Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The AL West has changed dramatically this offseason. Even the Houston Astros are starting to look a little bit better. The Athletics have been good enough to win two consecutive AL West division titles but will they be able to get a third one? Let’s take a closer look at all of teams and the entire AL West division.
The Astros completed their first season in their new league and new division this past season. As expected, they were predicted to lose over 100 games and they did. The Astros have made some moves this offseason that don’t make them contenders, but improves the ball club as a whole. They added Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, and Jesse Crain. The most notable is probably Jesse Crain, since he is a high quality pitcher. This team is taking it’s baby steps to returning to contender status.
Unfortunately for the Astros, as they’ve improved, so have all the other teams in this league. I mean no disrespect when I say that they will end up losing another 100 games. Sadly for the Astros, they have to face some new intimidating faces in the AL West such as Shin Soo- Choo and Robinson Cano. While the Astros’ record won’t really improve this next season, they will improve as a team. Their improvement won’t show because of the improvement of the other teams, but the progress will be there. The Astros will be closer to contention in 2015 or 2016 when Mark Appel makes his big league debut. For now, Astros fans need to buckle up because they’re in for another rough season.
The Mariners might be a surprise team in 2014. With the additions they’ve made, specifically Robinson Cano, the Mariners have set themselves up for a better season than their last one. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners became contenders this year and competed for 1st place. I don’t think they’re quite there yet however. They have outstanding pitching with Hernandez and Iwakuma, but even they won’t make this team contenders. The Mariners will be in the middle once again in 2014, but they will have a better record.
That being said, it is still the offseason and they can still make moves to become contenders. A few they might make include picking up some players like Ubaldo Jimenez or even Nelson Cruz. Adding either one would instantly improve the Mariners enough to be a serious threat even in this division. The Mariners are one good move away from making the AL West a possible 4 way race.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have had big expectations from them these past two seasons, and both times they’ve failed to live up to them. This past season, they were expected to make it to the World Series. And we’ve seen how that’s worked out. Once again the Angels have big expectations coming into 2014. They’ve made moves and spent money trying to get the right players. They started to heat up and play well later on in the season last year, but by then the A’s and Rangers were too far ahead. The Angels are a good team. They have great players on their roster. So why haven’t they lived up to expectations?
There are many theories out there, but I believe the problem is a mixture of chemistry and management. Team chemistry can be often overlooked, but it is essential to a team’s success. You can have all the best players in the league, but if they don’t get along and don’t work as a team, then they won’t win. You can’t buy a championship. I think what the Angels are missing is just that. They are a good team with good players, all they need is some chemistry. If they can get that, then they may just be the team to take away the AL West crown from the A’s. My prediction is that they will do better this year, but I don’t think this is their year either. The team hasn’t made enough changes to change their results.
The Texas Rangers are perhaps the biggest threat to the A’s getting the crown yet again. 2014 will only further add to the flames of this new rivalry. They have made some excellent additions this offseason. They’ve added both Shin Soo-Choo and Prince Feilder. They will be an intimidating lineup to face. The Rangers have consistently been a contender for the past 5 years. They’ve been in contention for the postseason for 4 straight years. This next year is no different.
The rotation is biggest concern for this team. They have a great ace in Yu Darvish and an excellent pitcher in Derek Holland, but they need more solid starters in the rotation beyond that. In 2013, they had a lot of pitchers that were switching back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. Matt Garza didn’t pan out to well for them. What the Rangers need to do if they want to take the division crown away from the A’s is to focus on the pitching staff now. They’ve had a great offense the past few years. It’s gotten them to the World Series. Their offense isn’t their problem. Their problem is the pitching. If they can put together a better, more solid rotation, then that is when they will possibly take the division title back.
The reigning champions for two years running are in a good position to claim a 3rd straight division title. They’ve made a lot of moves in the bullpen, making it possibly the best one in the majors. In 2012, they were predicted to lose 100 games, and they nearly won that many. Last year they proved that it was no fluke and they repeated their success. Both times they had an early playoff exit. The A’s are in the middle of a time period in which they are a consistently good team. Billy Beane is trying to capitalize on this window of opportunity by spending more money on the team than he ever has. The A’s are looking to be in a great position to have three-peat. But no team is perfect, and the A’s are also missing something.
The Oakland A’s are missing another power bat in the lineup. They have a great offense already, ranking 4th in runs scored last season. But this team would highly benefit from another power bat. They need someone to bring in all the runners left on base. If the A’s can get another power bat in the lineup then they will dominate their competition. They will be an unstoppable force in 2014. As it stands now, however, the A’s are simply one of the 3 teams that have a legitimate chance at capturing the crown again. As it stands now, they can repeat their success, but they will have to work extremely hard for it.