I Love LA and the Baseball it Provides

Major League Baseball is officially back! Thank God. Spring Training is finally over and now the games actually mean something. The great thing about the beginning of each season is that every team starts out the same: 0-0. A lot has been and still is expected of L.A.’s baseball teams. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (sidenote: they should just stick to Anaheim and stop trying to gain more revenue with the L.A. name) are favorites to get back into the post season. However, critics say that both teams are not as strong as they were last year. The following is my own perspective and break down of each team’s chances.

The Angels have lost some cornerstones of their franchise this last winter. Gone are Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Darren Oliver. One loss that proves to be a plus is that they finally got rid of Gary Matthews, Jr. The notable additions are Hideki Matsui, Fernando Rodney and Joel Piñeiro. The Angels have done a good job re-loading their bench and bringing along their prospects.

Brandon Wood has been a highly touted prospect for five years now. He finally has the opportunity to play every day and will be the Angels third baseman of the future. The whole infield, including the catchers, are actually made up of players that the Angels have drafted and been a part of their farm system. Aybar, Morales, Kendrick, Wood, Mathis and Napoli are still young and will continue to improve.

Lackey was the Halo’s ace, but they still have an extremely strong one through five rotation headed up by Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders. Piñeiro is a good back of the end starter. The bullpen is adequate, but lacks a lefty other than the closer. Rodney is inconsistent at times and will not be as good as the Angels hope.

Many people are saying the AL West will be competitive this year with improved Texas and Seattle squads. However, Seattle lacks pop in their lineup and after Lee and Hernandez, they are thin at starter. Texas has always been picked to surpass the Angels, but never do and don’t have the pitching. The Angels will win the AL West and have the ability to make it to the World Series.

It is hard to say how the Dodgers will play this year. There are no upgrades to speak of. They lost the O-Dog, Randy Wolf and a large amount of their bench. The biggest knock to the team is that there is no true ace and the owner is going through a nasty divorce that could harm the team’s payroll. Oh yeah, the NL West features a mighty powerful and young Colorado team and a Giants squad that is stacked with great pitching.

The Dodgers lineup should be better than last year’s because Manny looks to have his timing back and is auditioning for a DH role next year and needs to impress. Furcal is healthy for the first time in years and catcher Russell Martin is looking to prove last year’s struggles were a fluke. Blake DeWitt will hit just as well as Orlando Hudson did, but is nowhere near the defender that he was. Speaking of defense, this year’s D will be a shade worse than last year’s. The bench is filled with veterans and Garret Anderson is a great left-handed pinch hitter.

Chad Billingsley will rebound after last year’s horrendous second half and lead a group of four strong starters. The fifth starter role will belong to a knuckleballer, which could go either way. The bullpen is not as strong as it was last year because Ronald Belisario just got into the country and Hong-Chih Kuo’s shoulder appears to be on its last leg. Oh yeah, the Dodgers are also carrying a Rule 5 Draft pick and a pair of reclamation projects in Ramon Ortiz and Jeff Weaver.

I am a Dodger fan, but I am also a pessimist, so I do not like their chances. I think they will struggle more this year than they did last year, but will turn it around. The Rockies and Giants are not shoe-ins to win the West and the Dodgers can sneak past them this year if the rotation and bullpen hold up. They will make the playoffs, but they might have missed their chance for a World Series title.