San Francisco Giants:
Let’s be honest, this pick is probably wrong. In fact, some might even call it downright ludicrous. Perhaps even more ludicrous than Ludacris headlining “Extravaganza.” But that’s another story. Today, we’re talking baseball.
Before I throw down some gold glove defense on my questionable pick, allow me to play out some hypothetical situations that will open the door for the Gigantes to reign supreme.
There’s no doubt that the Dodgers are the clear favorites in the shaky NL West. Their offense is absolutely stacked top to bottom, their young pitching staff is throwing like proven veterans and, despite having masses of clueless fans that show up in the fifth inning, they still haven’t dropped one at Chavez Ravine.
Little do the people of Los Angeles know, a chain reaction of probable events is about to send their 2009 season to the can. First, native Canadian Russell Martin will retire from baseball to pursue his first passion of hockey, dropping America’s pastime in favor of a 2010 L.A. Kings tryout. Disgruntled with the departure of their all-star backstop, the young arms of the Dodgers will gradually falter, culminating in a pitcher’s brawl that shelves Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw for the year. Worst of all, Manny, being Manny, will refuse to cut his ridiculous mass of dreads, leading to a torn ACL when he trips over a braid rounding third.
With pandemonium running wild in Dodgerland, what team is left to pick up the pieces? Easy: the San Francisco Giants. The orange and black have one of the better starting rotations in all of baseball, and while I could effortlessly hype up Tim Lincecum for the rest of this article, it’s more important to plug the play of money launderer Barry Zito, who has thrown together some stellar outings with Pablo Sandoval as his personal catcher.
In the pen, the G-men have a closer whose mushrooming mullet might be the only thing more intimidating than his fastball. Brian Wilson, whose tribal tattoos suggest fraternization with Warrior Stephen Jackson, saved 41 games in his first full season and shows no signs of letting up in his sophomore campaign.
Once SF trades away Jonathan Sanchez for a big bat as they speculated they would in the off-season, they should have just enough firepower to surpass Vin Scully’s boys down south. Grab some pine, meats — the Giants are winning the pennant.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Not that an NL West pennant says much, given the division is more of a pushover than a hot chick’s homely best friend, but the 18-8 Dodgers have begun the season with the best record in major league baseball. Unlike in past years, the team has had no trouble generating runs. They have scored 41 more runs than their opponents: the highest run differential in baseball. Their 10-0 home record to start the season beats their former record of nine set back in 1946 when they played in Brooklyn.
However, there are warning signs for my boys in blue. The Dodgers’ 10-0 start at home means a mediocre 8-8 record on the road. In addition, the only team Los Angeles has played outside of its lowly division was the Houston Astros, who won two of three in mid April. At 11-14, the Astros are in last place in the NL Central.
Besides the Dodgers, only the 12-11 Giants have a winning record in the NL West, while Arizona and San Diego are tied for third at 11-14 and Colorado is in last at 9-14.
With Tim Lincecum finding his form for the Giants, accompanied by a stellar starting staff that includes former aces Barry Zito and Randy Johnson, San Francisco might be able to take second with a record hovering around .500 despite having the poorest offensive production in the NL West so far.
The Diamondbacks might have started slowly, but they have played tough central divisions teams like 17-8 St. Louis, 13-11 Chicago and 13-12 Milwaukee. So far, their offensive production surpasses the Giants’, but they are ultimately a forgettable team that takes third in the division.
Here’s to the Dodgers making it out of the first round for once. It won’t even be close.
It’s official: The Mariners are the best team in the AL West. Don’t ask me how it happened, because I don’t really have a clue myself. The answer isn’t Ichiro or Griffey, nor is it Washburn or Hernandez. There’s just something about the team that clicks.
Don’t believe me? Fine. The season may be young, but I’ve got some evidence going for me already. For instance, the Mariners are four for four in their series with the Angels and the A’s.
And how ’bout Russell Branyan? Just another of my Indians to pursue a late-career revival, I suppose, but he’s hitting .324 with six homers and a .648 slugging percentage in the early going. Not too bad for a relatively unheralded 33-year-old, right? But that’s the thing about the Mariners: It’s really hard to explain why they’re actually any good. Maybe it would be easier to explain why the rest of the league isn’t.
Quick, name a player on the A’s! Having trouble? Me too. With a pitching cast featuring a guy named Dallas and three nobodies with 4.5 plus ERAs, it’s tough to see the Athletics making a real move above mediocrity.
And the Angels? It’s pretty obvious to anybody paying attention that they’re cursed. I don’t know if Mike Scioscia spit on a gypsy or dug up an Indian burial ground, but some otherworldly force is injuring just about everybody who dons the dapper Disney digs, and I can’t see it stopping. Maybe if they go back to being the California Angels instead of this Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim nonsense the curse can be lifted once and for all. Until then, have fun with the .226 average of Desmond DeChone Figgins (actual name) and reveling in third place.
Texas is intriguing, at the very least, in that they feature some pretty sweet bats. Former Gaucho and perennial all-star Michael Young, the awesomely-named-for-a-baseball-player Hank Joe Blalock, and one Ian Kinsler (who leads the team in average, homers and RBIs) make up a pretty sweet lineup offensively. Then again, Kevin Millwood is their best starting pitcher. Rough.
I’m not saying I know for a fact that the Mariners are going to win the division. This isn’t the NBA: The games aren’t fixed. I just have a feeling. And, really, in a season as long and tedious as baseball, in a division as mediocre as the AL West, my guess is as good as yours. Unless you’re Bill James. Then I might defer to your judgment.
L.A. Angels of Anaheim:
Now that we’re already in May, it’s safe to say the MLB season is in full swing. The steroid circus is getting wilder every day, the loveable Royals are still holding onto first place in the AL Central and, as usual, my beloved Los Angeles Angels are dominating the AL West.
Okay, so L.A. (who by the way played in Chavez Ravine well before the Dodgers, meaning I should hear no more complaining about a throwback name) isn’t even above .500 right now, but I’m still picking them to take yet another pennant. Despite the Halos’ current struggles, I’m taking them based on two historical truths that have always defined the AL West: First, the division is governed by a force of mediocrity unrivaled by anything in the universe, and anyone off to a hot start in April is guaranteed to match that with a 20-loss May. Thus, the marginally better team (of which there always is one) will always come out on top.
The Angels are that better team. Sure, their off-season acquisitions didn’t match who they dumped, especially when K-Rod’s replacement is blowing 9-4 leads, but with a healthy starting rotation on the way back and a lineup that’s productive at the plate, no other team in the division will keep up in the long haul.
Texas looks dangerous on the offensive end right now, but it’s ludicrous to think that the Rangers will be able to avoid becoming the defensive sieve they’ve always been. Seattle currently tops the AL West, but is exceedingly boring in a league that requires panache to win. Oakland? They blow.
So who does that leave? The team that is the acme of steadiness, the pinnacle of efficiency: the L.A. Angels.