AL West: Looking for Some of that Hope-y, Change-y Stuff

As we turn the page on Obama’s first year in office, we must also leave behind the year that was in America’s past-time. Yet while Obama might not yet have given us “change we can believe in,” at least those of us with no love for the previously dominant Angels have had our prayers answered. Sure, the Yanks are back on top, and no sane baseball fan wants that, but the American League may be in for a change, especially here out west.

That’s right. The American League West: Change Some of Us Including Me Can Believe In. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have won the AL West five of the last six seasons, including the last three, but this season could very well mark the end of an era.

Lead-off man and sure-handed third baseman Chone Figgins? He will be playing for the division-rival Seattle Mariners this season.

Texas Ranger-Killing, perfect-pitch-hitting, almost-sure-to-be hall-of-famer Vladimir Guerrero? Gone. In fact, not only will he be out of Anaheim this season, but he will be playing in Texas, where he is certain to wreck havoc on the Halos’ weak pitching staff. Speaking of which…

Starting ace John Lackey? Across the country, pitching for the recently developing rival Boston Red Sox.

Many would say the Angels are not really down. In the Hot Stove league, the team replaced the aging Guerrero with Hideki Matsui and signed former Cardinal Joel Pieiro to take over for Lackey’s innings. It is not so much what the Angels lost this off-season as much as what they didn’t gain to keep up the rest of the west.

All the last-place A’s did was sign two former Cy Young candidates in Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer. The A’s are also proud owners of what could have been last year’s best farm system in baseball, meaning they’re sure to infuse more young talent into an already energetic roster.

The Mariners, under the reconstructive guide of general manager Jack Zduriencik, continued to retool their pitching and defense, signing Chone Figgins and trading for another Cy Young candidate and true ace in Cliff Lee.

The Texas Rangers start 2010 with back-to-back legitimate claims to the best farm system in baseball. Farm systems don’t matter, you say? Last year, the farm gave Texas a rookie-of-the-year candidate in gold-glove caliber shortstop Elvis Andrus, a 100-mph hurler in Neftali Feliz, and a base-stealing force in Julio Borbon. More is sure to follow in 2010, and with new ownership likely to be in place by the start of the season, look for cash infusion and trades involving the Rangers in July to add to the early 2010 additions of Vlad, Rich Harden, and Colby Lewis.

It’s about time someone caught up with those damn Angels—they represent two cities, which they claim are in the same location. Seriously—Los Angeles and Anaheim aren’t even in the same county.

Arizona, where all four AL West teams play their spring ball, will certainly be filled with red this march due to Phoenix’s close proximity to LA. I hope, and believe, that this October, when the AL West champs will likely play the dreaded Yankees, the screen will instead be filled with green, yellow or blue.

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