Wednesday, March 12, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Angels of Los Angeheim

A look back: As they tend to do, the Angels dominated the AL West enough for the first five months to win the division, despite the improvement of the Seattle Mariners last year. But injuries caught up with Los Angeheim, and few people besides my ex-girlfriend even remember the Angels were in the postseason after Boston easily dispatched them in three games. Simply put, the Angels couldn't hit in the postseason. If they're going to go anywhere in October, they'll need to stay healthy. But they've got to get out of September alive first, no longer an easy task.

Positives on the field: Who plays outfield? It's a problem Mike Scioscia is more than happy to have. He can put Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr. and even super-utility man Chone Figgins on the grass and still be confident in their production. Los Angeheim has a balanced lineup that will play both sides of the ball well. That's an ingredient you need to become a good team. Other than shortstop, where Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis fight for the job, there isn't really much of a weak spot, although Casey Kotchman leaves a bit to be desired in terms of power at first base. But with the Angels' sluggers, that isn't a big deal.

On the pitching side, Los Angeheim is lights-out from the bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez anchoring the ninth inning. The rotation is solid but devoid of stars. Outside of K-Rod and the outfield, that tends to be how the Angels operate, and it's a reason that they've been good enough for years. Los Angeheim has just enough stars to be a good to great team, but not so many that the chemistry is sacrificed.

Negatives off the field: The Angels still have that stupid Los Angeles moniker in their name. As such, I continue to call them Los Angeheim.

Negatives on the field: Kelvim Escobar's hurt. That could damage the Angels' solid rotation, which was strengthened with the addition of Jon Garland. Ervin Santana has struggled in the past, and if he continues, the Angels will flounder every fifth day until the return of Escobar. Scot Shields struggled in the bullpen last year, and if that continues, Los Angeheim loses one of its biggest strengths unless Justin Speier becomes a lights-out setup man. The Angels have solid Plan B's, but they're just that, Plan B's.

On the hitting side, if the four Angels in the outfield can't put aside their egos for one to play DH every so often, the chemistry could easily crash. Those four are the team leaders, and if they let individual glory come first, the Angels are in trouble.

Outlook: The Angels will be a good team yet again. But is it going to be enough in a division where Seattle looks just as strong with even better pitching? Los Angeheim will need every bit of veteran experience and talent that it has if it is to hold off the Mariners' young guns. It is likely only one team comes out of the AL West, making the race possibly one of the best in baseball.

Projected finish: 2nd in AL West, no postseason. Season opener is March 31 at the Metrodome against Minnesota. Angels home opener is April 4 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim against Texas.

Spring base: Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe, Ariz. The team plays games throughout the Phoenix and Tucson areas.

Fan of the team?: Check out Halos Heaven, the Angels fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads to the Pacific Northwest, where the Seattle Mariners hope to dethrone the Angels as AL West champions.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy No More Kings.

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