubs to have a spirited battle for division superiority and the improved Colorado Rockies could make it a three-team race right down to the wire.

Here’s a look at the National League West:

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
2011 Record/Finish: (86-76, second place).
Rotation: RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Matt Cain, LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Ryan Vogelsong, LHP Barry Zito.
Acquisitions: OF Melky Cabrera, OF Angel Pagan, OF Gregor Blanco, LHP Brian Burres, INF Ryan Theriot.
Departures: OF Darren Ford, OF Andres Torres, RHP Ramon Ramirez, INF Jeff Keppinger, SS Orlando Cabrera, OF Carlos Beltran, OF Pat Burrell, OF Cody Ross, SP Jonathan Sanchez.
Comment: Strong pitching, especially in the starters, gives the Giants a big edge over the other NL West teams. The offense will be challenged, for sure, but the return of Posey looms large.
Prediction:
First Place

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
2011 Record/Finish: (94-68, first place).
Rotation: RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Trevor Cahill, LHP Joe Saunders, RHP Josh Collmenter.
Acquisitions: RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Craig Breslow, RHP Barry Enright, RHP Takashi Saito, OF Jason Kubel.
Departures: OF Collin Cowgill, RHP Zach Duke, RHP Jason Marquis, 1B/OF Xavier Nady, RHP Armando Galarraga, 2B Kelly Johnson
Comment: The D-Backs led MLB with 45 come-from-behind wins last season, but coming even close to that number in ’12 is unlikely at best.
Prediction: Second Place

COLORADO ROCKIES
2011 Record/Finish: (73-89, fourth place).
Rotation: . RHP Jeremy Guthrie, LHP Jamie Moyer, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Jhoulys Chacin
Acquisitions: OF Michael Cuddyer, 3B Casey Blake, C Ramon Hernandez, RHP Jeremy Guthrie, RHP Tyler Chatwood, SS Marco Scutaro, OF Tyler Colvin, LHP Jamie Moyer.
Departures: OF/INF Ty Wigginton, C Chris Iannetta, RHP Huston Street, 3B Ian Stewart, OF Seth Smith, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Aaron Cook, 2B Mark Ellis,  RHP Kevin Millwood, OF Ryan Spilborghs
Comment: Any rotation that has a 49-year-old in it would be considered suspect. But Jamie Moyer still has what it takes to win games and lead the young kids.
Prediction:
Third Place.

LOS ANGLES DODGERS
2011 Record/Finish: (82-79, third place).
Rotation: LHP Clayton Kershaw, RHP Chad Billingsley, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Aaron Harang.
Acquisitions: RHP Aaron Harang, 2B/1B Adam Kennedy, LHP Chris Capuano, 3B/CF Jerry Hairston Jr., C Josh Bard, C Matt Treanor, 2B Mark Ellis.
Departures: LHP Dana Eveland, C Rod Barajas, 3B Casey Blake, RHP Jonathan Broxton, 2B Jamey Carroll, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Vicente Padilla.
Comment: Re-establishing Dodger Pride took a big step in ownership change, but not even a Cy Young Award winner in Kershaw and MVP runner-up Matt Kemp can get LA into the pennant race.
Prediction:
Fourth Place.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
2011 Record/Finish: (71-91, fifth place).
Rotation:
Acquisitions: RHP Andrew Cashner, OF Carlos Quentin, RHP Edinson Volquez, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Brad Boxberger, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Huston Street, C John Baker, OF/1B Mark Kotsay, RHP Micah Owings, RHP Jeff Suppan.
Departures: OF Ryan Ludwick, RHP Mat Latos, 1B Anthony Rizzo, OF Aaron Cunningham, RHP Aaron Harang, LHP Wade LeBlanc, RHP Heath Bell, 1B/OF Brad Hawpe, RHP Chad Qualls.
Comment: The most revamped roster in the division should give Padres fans more hope for the future and with some luck and good health, could challenge for third place.
Prediction:
Fifth Place

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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