We’re a divided Empire – half of us represent Dodger Blue, and the other half wear Angels Red. Those of us who are Dodger fans definitely respect the good thing the Angels have going. Let’s see: you have the best owner in baseball, standing in contrast to the formerly married buffoons who own the Dodgers. You have the best manager in baseball…who shoulda been wearing blue all these years.
Then, there was that little matter of winning their division five out of six years, and being serious playoff threats ever single time, until that little oopsie last year. Things have to be better this year…right?
Well, maybe. There’s a lot to like in red this year, and a lot to be plenty concerned about.
What Could Go Right. Wow! Look at that outfield fly to the ball!!! Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos, and Torii Hunter are the best defensive outfield in the history of life. Their offensive production ain’t bad either as Wells and Hunter have the kind of huge years they’re know for. Bobby Abreu’s bat springs back to life, and when he’s not DHing, he’s at least okay in the field, making him a great fourth outfielder.
Kendrys Morales – yep, there’s an s at the end of his name – gets well soon, picks up where he left off, and the Halos have a huge bat in the middle of the lineup again. Howie Kendrick continues to develop, Brandon Wood fulfills his promise, and either Maicer Izturis or Erick Aybar stays healthy enough to be a sparkplug at the top of the order. A catcher appears out of nowhere, and wow, look at the runs pile up!
Meanwhile on the mound, Jered Weaver completes his growth curve and becomes the staff ace you always thought he was destined to be. Dan Haren reverts to pre-2010 form and is also a staff ace. Ervin Santana thinks it’s 2012, and keeps his ERA under four, like he did in 2008 and 2010, rather than going into the fives like he did in 2007 and 2009. Joel Pinero is dependable, and Scott Kazmir thinks he’s back in Tampa and turns back into, well, Scott Kazmir.
Fernando Rodney settles down and turns into the closer he sometimes appears he can be. Hisanori Takahashi, unneeded in the rotation, turns into the next great Angels setup man. Kevin Jepsen continues to grow, and Matt Palmer, also unneeded in the rotation becomes a great long reliever and spot starter.
In the West, the Rangers turn out to be a one-year wonder, Seattle is a non-factor (again), and Oakland’s pitching is overrated. Everyone’s darlings from Boston might own the Angels in the postseason, but they fall apart in the Division Series, and the Halos miss them on their way to their second American League pennant and a World Series beatdown from the Phillies.
What Could Go Wrong. Wow! Look at that outfield fly to the ball!!! Too bad Bourjos can’t hit his weight and Hunter and Wells ain’t what they used to be with the bat. Bobby Abreu is about five steps past “not what he used to be”, and Reggie Willits doesn’t contribute.
Morales doesn’t make it back from the DL for months, and when he does, he can’t plant well enough to hit with power. Wood is still a deer in the headlights – only now he’s struggling in somebody else’s farm system – while Aybar and Izturis are playing hurt, leaving Mike Scioscia relying on Alberto Callaspo and Mark Trumbo, who turns into Brandon Wood II. Their best catcher is in Texas, and the two on the roster can’t get the job done, with Hank Conger not ready for prime time either.
On the hill, Kazmir can’t recover, while Santana and Piniero flame out as they’re sometimes wont to do, decimating the Angels’ middle relief crew in the process. Holding a lead, however, proves irrelevant when Rodney quickly drops out of Fireman Of The Year contention and brings a gas can to every other save opportunity. The wrong Francisco Rodriguez is in their bullpen, though at least he hasn’t told anyone, “Your parents are manipulating you like a marionette.”
All in all, it’s another .500ish season while the Rangers break through and win their first World Series.
We don’t expect that version of baseball armageddon to happen, but when you have legitimate doubts about more than half of the starting lineup and the rotation, plus your closer has a decided tendency to go kablooey and has only rolled up 15+ saves once in an eight-year career, you’re probably not going to unseat the defending league champions either.
It could be worse, Angels fan. You have a healthy dose of hope for something other than a court order that forces the sale of your team.