Major League Baseball

Inside The Wheelhouse: 2010 AL West Preview

Vladimir GuerreroIt’s that time of year again where we look at the upcoming 2010 Major League Baseball season. Throughout the next couple of days I will preview every division in Major League Baseball then ending my blog series previewing the 2010 MLB Season by looking at the teams I see entering the playoffs this year and who will be World Champions when it’s all said & done. In this edition of my blog I will preview the AL West division.

AL West:

1. Texas Rangers

I really like the Texas Rangers this season. They didn’t go above and beyond in additions like AL West division counterpart the Seattle Mariners did but they made necessary additions that they feel will improve this team. Vladimir Guerrero joined the Rangers in the offseason to improve their already talented lineup while Rich Harden helped bring that “ace” like feel to the rotation this season. Both of the additions on paper appear they will help make this team a contender in the West.

This lineup may be one of the best lineups in all of Baseball. Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Vlad Guerrero make up a pretty dangerous lineup for the opposing pitcher. The offense is extremely strong and I look for Josh Hamilton to have a bounce back year from 2009. Maybe people penciled him in as the favorite for the 2009 AL MVP after a strong 2008 but injuries led to a less un-productive year for Hamilton.

While people penciled in Josh Hamilton as a favorite for last year’s AL MVP award, I’m going to do the same when it comes to teammate Nelson Cruz. I wouldn’t necessarily put him down as a “favorite” for the award but more or less as a “dark horse” this season. I really believe he is going to have a huge breakout year in Texas as he helps lead them towards the AL West Division Championship.

The biggest flaw the Rangers have is their pitching. They added Rich Harden to their rotation but no telling what you will get out of Harden this year. Will you get the Harden that looks like the ace that many people thought he would one day become? Or will you get the Rich Harden that spends more time on the DL? The Rangers are another team that I feel could make a run at a big name pitcher (i.e. Carlos Zambrano) come towards the trade deadline if management feels like they can make a run at the postseason.

2. Seattle Mariners

Many people LOVE this team to be the favorite in the AL West and quite frankly how can’t you argue with those people? The Mariners went out this offseason and brought in Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins to help improve their team. Three very solid players, two who won’t be a problem in the clubhouse and one certain player that most likely will.

You could argue that the Mariners have the best 1-2 punch in all of the American League and quite possibly Baseball. Felix Hernandez was the anchor in the Seattle staff for a good number of seasons and now he has a solid starter to take the pressure off of him to be the star in the rotation in Cliff Lee. Yes people it’s the same Cliff Lee that basically kept the Philadelphia Phillies on life support in the 2009 World Series.

Another story out of Seattle this season that may become more prevalent as the season ends is whether or not this is the swan song for Ken Griffey Jr. in Major League Baseball. “The Kid” isn’t a young spring chicken anymore climbing the wall to grab homeruns and crushing the baseball into the upper deck of Safeco field. This could be the last run for one of the great players in the past 20 years to come and the Mariners will do everything they can to keep this soon to be hall-of-fame career going at all costs.

While the rotation is much improved you have to wonder what it will look like in the 3, 4 and 5 spot of the rotation. Erik Bedard is out with an injury still and no doubt will be a solid #3 starter once healthy especially if you get the Bedard who played in Baltimore in his breakout year. Other question marks this season will be whether or not their new offensive investments (Chone Figgins & Milton Bradley) will pay off in the end. Bradley is one of the most selfish players to ever grace Baseball and can be a huge distraction if he opens his mouth. Look for the Mariners to keep the AL West race close but be out of the AL Wild Card picture around the first part of September.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Yep the runners up in the American League last year in the postseason I have ranked third on my AL West preview for the 2010 season. The reason being is that they just didn’t make any moves that actually helped them improve from the 2009 campaign they put together where they made it to the ALCS. They lost more pieces of the puzzle then they gained and that is not what most teams do when coming off of a solid playoff run the following season.
The Angles lost ace John Lackey (to the Red Sox), power hitter Vlad Guerrero (to the Rangers) and speedy utility player Chone Figgins (to the Mariners) during the offseason after failing to resign them for a 2010 campaign and beyond. Three crucial pieces of the Angels puzzle that kept them in contention for the playoffs every season and what helped make them the AL West powerhouse for the last decade. You would have thought after the final out of the 2009 ALCS that the Angels would at least go out and resign at least one of the three.

So the Angels go out and only bring in one name in 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. No doubt Matsui is a great hitter but as he gets older and his knees get worse overtime you have to wonder for how long will “Godzilla” will be productive in Los Angeles. The Yankees got rid of Matsui for a reason due to his inability to play the field anymore and being unable to really run the bases, both cases due to past knee injuries.

The saving grace for the Angels is that they have a great manager in Mike Scioscia. He, like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, seem to find a way to win with whatever team they have every season. Showing just how important they are as managers to their team. While I don’t see the Angels being anymore the a 82 win, .500 ballclub it wouldn’t shock me if Mike Scioscia can take this team that has been given to him and make them into contenders. I just think that in the 2010 season the other two teams ahead of them in this preview for the AL West went out and made the moves to make their teams go from mediocrity to great.

4. Oakland Athletics

The A’s at one time were one of the most feared teams in Baseball. They had a great lineup and had one of the best young groups of starting pitchers in Baseball. Boy has the times changed in Oakland.

It could be argued that the theory of “moneyball” from Billy Beane may start to be dying out in Oakland and that a changing of the guard may have to happen sometime soon in that general manager position. While Beane is without a doubt one of the best minds in Baseball from the last twenty seasons, spawning off various general managers to follow his theories, it should be also noted that the Athletics have not made the playoffs since 2006. In the three seasons since the Athletics made the playoffs last, they have also fallen under .500 each of those season.

Criticism for Billy Beane is at an all-time high right now and has continued due to the lack of production the A’s made during the offseason. The A’s resigned Justin Duchscherer, signed centerfielder Coco Crisp and became the only team to take a chance on former ace Ben Sheets (who hasn’t pitched since 2008). The moves really didn’t do anything to improve this team’s outlook for the 2010 season.

What Oakland fans can hope for is that this team continues to grow and improve overtime. I don’t really see much out of the A’s this season and I believe they are at best a 70 win team. The A’s are in a crap shoot of a division but can not match the three other teams they will battle with throughout the season. This could be the curtain call for Billy Beane and the ushering in of a new Beane prodigy in Oakland come 2011.

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse and at www.errorfm.com @ 2am ET/11pm PT

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site. There you can also download many different shows including “The Wheelhouse”, “24 on 24” and “Lost: Smoke Monsters and You.”

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You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected].

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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