| March 20, 2018

Column: Inconsistent West

April 7, 2016

America’s pastime has arrived for another thrilling season, as fans across the country pull out their baseball caps and cheer for their team to reach the World Series.

This season is unique in that historically mediocre teams are frontrunners to reach the playoffs in October, such as the Chicago Cubs and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The American League (AL) is a division that fans should focus on this season. While other divisions boast powerhouse teams like the Kansas City Royals, the AL West is one of the most unpredictable leagues in Major League Baseball.

The AL West has the potential to produce a dominant team, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years due to the division’s inconsistency.

Since 2012, no AL West team has made it past the American League Divisional Series. In addition, the league is currently in a World Series drought that has lasted 14 years.

The surprise of the league last season was the Houston Astros. The team joined the AL West in 2013 and earned a wild card berth after spending two seasons as one of the worst franchises in the MLB. This included a stretch of three straight seasons with over 100 losses.

The Texas Rangers were one of the best teams in baseball earlier this decade, reaching two consecutive World Series. But since the team’s last trip in 2011, the Rangers have failed to live up to the expectations placed upon them by fans.

If the team can remain consistent, the Rangers could potentially find success and represent the AL West in the postseason.

In contrast, the Oakland A’s will likely finish at the bottom of the division standings this season. After winning the AL West in 2012 and 2013, the team has struggled to produce a strong season down the stretch.

The dark horse in the division this year is the Seattle Mariners. The team has high expectations after failing to reach the postseason for the 15th straight year. The Mariners have yet to reach the World Series, coming short on three separate occasions (1995, 2000 and 2001).

The biggest detriment to the Mariners is the team’s inconsistent performance on the diamond. The team can heat up, but they oftentimes lose games during pivotal stretches of the season, failing to capitalize during key situations.

The Mariners roster is stacked this season, as former All-Stars Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz have provided the offensive push the team needs. There’s only so much Felix Hernandez can do from the mound, and it will be up to Cano and Cruz to carry the team this year.

The Los Angeles Angels pose a threat to the division each year, thanks to the presence of Mike Trout, who has become the face of the MLB. However, the team is overrated because they have been unable to advance past the first round of the playoffs.

It will be a long season consisting of 162 games, so it is too early to judge the teams based on spring training. But the AL West has several well-rounded ball clubs that could make some noise and become legitimate contenders for the World Series.

Only time will tell if the division is able to establish consistency with its franchises.

Luis Torres can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @TheLTFiles

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