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AL West: Bring Sexy Back
On Dictionary.com, the definition for sex appeal is: "Immediate appeal or obvious potential to interest or excite others, as by appearance, style, or charm." The Web site doesn't list an antonym, but for now, it may as well be: AL West.
As the only division in baseball without a 20-win team (Los Angeles leads the quartet with 17 victories), the AL West is the least buzz-worthy collection of squads in the majors. In the grand scheme of MLB sexiness, the AL West is Janet Reno.
Alas, division attractiveness is cyclical, and a glance reveals the West's potential for intrigue. This quartet is completely void of a lost-cause team like the Washington Nationals or Kansas City Royals -- all four teams are somewhat evenly matched, as the standings portray (four games separate first from last). Simply put, this division is currently mired with mediocrity. In turn, every team is in the race. So, there is potential for high sex appeal ... if a couple teams just improved a bit to give the division race some cachet on the national level. So just over a month into the '07 campaign, here is my advice for spicing things up on each AL West team and bringing the collective division back from the depths of irrelevancy. It's sexy time!
Angels: Two words: Miggy magic. It was widely reported last season that the Angels were working on a trade with Baltimore that would have sent some of the Angels' youth (Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar were among those mentioned) to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada. Baltimore allegedly nixed the deal, but there seemed to be definite interest. It's time for Los Angeles GM Bill Stoneman to rekindle these talks (if he hasn't already). The Angels organization is loaded with pitching talent (on top of the current five-man rotation, Joe Saunders and Dustin Moseley have shown they can be effective starters), so giving up a young arm wouldn't leave the cupboard bare. While trading a position prospect like Aybar could hurt the team down the line, the Angels must think in the present. With its deep, battle-tested pitching staff, this team is just a potent bat away from becoming a true World Series contender.
Athletics: The A's need even more offensive help than the Angels, and Oakland's hitting ineptitude starts right at the top of the lineup. When it comes to the leadoff spot, the A's possess the lowest batting average (.226) and run total (15) in the American League. Jason Kendall has proven too old for table-setting duties and I'm skeptical of this Shannon Stewart experiment. Oakland must obtain a true leadoff man, and I'm not talking about bringing back Rickey Henderson. The A's have developed a fabulous relationship with Kansas City over the years. Any chance David Dejesus -- who was involved in trade rumors in the offseason -- is available? Another simple way to improve the A's: make sure everyone takes their vitamins. Seriously, this team is absolutely crippled by injury (Rich Harden, Mike Piazza, Milton Bradley, Mark Kotsay, Bobby Kielty and Esteban Loaiza are all on the DL).
Mariners: Aside from praying for King Felix's arm and Richie Sexson's bat, Mariners brass have one glaring item on the to-do list: shake up the rotation. Even if Hernandez does return in the near future, the Mariners still have the second-worst starters' ERA in the baseball (5.92). Miguel Batista (5.70), Horacio Ramirez (7.62) and Jeff Weaver (15.35) may be the worst 3-4-5 in baseball. As evidenced by this offseason, though, starting pitching comes at a premium price. Luckily, no trade is necessary. The solution can be found in Seattle's bullpen right now and his name is Brandon Morrow. Before becoming the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft, the fireballing Morrow was Cal's ace. I know the team's plan was to let him get his feet wet in the 'pen this season before moving him to the rotation in '08, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Last year proved that rookie pitchers don't need bullpen training wheels (see: Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Matt Cain).
Rangers: Admittedly, this is the team with the most work to do. The offense is vastly underachieving, and the pitching staff may be baseball's worst. But first things first -- this ballclub must start by improving its basic fundamentals. The Rangers have committed the most errors (28) in the American League and compiled the second-highest total of unearned runs (21). Infielders are responsible for 21 of these miscues, which is very strange considering infield defense is Ron Washington's forte. The defense should get better as the year goes along and Washington has more time to impart his knowledge on the team. The Rangers also need to position some players better, namely Jerry Hairston Jr. This guy is not a center fielder -- just look at his costly error on Tuesday night against the Yankees.
This entire team is underperforming, and trading guys at their lowest value wouldn't make much sense. The farm system has seen better days, especially when it comes to position players. So "spicing up" this team is a pretty difficult task. For right now, the Rangers need to weather this storm and hope that whenever they snap out of this collective funk, .500 is in sight.
Labels: AL West
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