Time to Face the Music - AL West
The Texas Rangers
What I got right - Raphael Palmeiro, the best first baseman in the AL last year, was a huge upgrade over injury-prone Will Clark. There was significant dropoff in the performances of Rick Helling and Aaron Sele, but their decline was offset by the tremendous perfomance of the Texas bullpen, specifically that of Jeff Zimmerman. His oustanding work allowed Johnny Oates to keep John Wetteland rested and healthy all year.
What I got wrong - While the offense was technically better than in 1998, scoring 945 runs compared to 940 the previous year, the addition of Palmeiro, Zeile and Clayton did not significantly improve the Rangers offense. Mark Clark was a complete bust.
Outlook for next year - After trading Juan Gonzales and losing Todd Zeile, Mark McLemore and Aaron Sele to free agency, there appear to be some leaks, albeit temporary, in the Rangers ship. The additions of Gabe Kapler and Frank Catalonotto and the emergence of Ruben Mateo will eventually pay big dividends for the Rangers. If Justin Thompson is healthy and their youngsters blossom, the Rangers could be better than last year. However, a more likely scenario is a small step backwards.
What I got right - Troy Glaus was a huge improvement over Dave Hollins and is still young enough to get much better. The pitching was decent, ranking 4th in the AL in ERA. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that Anaheim is one of the more pitcher friendly parks in the AL. But Chuck Finley and Omar Olivares did turn in respectible, if not good, years regardless of the home park.
What I got wrong - The Angels may have gotten younger, but they didn't get any tougher. They had just as many injuries as they've had in previous years. Because of injuries and infighting, the Angels underachieved expectations in every aspect of the game. Injuries to Jim Edmonds robbed the Angels of their outfield depth and prevented them from trading for help. Tim Belcher was simply not good.
Outlook for next year - The Angels fired Terry Collins late last season and eventually hired Mike Scoscia to manage the club. Scosia level-headedness will take this team much farther than Collins' constant-state-of-panic attitude. However, the playoffs might not be in the card sfor them this year as the organization has made it clear that they intend to load up on prospects for the time being and will be trading several of their veteran players. Still, the Angels have some good prospects and some very good young players so it shouldn't be long before they are threatening for the AL West title again.
What I got right - The Seattle attack was still potent, with David Bell providing a huge upgrade over Joey Cora both offensively and defensively. All the old guys that Woody Woodward brought in to stabilize the pitching, bombed. Only Jose Paniagua had what could be considered a decent year. Jeff Fassero's age finally caught up with him and he had the worst year of his career, posting and ERA over 7 and giving up 34 homers. Junior and Arod still don't have a pennant and if they ever get one, it won't likely be in Seattle as both are the subject of trade rumors as their impending free agency approaches.
What I got wrong - The Mariner's young pitchers came on strong last year and had it not been been for Jeff Fassero's woeful year, they would have boasted the 3rd best starting rotation in the AL. Jamie Moyer once again defied the odds and father time and pitched very well for the greater part of the season.
Outlook for next year - New GM Pat Gillick should be able to get good value for Griffey in trade and lock up ARod to a long term deal, so the Mariners could be in a good position to challenge for the AL West this year. All 4 teams in the division are fairly young and all have glaring weaknesses. Gillick shored up one of those weaknesses with the addition of John Olerud, making the Mariner's line-up a little longer for opposing pitchers. He still needs to find a third baseman and an outfield, but that can probably be done in a Griffey trade. If Lou Pinella didn't destroy the arms of Halama, Garcia and Meche last year with overuse, then the Mariners will be in the running for the playoffs.
What I got right - The A's have an offensive monster and it's only going to get better. Jason Giambi, Ben Grieve and Miguel Tejada had good years and Eric Chavez showed flashes of brilliance. The additions of Tim Raines and Tony Phillips were huge as both provided leadership in the clubhouse and at the plate. The A's fell just short of the postseason last year as the pitching was a little better than expected and got better with the trades for Kevin Appier and Omar Olivares. Doug Jones' signing proved to a good one as he stabilized the bullpen with 100+ solid innings in relief.
What I got wrong - Kenny Rogers was decent in Oakland last year but it was pretty clear his heart wan't into it until he got to New York. I thought it was fitting that he was on the mound when the Mets were ousted from the playoffs. Bad karma, man. Tim Hudson was distinhuished himself with a brilliant rookie campaign. Many scouts compared his change-up and competitve fire to that of Pedro Martinez. However, let's not get carried away: he still lacks Martinez' fastball, curve, experience, etc.
Outlook for next year - The A's look a lot like the Mariner's did in 1995: a very good offense and 1 very good starter (Appier). However, I think they have the advantage in that the 2000 A's will have a better and deeper bullpen and their rotation could become a lot deeper if Hudson continues to develop and prospect Barry Zito makes it this year.
Who I picked: