Heading into the 2010 season, many expected the newly revamped Seattle Mariners to clash with the Los Angeles Angels for the division crown. The Mariners, who added players like Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman and Cliff Lee to their roster during the offseason, had hoped their aggressive offseason would lead to a division title in 2010. After all, the Angels lost players like John Lackey, Chone Figgins, and Vladimir Guerrero that offseason.
Many baseball experts, writers, and bloggers like myself, seemed certain that the Mariners would give the Angels a run for their money in 2010. I even went as far as ranking them as the No.5 team in baseball behind only No.1 New York Yankees, No.2 Philadelphia Phillies, No.3 Boston Red Sox, and No.4 St. Louis Cardinals.
Unfortunately, however, the Mariners were an immediate train-wreck.
The Mariners had all the tools for a pretty decent team heading into the 2010 season, but the team really never came together as GM Jack Zduriencik had envisioned they would. As a result, the Mariners eventually faded out of the picture and spent most of the season in the division cellar. The Angels, the powerhouse team in the West, also took a dip in the standings as well.
The Rangers (No.12 in my Early Rankings), and A’s (No.22), however, emerged as the two teams that would eventually compete for the division in 2010. Yes, the A’s would ultimately lose out on the division, but no one showed the Green-and-Gold any love early in the season. They played particularly well when you consider the amount of injuries they had, and the anemic offense they featured on the field.
The A’s wound up placing second in the AL West, 9.0 games behind the first place Rangers, 1 game better than the Angels, and 20 ahead of the Mariners. The 81-81 A’s featured a very young, but talented starting rotation that led the majors in Quality Starts with 103, and led the AL in ERA with a 3.56 mark.
The offense for the A’s, however, was pretty atrocious.
Sure, it wasn’t Mariners bad, but it wasn’t much better.
The A’s ranked 23rd in runs (663), 17th in batting average (.256), 16th in on-base percentage (.324), 26th in slugging (.378), and 28th in home runs (109).
Despite these bad numbers, however, the A’s still managed to finish the year with a non-losing record for the first time since 2006. It has definitely inspired GM Billy Beane to address a few of the team’s glaring problems this offseason.
My only hope is, however, is that the A’s don’t turn themselves into the 2010’s version of the Seattle Mariners. Remember, the Mariners had an up-year (2009), then they added a whole bunch of pieces before they crashed and burned the following season (2010).
The A’s have added players like DH Hideki Matsui, and outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to their offense, and have solidified their pitching staff with the additions of Grant Balfour, Rich Harden, Brian Fuentes, and Brandon McCarthy.
The team even made runs at adding Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, and sluggers Adrian Beltre, Lance Berkman, and Adam Dunn.
But even with all these additions, are the A’s considered favorites to win the division in 2011?
My guess is that many baseball writers will show a little more love for the Green-and-Gold this time around, but there are some still out there that believe that the Rangers’ biggest threat in ’11 are the Angels. Meanwhile, I still say that the A’s are a legitimate threat to win the AL West in 2011 due to their upgraded offense and deepened pitching staff.
The A’s should be feared heading into the 2011 campaign, and fans should be really, really excited about this team’s chances this season.
Plus, I trust Billy Beane a little more than I do Jack Zduriencik…