After several years of toiling in the shadows of their eastern division counterparts, the AL West finally can boast an American League Champion, as the Texas Rangers became the first team from the division to reach the Fall Classic since the 2002 Angels. Ultimately, the boys from Arlington would fall short of their goal, losing to the San Francisco Giants in five games, but the new standard has been set.
For too long, teams in the AL West have operated under a type of inferiority complex, bemoaning a lack of respect and a perceived east coast media bias that has permeated the character of the American League teams in the western half of our nation.
Following the Rangers' valiant charge toward the pinnacle of the baseball world, knocking off the powerhouses in Tampa Bay and the Bronx en route, there is a renewed belief out west that baseball's greatest prize is once again attainable.
Texas, fresh from their first World Series in franchise history, is confident as ever, loaded with offensive firepower, exciting youngsters and a bevy of talented hurlers. They expect to be in the hunt once again.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, despite a talented team, finished below .500 for the first time since 2003, disappointing a fan base that has developed lofty expectations since their dramatic World Series Championship of 2002. With an owner that loves to win, and who isn't afraid to spend if necessary, the Angels would seem poised to make a return to the successes of recent years.
Seattle, a team that spent lavishly last off-season, failed spectacularly, losing 101 games, and finishing dead last, although their team included the Cy Young Award winning Felix Hernandez, future Hall of Famer Ichiro, and at one point, playoff hero Cliff Lee. They will certainly be looking to rebound after an utterly disappointing year.
Finally, the Oakland A's, a perennial competitor, despite the fourth lowest payroll in baseball during 2010, have a maturing group of young arms who could be poised to step up to the next level together. We have seen this before, as a crop of young players grows together, achieving greatness within the small window of opportunity that small market teams have. While that's never a guarantee, it is Billy Beane's style to continually reload, in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle, and winning against all economic odds.
While each franchise in the AL West has their own particular strengths and weaknesses, let's take a look at 20 of the most significant questions facing the teams within the division over the course of this off-season.