The start of the most anticipated LA Angels regular season literally ever is right around the corner. I'm excited. Your're excited. We are all excited. You know who isn't excited? The rest of the AL West. The other teams in the division all have their own hopes and expectations going into this season, but I like to think that they are all at least slightly anxious about the prospect of facing Albert Pujols all season long.
Since the Angels have to go through these teams in their quest to get back to the playoffs and win a championship, it is probably a good idea to see what their foes were up to this off-season while the Angels were busy having the greatest off-season ever.
A quick sidebar, please be aware that if you are an Athletics fan that stumbles across this post, this post is being written from the perspective of an Angel fan. So save your complaints about this being "biased" because, well, I am biased. Get over it.
The following fulfills my contractual obligation to say something nice about the Oakland A's... Billy Beane has huge (money)balls. The unexpected signing of Cuban sensation(?) Yoenis Cespedes could be a franchise-saver. The A's haven't had a legitimate offensive star since the salad days of Giambi, Tejada and Chavez and they don't have one in the farm system right now, depending on how you feel about Michael Choice. Getting Cespedes was Oakland's best chance at landing such a player, especially since everyone knows that they only really pursue name free agents for PR purposes now. I don't know if Cespedes is going to justify the hype and ridiculous YouTube video, but he is their best shot at a middle of the order staple that they can build around and get themselves back into contention in the near future.
I'm not trying to troll Athletic fans but... I actually pity the A's. It seems like they have been stuck in rebuilding mode for a long time now, probably because they have. To some, that is a black mark on Billy Beane's record, but I think it is more of a symptom of having to survive for too long on a thin budget with an owner that is more concerned about moving to San Jose than winning right now. Really, it just isn't fair to the fans. The organization knows they are in a holding pattern until MLB figures out a way to appease the Giants so Oakland can be freed up to move to the lucrative, corporate sponsor-rich Silicon Valley. Then, and only then, will the team be permitted to operate with a payroll that isn't two to three times smaller than every other team in their division. What makes that even tougher to handle is that the only way Oakland fans can see their team get good is by having them move away, granted not far away, but still, they'd have to move and that is never fair to anyone involved.
Don't tell anyone, but I secretly like... Grant Balfour. Or maybe this isn't really a secret since I have been begging the Angels to sign him/trade for him for two years now. I'm actually kind of mad at Oakland now because they made the 100% correct decision to let Balfour close instead of Brian Fuentes, Balfour is going to collect 15-20 saves by the trade deadline, which will automatically make him twice as expensive to trade for. That really sucks because I am still convinced that he would be the perfect right-handed setup man for Jordan Walden.
Tell everyone, I not-so-secretly hate... Manny Ramirez. I mean, just, god dammit. We are really going to have to deal with ManRam stories all year? Really? Frak.
Vegas has their season win over/under at 73 wins, I'll take the... under, but I'm not about to put money on it. Honestly, 73 is the perfect number for them, which is probably why Vegas makes a bunch of money off gambling idiots. Maybe I think too highly of Oakland because I foolishly thought they would be a good team last year and to counter that, I am taking the under as a way to counter my irrational belief in them. Honestly, I just am worried about their pitching which everyone generally assumes will be at least decent because the A's just always find a way to pull a solid rotation out of their butt. This is the year that won't happen. Don't get me wrong, I like Brad Peacock and Jarrod Parker, but they are also putting a lot of faith in Bartolo Colon and Tom Milone and other young unproven types like Milone. This is not the next coming of Hudson-Mulder-Zito. Not this year, anyway. Strangely, I think their offense might not be that bad. Their is the aforementioned Cespedes, but I think the bigger point in their lineups favor is that Billy Beane has accumulated so many offensive assets that even if none of them are great, they should be able to piece together enough decent ones to give them something resembling a league average lineup for the first time in a few years. Put it all together and I think you have a 72-win team on your hands. Like I said, take the under, but only barely.
They are a threat to the Angels because... they just always play the Angels tough. Since 2002, the A's have been the toughest AL West opponent for the Halos, going 94-98 against them even though Oakland has been rather awful in some of those years. No matter what, they just give the Angels a hard time, which is a problem this year because I think most people assume the Angels (and Rangers) will run roughshod over the bottom half of the AL West. Texas probably will do that. The Angels probably will do that against Seattle, but they may not do it against Oakland. If the Angels go 8-11 against the A's like they did last season, it could very well be the difference between the Angels winning the AL West and not making the playoffs at all.
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Yeah, what IS it about the A's that allows them to play so well against the Angels? I have to admit that I don't watch all the games against them since seeing the Angels play the same divisional teams what feels like 27 times a season just bores me to tears. Especially a crappy team they should thump but never really do, that's even more annoying. Can we get back to the "other" schedule where we play teams outside the division more often, please? Not LEAGUE, *division*!