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 a Mariner 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 Seattle Mariners... they are going to be better. Probaby not a lot better, but better. That is hardly a bold statement since they are coming off a 95-loss season in which they suffered through a club-record 17-game losing streak that spoiled what started out as a decent season. Seattle was actually right at 43-43 befor that losing streak and had some thinking they could be a dark horse in the AL West. What allowed the M's to have that early semi-success was strong pitching. They have since traded away Doug Fister and Michael Pineda, but King Felix and the cavernous dimensions of Safeco Field remain, so the fact that the rotation is a little more patchwork this season shouldn't be too much of a setback for Seattle. Coughing up all that pitching did give them something they haven't had in year, guys that can actually hit. Jesus Montero is the big acquisition and, if he lives up to his hype, he'll finally give Seattle a middle of the order threat. For the first time in years, when the Angels face the Mariners, it won't just be a glorified bullpen side session for the Halo starting pitchers.
I'm not trying to troll Mariner fans but... how am I supposed to take this team seriously when they insist on handing the leadoff spot and a starting job over to Chone Figgins? Mind you that I make that statement knowing full well that Vernon Wells will be the Opening Day left fielder for the Angels this year. The thing about Seattle though is that this is a team starved for anyone that can hit. Chone Figgins cannot hit, not anymore. I guess you can't blame them too much for trying to get something out of Figgins and the albatross of his remaining contract, but Seattle actually has viable third base candidates that could be starting in place of Figgy. They also have Ichiro as a replacement at the top of the order, even if he does appear to be falling off dramatically.
Don't tell anyone, but I secretly like... Dustin Ackley. I mean, I REALLY like Dustin Ackley. The kid looks like he is going to be pretty dang amazing. As most of you know, I actually live in Seattle now, so I have watched a few more Mariner games than I care to admit, and part of that has to do with Ackley. He doesn't have any one special skill, but he is one of those players that you perk up when you know he is due up soon. I'm 90% certain that this isn't just because he looks like Roy Hobbs compared to the rest of the Seattle lineup. There is a good chance that he will be considered the best second baseman in the division by the end of the year, which is saying something when you look at who he is up against.
Tell everyone, I not-so-secretly hate... Ichiro. I have no rational reason for this because he is (or at least was) an incredible player, so I respect his accomplishments very much. However, I now live in Seattle and he is revered as a diety here. He could strangle a puppy with a flaming American flag and I'm pretty sure nobody would care. Being a contrarian by nature, that sort of unconditional support of a player drives me crazy.
Vegas has their season win over/under at 72 wins, I'll take the... over, but I wouldn't bet much on it. Their pitching is worse, their hitting is better but really, I just think they are due for a little luck for a change.
They are a threat to the Angels because... they play them six times in the final nine games of the season. Sorry, but Seattle is not going to be good this year, everyone knows this. There is a massive talent gap between them and the Angels (and the Rangers too, but this isn't about them). As such, the only real way the Mariners are going to affect the Halos' season is by playing the spoiler down the stretch. I just have bad visiions of the Angels having to try and beat Felix Hernandez twice in the final week of the season as they are fighting tooth and nail with the Rangers for the top spot in the AL West.
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Montero and Smoak, a big part of Seattle's hopes, have to show me they can do it at the big league level before I worry about them much. Particularly Montero, with all of sixty nine AB's in the bigs and expectations beyond even what Howie Kendrick has had to suffer through. This guy is about the same size but has a long way to go before he gets mistaken for Big Papi: The Sequel. I'll take the under on wins but only because the power part of the lineup is without success in a Seattle uniform. They've got some good looking kids, though, I'll give them that. That's why I wouldn't bet too much on the under, either. Sometimes kids are too dumb to know they shouldn't win. Not often, but sometimes.