Play ball! Baseball is underway and that means relaxing afternoons and evenings with a baseball game. To pick up where I left off last week I’ll be doing a rundown of every American League team and what to possible expect this year from each one. The National League has been dominating a bit as of late so can the AL make a comeback?
The Orioles are a changed team after hiring manager Buck Showalter who has made this team into a playoff contender. Young, talented, and with key players on their roster like J.J. Hardy, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis the Orioles hope to make it deeper into the playoffs and past the more typical playoff teams of yesterday.
Boston Red Sox:
Can a new manager change things in beantown? Probably not, but the Red Sox are trying. The loveable losers got really user to winning after breaking the dreaded curse and now seem to be back into freefall. The offseason saw acquisitions like journeyman Johnny Gomes, catcher Mike Napoli, and outfielder Shane Victorino to the roster but it takes more than that to change a team. As always eyes will be on Boston to see if they can boost back up to #1 in the AL East and make the playoffs or if they’ll be forever looking from the outside in.
New York Yankees:
Hard to say the Yankees are struggling when they made it all the way to the AL championship game last year but they don’t have the invincibility they once had. Despite that the Yankees were surprisingly quiet in offseason, doubling down more on the players and talent in their system rather than shopping around in what turned out to be a wild offseason. Staying are players like pitcher Petite and hitter Ichiro Suzuki and incoming are former red sock Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner. Will the play it safe approach work for the pinstripes?
Tampa Bay Rays:
The Rays always surprise and last year they surprised fans by missing the playoffs completely, the first time since 2009. Looking to avoid a repeat of that failure, and in hopes of keeping a tiny budget, the Rays offloaded key players like pitching ace James Shields and pitcher Wade Davis who were both major players in their rotation. Also gone are B.J. Upton and J.P. Howell who had served the Rays for years with stellar play. The Rays added some players but mostly promoted from within in hopes that their talented farm system will make up for their offseason dump and lack of budget room.
Toronto Blue Jays:
After almost finishing last at the end of 2012 it would be difficult to imagine that the Blue Jays could somehow be an early season favorite to win the whole division, but they are. A new manager and a monster trade from Miami, getting Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio, will certainly help in that effort. Also getting R.A. Dickey, last year’s Cy Young winner in the NL and possibly the last knuckleballer, make the Jays one of the more stacked teams. The AL East will be a slugfest and the Jays are ready to come out on top.
Chicago White Sox:
After missing the playoffs last year the White Sox hope to regroup and make some room in the budget in hopes of becoming a powerhouse again. Gone are guys like Kevin Youkilis, Orlando Hudson, and longtime catcher A.J. Pierzynski. In come some journeymen like Jeff Keppinger and Tony Pena Jr. who hope to fill some talent gaps for a much cheaper price. It doesn’t look like the Sox can compete this year but never count a still talented team out.
Last year ended close to the playoffs but still out of them completely. However 2013 might be a turnaround year as Terry Francona, the manager who helped the Red Sox break the curse, takes over for the club both he and his father Tito played for. Francona brought along a lot of young talent he had his eyes on as the Red Sox manager in hopes of stocking the Indians up for years to come. For immediate impact Francona brings in Nick Swisher and Brett Myers to make another run this year. The Indians have a bright future ahead of them and are for a team on the rise.
So close and yet so far, the Tigers made it all the way to the World Series only to be swept by the Giants. Of course the Tigers will remain very competitive and more than likely will repeat a playoff run this year as well. Talented but sometimes troubled outfielder Delmon Young is gone and so his is potentially powerful bat in their lineup. However when you still have Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Omar Infante, and add Torii Hunter in your lineup you’re still a force to be reckoned with.
Kansas City Royals:
The Royals surprised a bit last season finishing third in their division but may have to get used winning after some good offseason trades. Gone is Cy Young winner Zack Greinke but in comes James Shields and Wade Davis who are strong pitchers in any lineup. With pitching now heavily strengthened and lineup including Jeff Francoeur and Miguel Tejada the Royals may just be in the running for a playoff spot.
Bottom of the cellar last year and only one way to go, up.The Twins are not a weak team with players like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer on the field it’s hard to argue they won’t do better this year. However they need pitching to survive in the offense heavy American League and right now that’s where they are lacking. Hopefully the Twins can put together a better season than last but I don’t see how they’ll fare much better.
As their last season in the National League the Houston Astros didn’t do very well finishing dead last in their division. In a whole new league and slightly different style of play maybe the Astros can make their own luck this year against an already stacked AL West. The Astros don’t exactly boast the best lineup or pitchers in baseball and most of 2013 will most likely be a readjustment period with the big bats of the AL.
Los Angeles Angels:
In almost any other division in baseball the Angels would finish first or second every year and yet in the AL West they finish third and miss the playoffs. They still have guys like Mike Trout who went from a rookie talent to a potential legend if he keeps his numbers up. Then they acquired Josh Hamilton from in division rivals the Rangers who is one of the games greatest power hitters playing. With guys like that and pitchers like Joe Blanton, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson the Angels may have that extra push to win first.
Of the teams you would pick to win the packed AL West, no one would have picked the As. The organization has done their best to only make additions to an already proven team. Most of the recognizable stars like Coco Crisp, Scott Sizemore, Jed Lowrie, and Brandon Moss stay in Oakland and hopefully their best record in a decade from last year doesn’t prove to just be a fluke.
2001 was the last time the Mariners made the playoffs, that’s over a decade. They have some decent talent but are seemingly unable to put it all together for an entire year. Despite trading away some talent they still have guys like Jason Bay, Joe Saunders, and Felix Hernandez but it takes a team and not a few guys to win games consistently. Especially within this tough division it will be pretty hard to make any headway for the Mariners.
Like their in division rivals, the Angels, the Rangers are a jam packed team with power, talent, and everything you would need to make consistent playoff appearances. After years of showing up deep into October and even November the Rangers made some offseason moves that may affect their chances from now on. Gone are Michael Young and Josh Hamilton and Yu Darvish didn’t have the completely fantastic year he was supposed to last year. This year will be tougher than usual for the Rangers and it will be interesting to see how things shake out.