Don’t sleep on West Coast baseball. There’s something for everyone in the AL and NL West this season.
Name your pleasure:
If the Angels’ signing of Albert Pujols doesn’t whet your appetite, then head north to watch Matt Kemp and his all-around excellence in Dodgerland. Or check out how Texas’ Josh Hamilton and Troy Tulowitzki of Colorado so effortlessly make the extraordinary look routine.
The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum boast three Cy Young awards between them, and both are at the front end of their prime. High-priced free-agent C.J. Wilson crossed enemy lines to join the Angels after helping the Rangers to the World Series the past two years. And Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, 25, is just one year removed from winning a Cy Young.
Yu Darvish, who boasts rock-star popularity in Japan, may well be the most anticipated international signee in history. Can he match his hype as an unhittable right-hander?
Don’t forget eccentric closer Brian Wilson—the bearded folk hero of the Giants’ 2010 World Series title. And the signing of Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes and disgraced slugger Manny Ramirez has suddenly generated some buzz in Oakland.
But most of all, West Coast baseball is sure to offer some sizzling action between the lines and in the standings.
For a change, the biggest offseason fireworks weren’t in the AL East; instead, it was the Angels and Rangers that engaged in a mega-spending battle that seems certain to result in a taut race for the AL West championship.
Were the Angels’ additions of Pujols and C.J. Wilson enough to close a 10-game gap on Texas from 2011? Or did the Rangers hold serve by securing the dynamic Darvish and placing him in a rotation of standout young arms? Don’t bat an eye if the AL champion comes out of the West for a third straight year or if the ALCS is an all-West affair.
Switching leagues, there isn’t a more wide-open division than the NL West, which boasts four legit contenders. With defending champ Arizona having bolstered, its pitching staff and San Francisco welcoming back 2010 NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey from injury; don’t expect any fall off at the top of the division.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles, 82-79 a year ago, should build on its late 2011 surge as it distances itself from a tumultuous recent history. And enigmatic Colorado brought in plenty of seasoned performers to pair with the ultra-talented Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
The media’s East Coast bias is sure to result in the traditional overload of the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Meanwhile, a fantastic season is in the offing out West.
Don’t sleep through it.