Will Distraction Affect Action in the AL West?
This could be Seattle's year to surprise in the AL West.
For one thing, the first wave of their vaunted young pitching prospects may be MLB ready.
For another, other than moving their fences closer to home, they seem to be concentrating on what happens between the lines.
That's more than can be said for the rest of their division:
- The big-spending Angels are busy creating ill will and loathing within their ranks by unilaterally renewing their rising star's contract with a relatively ridiculous $20,000 raise, creating an issue that will surely dog them all season, especially during the inevitable bad patch that each team endures.
- The high-riding Rangers are making front-office moves for whatever reason that have alienated Nolan Ryan -- the baseball icon of that state -- and have him mulling the possibility of leaving the organization whose success he helped mastermind.
- The stat-crafty Athletics seem to be pre-occupied with paving their way for a move to San José that has anyone and everyone involved rounding up the lawyers for a summer of litigation.
- The re-loading Astros don't need any outside issues to deter them from their race for the top pick in the 2014 draft; that plan is working perfectly.
These days, the words 'logic' and 'Anaheim' can't be found in the same sentence, not only because the Angels continue to distance themselves from their hometown, but because their focus on brand names like Pujols and Hamilton has ignored the pitching problems that sank their 2012 season. And those haven't gone away; instead, Zack Greinke -- their mid-season fix last season -- has gone away, further compounding the deficiency. Ironically, he left because the Dodgers offered more money.
This left the Angels with salary to spare, and they chose to spend it on Josh Hamilton instead of Mike Trout and/or more pitching. Yes, the former Ray/Red/Ranger brings a bundle of talent to the West Coast, but there's a reason Arte Moreno's latest baseball bauble is a former Ray/Red/Ranger. Hamilton's unpredictable baggage could be the last thing thing an already mystified Angel clubhouse needs this season.
Not content to let their SoCal rivals collect all the hurdles, the Texas front office set to work and began creating self-made obstacles of their own. What in the world are they doing by messing with Nolan Ryan? This is the Hall-of-Famer who brought his Old School mentality to a pitching staff whose underperformance until then had been a franchise tradition. Ryan is the face of the Rangers. By all appearances, sharkskin-suited egos aching for a bigger piece of the limelight may have found that its glare can cut both ways.
As for the Athletics, who knows? Distraction is in their DNA. Oakland's chief concern will again be whether GM Billy Beane can find more magic in the dots he connects. The Astros? It isn't 2015 -- or even 2014 -- yet. For now, just call them Cardinals South.
So, perhaps a window of opportunity is now slightly ajar just enough for the Mariners to become the surprise team of 2013. If the divisional race gets tight and comes down to intangibles, the fact that they're nimble enough to get out of their own way may be what tips the pennant scales toward the Pacific Northwest.
And in a city starving for a baseball resurrection, that would create a very welcome distraction.