Whew. It's a sprint to the finish here as I close out the previews of the AL West with all of 4 days remaining until Opening Day. Come hell or high water, that killer White Sox post is going up April 2.
And come hell or high water, Gary Matthews, Jr. is going to deny that he ever used performance-enhancing drugs. I'm not saying he did or he didn't--in fact, if I had to guess, I'd say he didn't. Hell, if he did, I'd hope he'd put up bigger numbers than he did in his so-called "career year": 19 homers, 79 RBI, and a .313 average. This from a guy who, over 8 major league seasons, is a career .263 hitter with a total of 78 homers and 315 RBIs. To put that in some perspective, Pujols or Ortiz match those numbers in roughly 2 years. Yeah, Matthews plays a good defensive centerfield too, but good defense on a 32-year-old journeyman do not a 5-year, $50 million contract make. Or at least it shouldn't. While Angels fans groan at Matthews' 2007 line of 15 homers, 70 RBI, and a .280 average, they can at least take solace in their other big offseason acquisition, Shea Hillenbrand, who's happy to be in LA. Or not. Ugh. At least one person is happy to have Shea in LA.
Switching gears to the pitching staff, John Lackey is better than I imagined him to be. I guess I'm as guilty as the next guy of ignoring the West Coast. The rest of the staff isn't too shabby either, with Ervin Santana (who is poised for a breakout year--take note, fantasy team owners), Jered Weaver (I see a sophomore slump coming), and he of the tagging-with-the-empty glove Kelvim Escobar (thanks, Kelvim! White Sox fans everywhere send their love).
I'm not even going to say much about Bartolo Colon, because he is done. Cooked (insert fat joke here). If they're smart, the Angels won't count on him for anything besides eating more than his share of the spread in the clubhouse (hey, look, I did make a fat joke about Bartolo Colon! Too fun to resist. I'm so original.) If the rotation can get it to Speier, Shields, and K-Rod, the Angels will win a lot of games. Too bad I already picked the Mariners to win the West. That was probably really dumb. Oh well.
But other than Matthews and Hillenbrand, what else is going on in the Angels' lineup? Well, Garret Anderson is 34, but he might as well be 44 as brittle as he's been the past few years. I always kinda liked Anderson, but his best years are way, way behind him. Casey Kotchman and Howie Kendrick could have breakout years, but that's asking a lot.
Vladi will post his standard year, hitting his 30 homers, driving in 110, and batting over .300, but I'll just never look at Vladi the same after he choked against the ChiSox in the 2005 playoffs.
Vladi looked absolutely lost at the plate in that series. Even if the Angels manage to weasel their way into the playoffs, I just don't foresee them going to the Series--not when you've got the Yanks, Red Sox, White Sox, and Tigers to contend with. Sorry, Tom Verducci. It ain't gonna happen, not even with help from the rally monkey, which, really, should be retired already, right? That damn monkey is tied with the thunder sticks, right behind the tomohawk chop, as the most obnoxious crowd activity in baseball. End it already. We need to see more of Clutch and Scoop, mascots whose names remind us how Vladi rearranges his testicles before hacking at a pitch. Ahh, Clutch and Scoop...