Opening day of the 2011 baseball season is exactly 21 days away. As Master P might say, hoody hoooo. On Tuesday we previewed the NL West. Today, it’s the AL West. The other four divisions will be posted on Tuesday and Thursday over the next two weeks to cover all six divisions. Now would be a good time to bust out your best Ron Washington getup while imaging Philip Seymour Hoffman in the most challenging role of his career, portraying Art Howe.
1. Oakland Athletics (2010 record: 81-81, 2nd place) — Last year the A’s offense was pitiful, as evidenced by team home run leader Kevin Kouzmanoff, who hit just 16. To give the offense a little more something, anything, they added Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, and Josh Willingham. Not exactly names jumping off the page and feeding you grapes, but it’s something. (They also added Andy LaRoche, but he doesn’t count). As usual, they will get phenomenal starting pitching. Doing it these days for Billy Beane are Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Diamond Dallas Braden. The fifth spot will likely be Brandon McCarthy, but there’s a possibility they’ll get a few hours out of Rich Harden. A division with so many questions and no clear cut favorite feels like the perfect time for the return of the Oakland A’s. Will they be one-and-done in the playoffs? If they face an October magician, absolutely. Prediction: 91 wins
2. Texas Rangers (2010 record: 90-72, 1st place) — If you’re looking for an eloquent, succinct summation as to what the Texas Rangers will do in 2011, look no further than the helpful souls at Yahoo Answers. Does “they will loose to philly in 7 games in the world series…btw GO RANGERS” say it all, or what? In all seriousness, much like last season the Rangers will have no worries offensively. Gone is Vlad Guerrero, but entering the picture is Adrian Beltre, who’s also valuable when wearing a glove. They’ve also added Mike Napoli, who feels underrated as a catcher. With Clifton Lee thankfully moving on to the NL, the pressure shifts to C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. The fact that Wilson threw 131.1 more innings than his previous big-league high should have Rangers fans looking as though they just walked in on John Kruk making out with a giant slab of meat. Neftali Feliz was phenomenal as a reliever, but he’s being stretched out for a possible spot in the rotation; or not. Whatever they decide, this one won’t be filled with the sexual tension that the Joba experiment so frequently provided. Signing Brandon Webb was a nice thought, but the guy hasn’t pitched since ’09. Chances of a feel good story dual-narrated by a weeping Tom Rinaldi and Chris Connelly are pretty slim. Prediction: 85 wins
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2010 record: 80-82, 3rd place) — Before last season, the Angels were winners of the AL West in five of the previous six seasons, averaging 95 wins, so last year’s 80-win third place finish was surprising, somewhat unfamiliar territory. Many assumed they would reload in the offseason by landing either Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre, but neither happened… which leads me to the following question: Is Alberto Callaspo really their opening day third baseman? That’s not a gaping hole, that’s a ditch that says ‘Rikishi Was Here’. Good luck getting production out of the 7-8-9 spots. I’m not sure what to think of their starting pitching after Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana did throw 222 innings last year, but he’s proved to be useless each season following one in which he’s gone 200-plus. If Scott Kazmir is as awful as he was last year, they’ll have the option of throwing Hisanori Takahashi into the rotation. He’s destined to shine after leaving the Mets. And I know it’s barely the middle of March, but the Angels already experienced their biggest win of the season by adding “Rally Monkey Chia Pet” day to the calendar. However, they still need to whip up a witty counterpunch to these awesome t-shirts. Prediction: 83 wins
4. Seattle Mariners (2010 record: 61-101, 4th place) — The Mariners lost 101 games last year and scored just 513 runs (74 less than the Pirates), so logically they went on a dizzying free agent heist, nabbing Jack Cust, Gabe Gross, Adam Kennedy, Miguel Olivo, and Brendan Ryan. Lineup locked, loaded, and reborn; offensive woes solved. Their starting pitching after King Felix goes something like Jason Vargas, Erik Bedard, who’s actually been throwing baseballs, feisty Fister, and either Luke French or David Pauley. Season tickets are flying out of Ticketmaster faster than dicks are flying into Jenna Haze’s mouth. Best of luck to Eric Wedge in his first year as Seattle manager. If he doesn’t feel like Indiana Jones being chased by a giant boulder, he’s already winning. Prediction: 66 wins
The official song for this division is “Tumbthumping,” a thoughtful form of inspiration and motivation for the Seattle Mariners:
[Photos via Getty]