With Opening Day upon us, here’s one man’s opinions of the ceiling – and floor – for the AL West competitors:
Best case: High-priced free agents earn every penny of their bloated new deals; Josh Hamilton stays far away from the Hollywood scene; Albert Pujols doesn’t take the first two months off; Tommy Hanson re-discovers his fastball and wins 16 games; Ryan Madson gets – and stays – healthy. Angels beat Dodgers in World Series.
Worst case: LA Times columnists have a field day comparing Angels’ and Dodgers’ big-money busts; Hamilton gets season pass to Viper Room; Hanson and Jered Weaver top out at 88 MPH come June and both land on DL; Madson never throws an inning; team charter goes to Cleveland instead of Cincinnati for opener because pilots refuse to believe they could actually be opening in Cinncinati.
Predicted finish: 1st
Best case: All five starters have ERAs under 4; Brett Anderson wins AL Cy Young award; Yoenis Cespedes wins AL MVP award; Grant Balfour saves 40 games and teaches entire clubhouse how to speak Austrailan; Josh Reddick wins beard-off with Daniel Bryan; Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson are the real deal; A’s win a competitive AL West, advance to World Series, annex San Jose, build new stadium.
Worst case: Anderson spends another two months on the DL; Bartolo Colon shows his age and his physique; Reddick loses beard-off, and according to terms of wager Bryan gets to piledrive Tommy Milone who in turn joins Anderson on DL; Moss proves to be “4-A” player; A’s set new AL record with 1500 strikeouts, finish tied with Seattle; “Moneyball 2” plans scrapped.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Best case: Nelson Cruz stays healthy, hits 40 homers and steals 30 bases; AJ Pierzynski becomes instant clubhouse leader and hits 20 HR; Yu Darvish leads AL in strikeouts; Joe Nathan re-asserts himself as elite closer; Rangers get back to World Series only to lose in seven games, at which point they are ruled ineligible for the next two Series by vote of American League presidents.
Worst case: Cruz spends three months on DL with “interblique” strain heretofore undiscovered by medical professionals; Lance Berkman spends the other three months on DL; Darvish loses command of fastball and becomes a human tee in Texas heat; Nobody likes Pierzynski; Road PA announcer so badly butchers Leonys Martin’s name he loses all confidence and hits .195; Nolan Ryan renounces team and encourages fans to relocate to Houston, even though there is no baseball there. Rangers finish behind Seattle.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Best case: Safeco becomes launching pad thanks to drawn-in fences, new Mariner Michael Morse socks 40 home runs; Kyle Seager blossoms into 25-20 guy and all-star; Felix Hernandez lives up to his new contract and wins Cy Young Award; Jesus Montero becomes next great offensive catcher; M’s stay competitive into September.
Worst case: Drawn-in fences result in 25 more HR for Mariners, 50 for opponents; Morse mistaken for Big Foot and shot repeatedly with supersized tranquilizer gun, spends a month on DL; Franklin Gutierrez actually stays healthy for the entire season but still isn’t any good; Team is traded to Sacramento in exchange for NBA Kings.
Predicted finish: 4th
Best case: Team wins 60 games.
Worst case: American League sends Astros back to National League but NL refuses package; UPS logistics not advanced enough to settle dispute; Rick Ankiel spends entire season on active roster.
Predicted finish: 9th