|Mariners outfield headed this way? No problem.|
Once, long ago, I was privileged to attend a game at Safeco Field in the company of the esteemed Derek Zumsteg, a man who is both a gentleman and far more knowledgeable about baseball than I will ever be. During the announcement of the Mariners' starting lineup - one that featured Willie Bloomquist hitting second, shortly after his unfortunate "clamming" incident, and Miguel Cairo playing first base - he started booing.
'nuff said. Here's the AL West.
Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim (feat. DJ. Joshy H & El Hombre Pujols w/ CJW In Da House)
Why They'll Win: You're kidding, right? Mike Trout had a season for the ages last year and he may not be the best hitter on his own team. 3-4-5 with Pujols, Trout and Hamilton is '27 Yankees-level scary, and that's before you start adding in the complementary pieces like Mark Trumbo. Strong front end of the rotation, and they seem to constantly be generating quality relievers like Sauruman generated Uruk-hai at Isengard. Superb at pressuring opposing defenses with aggressive baserunning. Owner Arte Moreno has giant piles of money and knows he's in a fight to the death for the LA market with the Dodgers, which means he's willing to spend.
Why They Won't: Hamilton's swing and miss percentage is up over 20. Pujols is a year older. Al Kaline might have a few words for Trout about having your best season in your first season. The back of the rotation features Blanton, Vargas, and Hanson, who sound like they should be off fighting crime. Manager Mike Scioscia's fetish for defense-first catching has hurt the team on numerous occasions, especially when his defensive catchers can't actually defend.
Moment They're Dreading: A reporter uncovers Albert Pujols' actual birth certificate, revealing that he was born in 1518 on the shores of Loch Shiel as a member of Clan McLeod. Then Clancy Brown shows up with a sword in the fourth inning and it's all over.
Why They'll Win: Their lineup is so stacked they don't have room for the best prospect in the game. Yu Darvish is the real deal. So's Ogando. Nelson Cruz has suddenly discovered an interest in playing defense. Michael Young and his "leadership" are gone, taking his stone-gloved defense and powerless outmaking with him. Adrian Beltre is slowly sneaking up on a Hall of Fame career. Nolan Ryan is sticking around; so's Jon Daniels.
Why They Won't: See: 2012 season. Ron Washington's a terrible situational manager. DH Lance Berkman's old and injury prone. Joe Nathan won't always get calls a foot off the plate.
Moment They're Dreading: That day in late September when the A's sneak past them in the standings
Why They'll Win: Hell, they won last year, didn't they? "Cespides" is Spanish for "Hercules". They stole Chris Young from the Diamondbacks and John Jaso from the Mariners. The good young pitching is just getting better. Josh Reddick is channeling whatever unholy power fuels Duck Dynasty and using it to launch baseballs into seats. Moneyball, Moneyball, Moneyball.
Why They Won't: No money in the bank and nobody comes to see the games. Too many of the guys they're counting on, from Reddick to Young to Lawrie, have had either spotty performance or spotty injury histories, and it's wishcasting to think at least some of them won't revert. The Raiders may show up randomly to beat the A's up and take their lunch money, and the city of Oakland will let them.
Moment They're Dreading: Somebody gets hurt. Anybody gets hurt. Anybody at all.
Why They'll Win: King Felix. A horde of power arms knocking on the door, and the best catching prospect in baseball. They moved in the fences, so Mike Morse's power might actually play. Jesus Montero is actually healthy and ready to rake. Everyone in the front office knows their jobs are on the line after a few years of Pirates-level horror show, and will be making moves accordingly.
Why They Won't: Jason Bay. Raul Ibanez. Endy Chavez. The only way this outfield would have more walking dead stumbling around in it would be if that damn kid Carl ran out of the bullpen between innings. It's put up or shut up time for the high draft pick guys like Ackley, Smoak, Montero and Seager, and the smart money is on "shut". After Hernandez, the starting rotation gets real iffy, real fast. Oliver Perez has a job in their bullpen.
Moment They're Dreading: The team goes on a mild hot streak just before the trade deadline, convincing the front office that they are in fact contenders and that they should hang onto the underachievers for one...more...year.
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Why They'll Win: They won't. The front office has made it clear: they're stripping this thing down to the chassis and rebuilding it, and anyone who's not going to be around long enough to be part of the next winning Houston team should rent month-to-month. That being said, with a farm system that's been dire for a long time, no real major league talent to speak of, and an uphill climb in a division with the Angels and A's, among others, expecting to contend would have been a miracle.
Why The Won't: Their starting outfield includes two guys who couldn't crack the Nationals' lineup when the Nationals stank. They're starting Ronny Cedeno at short and Carlos Pena at DH. First and Third are like the Island of Misfit Ex-Prospects, and running Chris Carter out there in left field is going to drive their pitchers to drink. Bud Norris is likely gone in July, and Jose Altuve is really short.
Moment They're Dreading: Opening Day.