2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 4): Best Case/Worst Case for… the AL WEST (with Getty Images)

Today, we look at the AL West, and what could go right… and what could go wrong. Complete with Getty Images that may or may not have anything to do with the actual team.

Here we go:

Oakland Athletics

Best-Case Scenario: Billy Beane‘s @#$% finally works in October, the Athletics win the World Series, and their long-term stadium situation is finally solved.

Worst-Case Scenario: Billy Beane’s @#$% doesn’t work very well during the Regular season this year, the Athletics finish third, and finish the season as a barnstorming team when their stadium in Oakland disappears in a sinkhole of bad plumbing and a dark spell cast by Al Davis in the late 1990s.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: See above, but remove the barnstorming, the sinkhole and Al Davis’ dark spell.

Texas Rangers

Embed from Getty Images

Best-Case Scenario: It finally happens, and the Rangers win the World Series with the help of a resurgent Prince Fielder, the ever-underrated Shin-Soo Choo, a breakout year from Jurickson Profar and a Cy Young year from Yu Darvish.

Worst-Case Scenario: Ian Kinsler is a wizard, and his wish for the Rangers to go 0-162 comes true.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: It all falls apart: Fielder continues to decline, Choo has an off-year, Adrian Beltre shows his age, Darvish gets hurt, Profar muddles and the Rangers have their worst year in years. Ron Washington is fired despite his recent extension.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, West Coast, United States of America, North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Sol System, Milky Way

Embed from Getty Images

Best-Case Scenario: Mike Trout wins Triple Crown, MVP, All-Star Game MVP, the Home Run Derby title, Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsman of the Year, the AP Male Athlete of the Year, an EGOT, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom as he single-handedly straps the team on his back and brings them to the World Series. Or something like that. In reality, the Angels probably need Trout to keep on Trouting while having both Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton show their old selves and the pitching staff stepping up.

Worst-Case Scenario: Mike Trout gets hurt. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: To be honest, Trout getting hurt is arguably the worst-case scenario, as I find it highly unlikely that both the rest of the lineup can take up the slack AND the pitching takes a step forward.

Seattle Mariners

Best-Case Scenario: Felix Hernandez is still awesome, Hisashi Iwakuma gets better (health-wise), Taijuan Walker gets better physically and on the field, and Robinson Cano… just keeps doing what’s he’s doing.

Worst-Case Scenario: Robinson Cano gets hurt in a money-counting incident, misses rest of the season.

Worst-Case Scenario that could actually happen: Felix actually starts to show that he may be human, Iwakuma and Walker struggle with health problems all year, and Cano has problems playing in Safeco Field all year around.

Houston Astros

Embed from Getty Images

Best-Case Scenario: Ha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Are you kidding me? Even their best-case scenario sees them, at the absolute very best, in fourth place. In some ways, their best case scenario may actually be for them to have one of the worst records in league, as it’ll let them get better draft picks.

Worst-Case Scenario: 1898 Cleveland Spiders.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: 1962 New York Mets.

The West Is (Number) One

Josh Hamilton, the prize hitter on the free agent market, is a Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim. And so continues the movement of baseball’s greatest talents to the west. While it is true that Hamilton was already in the West Division of the American League, it shows that the old powers of the East Coast baseball establishment are no longer what they were- the money and the power is now out west. Consider:

  • The Dodgers are going to make so much money from their cable deal that they are now a financial force greater than even the Yankees ever were.
  • The Angels now have three players (Albert Pujols, Hamilton, and Mike Trout) who have had a claim at one point or another of being the best in baseball, as well as Mark Trumbo, one of baseball’s best young hitters (assuming they don’t flip him for pitching or prospects now).
  • The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series.
  • And the Athletics have lots of good young pitching, which, of course, can be the great equalizer.

What does this mean?
Well, for one thing, it means that staying up late will be a treat in the coming years. The struggles between the Dodgers and Giants will be grand opera, narrated by Vin Scully. The Athletics will have to once again find a sling in order to take down Goliath. The Rangers will have to do all they can simply to avoid falling into the basement of the AL West (thankfully, they will still have the Mariners and Astros to beat up on).

For another, though, it means, once again, that television and the ever-increasing riches in baseball- for all teams but definitely more for some than for others- have changed the game. The Los Angeles teams now are able to tap into more money than they had before, while established eastern powers like the Braves are trapped in bad deals. The big advantages that team-owned stations like YES and NESN once gave are now no longer so big. It’s a brave new world.

Finally, did anybody else hear that the Red Sox signed Ryan Dempster? Yeah, I almost missed it too.