The start of the most anticipated LA Angels regular season literally ever is right around the corner. I'm excited. You'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 Ranger 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 Texas Rangers... umm, let me think. Hold on... Give me a minute... OK, let's try this... The state of Texas has no state income tax. Neither does Washington state, where I live, and I can tell you no state income tax is pretty sweet. But seriously, folks. The Rangers actually scare me. After not making the post-season for a decade, they seem to have figured it out. Their front office just does everything right. I mean, there is a reason Jerry Dipoto raided their front office for Scott Servais and others. Their farm system is bursting with talent. They stopped overspending on free agents (though the Darvish signing was risky) and have constructed a roster that has very few weaknesses on top of being pretty young. And like the Angels, they have a fat new TV deal, so their money isn't going to dry up anytime soon. In other words, they aren't going to fade away again anytime soon. Which is scary and annoying, mostly annoying.
I'm not trying to troll Ranger fans but... regression to the mean is not going to be your friend this season. When I look at the 2012 Rangers, they remind me a lot of the 2010 Angels. That team was coming off a 97-win year and a 2009 ALCS appearance, but they did that on the strength of a lot of guys having career years at the same time (Aybar, Rivera, Figgins, Morales, etc.). But then career norms caught up with the 2010 Angels in a big bad way as several guys fell apart and the injury bug bit hard, leading to a very disappointing 80-win season. I don't think Texas will fall down that far, but they are relying on a lot of guys to repeat career years or replace guys who had career years. Can Mike Napoli hit that well again? Probably not. Can Yu Darvish replace all of C.J. Wilson? Maybe, maybe not. Can Neftali Feliz produce like Alexi Ogando? Who knows. Can Joe Nathan be as effective as Feliz was as closer? Far from a guarantee. Will Matt Harrison and Derek Holland continue to develop? They sure hope so. Can Hamilton, Cruz, Beltre and other injury-prone Rangers avoid major injury? These are all big, big question marks and unless the Rangers get positive answers to all of them, I have a hard time seeing them winning 96 games.