The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California United States Western Hemisphere (LAAACUSWH, for short), as they will no doubt soon be referred to, managed to achieve something recently that no other team has been able to achieve for the entirety of the MLB offseason to date. Specifically, they forced the baseball world to talk about something other than the Miami Florida United States Western Hemisphere Marlins.
For non-fans of the Marlins, this offseason has been an exercise in monotony. Often, since Day One of the free agency process, non-Marlins fans have woken up knowing one thing for certain: at some point during the day, no matter what may happen otherwise, they would be deluged with the latest news about how the Marlins were either bidding on or signing a player.
It was enough to drive the non-fan of the Marlins out of his or her respective gourd. But when the Angels dropped in out of the sky to sign both King Pujols and C.J. Wilson on the same day, it was akin to a gift from the baseball gods. Finally, someone would start talking about something other than the formerly meaningless Marlins.
For all the well-deserved glory that should be directed towards LAAACUSWH, though, and for all the credit they deserve for putting a stake in the ground and declaring that they will not stand for playoff-free seasons, the reality is that the mighty LAAACUSWH are still inferior to the Best of the West—namely the Texas Rangers.
Broken down position by position, it can be said definitively that first base projects as the only position where Texas trails LAAACUSWH in terms of anticipated production. Regarding the outfield positions, depending on where Josh Hamilton plays the majority of his games, the Rangers will still enjoy an advantage in two of the three outfield spots—and possibly all three. In the end, at best the Angels (LAAACUSWH was getting tiring to type out) can be expected to give ground to Texas in six of the eight positions on the field, and in many cases the differentials are significant.
The Angels do project to have a superior rotation, no doubt, with Jarred Weaver, Dan Haren and Wilson as their Big Three. It’s possible that they may also have Ervin Santana in the mix, however, early indications are that he will be put on the market in an attempt to shore up other elements of their roster.
The Texas rotation, on the other hand, does figure to take a step back due to the loss of Wilson. Having said that, it is possible that Neftali Feliz could be exactly what the organization thinks he is and will make people forget Wilson in the process. In terms of known quantities, however, you’d have to give the edge to the Angels rotation heading into the season.
Regarding the respective bullpens, Texas will boast a more complete bullpen than the Angels if all the pieces fit. New closer Joe Nathan will have a big say as to whether those pieces actually fit, and his performance will also be a factor in evaluating the decision to move Feliz to the rotation. If Feliz is lights-out and Nathan is a bust, then the entire strategy could wind up haunting the team’s chances.
If ball clubs are broken down into their constituent pieces, meaning lineup (both defensive and offensive), rotation and bullpen, the Rangers are clearly a better constructed team at this stage. This could all change with injuries and acquisitions to come, of course; but all things being equal, the Rangers will do more things well than the Angels will. Add in the fact that the Rangers are collectively hungering for a return to the World Series, and the recipe exists for the Angels to be left battling for a Wild Card birth.
It is in this regard, above all other considerations, that the Pujols and Wilson signings have changed the dynamics of the American League more so than just the American League West Division. The AL East has been the prohibitive favorite to produce the Wild Card winner for a number of years now, and it can be expected that this trend will be seriously challenged at the very least. Pujols alone changed the dynamic, but the Wilson signing was quite an exclamation point in its own right. The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays have all been put on notice, and this should make for a summer filled with scoreboard watching to be sure.
There are any number of possibilities, of course, regarding how things will develop in the American League West specifically and the American League as a whole. Without a doubt, all of the possibilities figure to be compelling. For the time being, though, all non-fans of the Marlins can rejoice in the knowledge that, at least for a few splendid days, they’ll at least be free from the incessant chatter about the Fish. Small victories are victories nonetheless.