That's really what it all comes down to, isn't it?
Can the Angels, after winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history, win it all again?
Today starts their title defense - and despite some questions about the offense - I believe they can do it again.
The Angels boast one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Starting with Bartolo Colon, then John Lackey, Jeff Weaver, Kelvim Escobar and then Ervin Santana, there are few rotations which can compare.
Add to that one of the best bullpens the Angels have ever had. The Angels added Hector Carrasco and a left-hander, J.C. Romero, in the off-season. Add in Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and the Angels again can turn the game into a six-inning game with Francisco Rodriguez closing. (And, for better or worse, the Angels are keeping Esteban Yan in the bullpen too. But as my friend Crash says every team needs a mop-up guy. And Esteban Yan is a better mop-up guy than Kevin Gregg.)
And now the offense - the season's great question mark.
How will the Angels perform?
A team that was essentially shut down last season in the playoffs against the Chicago White Sox looks like it will have similar problems scoring again. No big bat was added in the offseason and one of the Angels' supposed big bats - Garret Anderson - is hobbling.
Fortunately, there are some offensive bright spots from spring training to look forward to.
Tim Salmon is back. And I can't remember the last time I was so happy to type such words.
While Timmy is going to be used in a limited role this season, backing up as designated hitter and not playing the field much, his resurgence in spring brings hope that maybe the Angels will have some bench depth.
Salmon, at age 37, possesses something that many Angels lack - patience. Watching and listening to Salmon this spring, it was nice to see him work for a walk.
Having someone like Salmon, who can be used in a late-game situation to pinch hit, is a valuable resource to have. Also, it just feels right, doesn't it? This is his last year with the team. Maybe we can send him out a winner.
The other bright offensive spot for the Angels this spring was the development of Casey Kotchman. Casey mashed the ball this spring and has demonstrated an ability to spray the ball to all fields. Taking over at first base, hopefully, Kotchman can provide more home runs at the first base position than Darin Erstad (four) did last year.
Unfortunately, the Angels will miss Bengie Molina behind the plate. And while he was slow on the base paths, his ability to knock in runs by simply driving the ball up the middle will be missed. Hopefully, the Angels starters will not be hurt by not having him behind the plate.
Everywhere else the Angels appear set. At third base, I think Chone Figgins is primed to steal 70 to 80 bases this year and get on base more. At shortstop, Orlando Cabrera can only improve his batting average.
Adam Kennedy will have a full season to play at second base and hit .300 last year. If he hits anywhere around that again, I will be pleased.
Garret Anderson, of course, is a question mark. He seems to be aging fast. Fortunately, if he is unable to play, the Angels have Juan Rivera to back him up in left field. The same Juan Rivera who hit nearly as many home runs as Garret in less games last year.
In center, I have no questions about Darin Erstad defensively. Although he's making the switch back to the outfield after two season at first base, he will adjust well - as long as he doesn't run into any fences. I worry about Erstad's hitting, though. Last year, he struggled at times - especially in the power department. But on the plus side, this is an even-numbered year and Erstad always seems to perform well in even numbered years - look it up.
Oh, and Vladimir Guerrero is in right field. Not much to say except as Vlad goes, so go the Angels. If Vlad is hurt or struggles this season, so will the Angels.
On the surface it appears the Angels are lacking offense - but if the team is still in the playoff hunt come July and a big bat is available via trade, perhaps -and this is a big perhaps - the Angels can trade for someone. (Of course, this all depends if Bill "Sit on my hands" Stoneman will do something. We shall see.)
Since I wrote here that the Angels can do it again, I again believe they can win the AL West. Texas is improving and I believe they will finish second. Although the A's did well last year with a number of rookies in their lineup, I believe they will finish third because of the sophomore slump. And Seattle, while improving, still needs a lot of work.
One final word: my friend Crash and I call these past few seasons an embarrassment of riches. In the past four years, the Angels have gone to the playoffs three times - when they only went to the playoffs three times before in their entire history. God forbid, if the Angels do struggle and miss the playoffs, I will be content with the knowledge that the owner and the minor league system will not let that happen in 2007.
Let's play ball.