The Angels have boat-raced the competition the last couple of years. With Oakland’s acquisitions and another year of seasoning for Texas’ young hitters, expect September to mean something. Even the rudderless Mariners, who many picked as a sleeper to upset the L.A.-by-O.C. Halos last season, should be able to right the ship this go round. Hard not to improve on finishing as the second-worst team in baseball.
1. Los Angeles Angels
THEN AND NOW
Figures: 100-62, first place, lost to Boston in ALDS (3-1).
2008 headline: Boston, don’t lose that number
2009 motto: Cheaper and less efficient
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Key additions: OF Bobby Abreu, P Brian Fuentes.
Key losses: 1B Mark Teixeira (to NYY), P Francisco Rodriguez (to NYM), OF Garret Anderson (to ATL), Jon Garland (to ARI).
MARKS AND REMARKS
Nobody puts baby in a corner. The Angels tried it with Mark Teixeira and the Yankees threw him a $180 million lifeline. Now they get Bobby Abreu as a Match-Game-esque consolation prize. Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter need to relocate the pop that their bats have been missing last year. Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales will add some, but not enough. Chone Figgins needs to get his average back near .300 or he’ll turn into Dave Roberts. The million dollar question: when is Howie Kendrick ever going to produce consistently at the big leagues? Injuries have kept hitting prodigy from playing in more than 92 games in each of his three seasons. And a .300 singles hitter with marginal speed isn’t what I call producing.
John Lackey is a big game pitcher when healthy, but right now, he isn't. Ervin Santana figured out how to pitch on the road and finally had the type of year one L.A. baseball writer always thought he would. From there, things get hazy. Joe Saunders (great last name) was an all star, but young control pitchers always need a larger body of work to prove that they’re the real deal. Just ask Zach Duke. It only took Jered Weaver a season to show everyone that he’s just as over-hyped, over-payed and predicatable as his older brother. 28-year-old Dustin Moseley was supposed to rise through the ranks with Santana. Ineffectiveness (career 5.52 ERA in 153.1) slowed that. Being the team’s No. 5 on opening day is his last shot with the Angels.
Brian Fuentes is going to go a long way to proving that Francisco Rodriguez’s saves record wasn’t a great individual accomplishment. He should get 50 if he stays healthy. The real reason why L.A. never entertained the idea of giving Rodriguez a big-money long-term deal was setup man Jose Arredondo, who went 10-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 55 Ks as a rookie. When 33-year-old rubber-armed Scot Shields retires in 10 years, he’ll go down as one of the most underrated relievers in baseball history. Darren Oliver and Justin Speier are veterans who give this bullpen a ton of depth.
ODDS AND ENDS
- Angels fans know all about Brandon Wood, who two years ago was compared to and often thought more highly of than Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. This is the year the heralded 3B/SS combo get a lengthy run with the big boys.
- Athletes do a ton of terrible commercials for local businesses, but manager Mike Scioscia doesn't want them to have all the fun/hatemail. Maybe Angels fans would be more inclined to buy plasma screen from Howard's if they could watch their Halos actually beat Boston in the playoffs.
THEN AND NOW
Figures: 75-86, third place
- Do you know where you'll be on July 31? How about April 1, 2010? Neither does Matt Holliday and that's a problem.
- If there is a god, he/she/it doesn't like Eric Chavez. The former all-star and Gold Glover played just 23 games last season. It's getting to the point that A's fans don't even remember he's on the roster.
- There's a slight chance this team this team again leads the league in hits and hits allowed. That's history folks.
- Hank Blalock can't crack this team's starting lineup and Phil Hughes can't make the Yankees rotation. MAKE A TRADE ALREADY.
Figures: 61-101, fourth place
- Center fielder Jeremy Reed, at one point the top player in Seattle's farm system was dealt to the Mets in the offseason and probably won't make the big league club. I know this type of thing happens a lot, but I always find it sad.
- This club had better be happy about winning 75 games and still being fourth in the division because that's as good as it's going to get.