Of the three divisions in the American League, the one that rarely gets any media coverage is the West. So here's is a brief overview.
The death of top prospect Nick Adenhart was the sad story of the early season. If I were with the Angels I would want his memory preserved, but it should not be the only thing the media know about the team. The Angels' pitching has been destroyed by a combination of Adenhart's loss and DL stints by such players as John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar. That's four pitchers gone—almost a full rotation—in the first few months. The bullpen has come down to earth and is the Angels' worst in recent memory. If this trend continues, the Angels could miss the playoffs this year. However, if their rotation comes back and has a strong second half, the team could be right back in the AL West race.
Year in and year out the Athletics contend for the division title, the same way the Minnesota Twins do in the AL Central. They compete with their in-house talent and rarely re-sign their big-time players. However, this year Oakland has taken a new approach and is giving veterans decent money. Orlando Cabrera, Nomar Garciaparra, and Matt Holliday join Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, and Bobby Crosby to make a relatively old offense. With injuries early to Ellis and Garciaparra, the A's haven't gotten off to a hot start, at least not compared with previous years. Their rotation is very young, relying on all in-house products. Oakland contend for the AL West title almost any year. This could be the year the A's take it because they are a quality team when healthy and consistent.
Seattle has gone from last place in the AL West the past few years to being the Mariners of old, the team that used to win division titles and threaten during the playoffs. Shockingly, they have done it with pitching and defense, much as the Rays did last year. Led by Ken Griffey Jr., the offense hasn't really performed, but the pitching has been lights-out. If this team gives up more than three runs it isn't likely to win. But the Mariners keep winning games by the slimmest of margins. If they can maintain their pitching, and if their offense finds a spark, they could be a real threat in the AL West. I would even go so far as to say they could be a threat in the playoffs.
The Texas Rangers have been hands-down, no-debate the best offensive team in the AL West. In that sandbox they call a stadium, Ranger hitters just hit home runs left and right. However, so have their opponents. The Rangers' pitching has been so awful in the past they could teach Bad Pitching 101. However, with solid starts from Kevin Millwood and baseball's best farm system, I can see the Rangers seriously competing in the future. They are currently second. Combine decent pitching with the Rangers' spectacular offense, and they could make a run this year. In the playoffs, the Rangers haven't lost a against anyone other than the Yankees. However, they also haven't faced anyone other than the Yankees. So it would be especially interesting to see the Rangers make the playoffs.
The AL West is the closest division in the league some years, although the Angels clinched the title last year relatively easily. The West currently does not have powerhouse playoff teams like in the East and the Central, but it looks good for the future. The Rangers have the best farm system in baseball. The Angels and Athletics also have plenty of youngsters coming up who could make a big impact on the game. As long as management of these teams keeps making good decisions, the future is very bright for the division.