I can understand where Seattle's hope is coming from, but I do rate them a distinct third behind the other two teams. The top of the rotation is great, with Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, but I don't see the depth necessary to sustain a six-month long push. The offense has problems and the bullpen is dependent on David Aardsma maintaining his sudden emergence as a great closer. I'm more inclined to write off Aardsma as a one-year wonder. And there is a fourth wheel in this division and that's the Oakland A's. But Billy Beane's club is completely punchless and has bullpen problems of its own. Their pitching may keep them from being horrible, but it's nowhere near good enough to make them a winning team, much less a first-place one.
That brings us to the Angels and Rangers, whom I see staging a down-to-the-wire fight. There's a lot to like about Texas, particulary pitcher Tommy Hunter. But if they are to win the division, I think they need 20-25 starts from Rich Harden and his health history just does not bode well for that (On a side note, the A's acquisition of Ben Sheets makes this the divison most dependent on great pitchers with bad injury histories). LAA has their share of weaknesses this year, at least relative to previous teams, but if you focus on who is there rather than who is not, there's still some good talent on hand. You can scroll down to the individual team previews to read the details, but the most important person still there is Mike Scoscia in the dugout. As long as he's on hand, it will take a truly excellent team to dethrone the Angels and the Rangers aren't quite there yet. LAA prevails one more time.
This completes our division previews. Picks for today's Final Four games are on The College Basketball Notebook. Tomorrow afternoon the preseason wraps up with final picks for the two wild-card slots plus the pennant and World Series winners.