It's not pitching that will keep the Angels from winning the race, but lack of depth—both infield and outfield—and consistent offense. The Angels led the league in home runs in '89, but were 11th in hitting and 13th in on-base average. Without more ways to score, Rader's going to find it tough to break 100 on this course.
4. TEXAS RANGERS
A scene from spring: Rangers shortstop Jeff Kunkel makes sensational plays in the third and sixth innings, but in the ninth, in a tight game, he boots a simple grounder. That's the Rangers. Terrifically talented, excruciatingly sloppy. Their clubhouse is filled with good players: dominating starters like Nolan Ryan, a top closer in Jeff Russell. .300 hitters like Julio Franco, a budding superstar in Ruben Sierra and bright young talent like right-handed starter Kevin Brown. "Player for player, pitcher for pitcher, we're as good as anyone," says pitching coach Tom House. Game for game, they're not. Texas pitchers have led the league in walks four straight years. The catchers have led the AL in passed balls six years in a row (tying a major league record). The Rangers were second in the league in unearned runs allowed in '89.
With a starting staff that includes Ryan (2,540 career walks), Bobby Witt (6.69 walks per nine innings in his career, second-highest rate in history) and knuckleballer Charlie Hough, walks are expected. But walks don't kill if your team catches the ball, which the Rangers don't. That's a reason why, in '89, Texas pitchers allowed the same batting average as Oakland pitchers, but gave up 138 more runs. The Rangers did sign free-agent center-fielder Gary Pettis, who defensively is without peer. But the infield still features Kunkel, who had the lowest fielding average of any shortstop (minimum 50 games) last year; second baseman Franco's range has decreased dramatically; and Rangers catchers had nearly as many passed balls (42) as RBIs last year (51) and hit .221. Management remains stubbornly hopeful: "There aren't many shortstops in baseball who have the physical ability of Kunkel," says G.M. Tom Grieve, "and there aren't many pitchers who have Witt's ability." But until the Rangers stop self-destructing, they won't crack the Big Three.
5. SEATTLE MARINERS
A few years ago, second baseman Harold Reynolds was walking the streets of Seattle wearing a T-shirt with MARINERS emblazoned across the front. An elderly woman said to him, "Oh, you're in the Marines." "No, ma'am," Reynolds said politely. "I play for the Mariners." "The who?" she said.
Well, things are changing in Seattle. The originally scheduled opener was virtually sold out a month in advance. Ticket prices were lowered, as were prices for hot dogs, soft drinks and beer at the Kingdome. New Mariners chairman Jeff Smulyan went on a number of promotional caravans. People in Seattle are getting interested. "I feel like I've been traded," says Reynolds.
The Mariners are beginning their 14th year and have never had a winning season. But this might be the year they reach .500. which, in this division, would be a major step. "Five hundred?" says Reynolds. "So what? If we finish .500, we'll finish sixth. We have to shoot for the crown." That is totally unrealistic, but there are reasons to believe: Last year, the Mariners had both the youngest hitters (27.1 years old) and the youngest pitchers (26.7) in the league. Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., 20. grew an inch and gained 20 pounds in the off-season. "Genetics," says manager Jim Lefebvre. Says one scout, "Griffey will be the best player in the league in a couple of years."
Kids also populate the starting rotation, including Randy Johnson, 26; Brian Holman, 25; and Erik Hanson, 24—who together have 34 big league victories. The Mariners, and their fans, will still have to practice patience. Johnson, who is 6'10", has encountered more than the usual problems of inexperience: In a game this spring, catcher Dave Valle fired a pickoff throw to second; Johnson reached out and caught it.
6. MINNESOTA TWINS