March 28, 2010

2010 Milestone Preview: American League West

In an effort to drum up some traffic, this is where I would normally write about WrestleMania XXVI, the Final Four or Justin Bieber.

Instead, we’ve got one of the most milestone rich divisions in all of baseball.

Sure, over in the National League Central, the Chicago Cubs have three guys (Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez) approaching 300 home runs

But out west, Seattle alone brings us future should-be unanimous Hall of Famers…Ken Griffey, Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki.

So as we head off to the AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST…here’s hoping that the WWE, NCAA and Bieber references were sufficient enough to drive traffic because God knows mentioning the Mariners won't.


LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM

The Angels most interesting storyline is in the dugout and involves, arguably, the most visible member of their franchise…manager Mike Scioscia.

18 years ago, Scioscia appeared in what many baseball fans consider the best episode of The Simpsons…“Homer at the Bat”. In that episode, the then Dodgers catcher quit baseball and got a job working at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and suffered radiation poisoning.

Going into this season, the now healthy skipper of the Angels is among the active leaders in winning percentage. At .5555, Scioscia is deadlocked with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi and just ahead of Atlanta’s Bobby Cox (.5552) and Milwaukee’s Ken Macha (.553).

An AL West title would help boost Scioscia's footing at the top.

Last year, the Halos got their money’s worth when they signed outfielder Bobby Abreu.

This year, Abreu is one to watch as he quietly is poised to enter the record books alongside such notables as Barry Bonds and Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.

What does that mean?

As it stands, Abreu is 44 home runs (which would be a career high) shy from being only the seventh member of the exclusive 300-300 club.

Only Barry (762-514) and Bobby Bonds (332-461), Willie Mays (660-338), Andre Dawson (438-314), Reggie Sanders (305-304) and Steve Finley (304-320) have achieved 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases.

Abreu is sitting at 256 and 348.

Also within shouting distance of the 300-300 club…Abreu’s former teammate Alex Rodriguez at 583-297.

But that’s not the only thing Abreu has going for him in 2010. With 17 more doubles, he’ll become only the sixth active player with more than 500 doubles. And if he gets to 100 RBI again, it’ll mark the eighth straight time he’s hit the century mark.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

The A’s are one of those teams that, from a milestones perspective, gets harder to watch each year. They’re a long way from “moneyball” and unless you count Coco Crisp (I don’t), they didn’t make their patented “former perennial All-Star on the decline of their career” signing this off season.

I suppose you could look at Hawaiian-born KURT Suzuki’s name in the boxscore, purposefully confuse yourself and wonder when Seattle traded the face of their franchise (Japanese-born ICHIRO Suzuki) to Oakland.

But why bother? The real deal resides in the Pacific Northwest and is still out there re-writing the record books.


SEATTLE MARINERS

I go into every baseball season (or daily life for that matter) hoping and praying that I can avoid making any references to Britney Spears, but, unfortunately, I can’t this time.

That’s right…oops, he did it again. Sorry.

Ichiro, who, coincidentally dropped in the United States only 11 months after the multi-platinum Spears album, keeps on doing what he does best.

After nine years in the Majors, he has:

  • Nine straight seasons with a .300 or better batting average
  • Nine straight seasons with 200 or more hits
  • Nine straight seasons with 25 or more stolen bases
  • Nine straight Gold Gloves
  • Nine straight All-Star appearances

By comparison...nevermind. There really is no comparison to Ichiro when it comes to consistency. The guy is sick.

The only knock against Ichiro…he failed to become the only Major Leaguer to start his career with nine straight seasons of 200 hits, 100 runs and a batting average of .300 or more when he fell 12 runs shy in 2009.

Ho hum.

The only American League outfielder that has more Gold Gloves in consecutive years than Ichiro, is teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. with ten straight from 1990-1999.

And while it’s not likely that “Junior” will get to his fourteenth All-Star game or bring home his eleventh Gold Glove, he does enter 2010 as the active leader in hits (2763), home runs (630), RBI (1829) and runs created (1989).

As far as true milestones however, all Griffey has in his sites is surpassing Hall of Famers Dave Winfield (1833), Ted Williams (1839), Carl Yastrzemski (1844) and Mel Ott (1860) to move into eleventh place all-time on the RBI leaderboard.


TEXAS RANGERS

Thank God, Texas signed Vladimir Guerrero this off season or talk of the Rangers would be limited to uncomfortable “did you hear the one about the manager who did cocaine” jokes.

The bare-fisted slugger (which, in hindsight sounds worse than it is) is looking to rebound from a dismal, injury plagued 2009.

Prior to last season, Guerrero had 12 straight seasons with 25 or more home runs. If he hits the mark this season, not only will he move up on the all-time list (he’s at 407 now), but that will be 13 out of 14 seasons and, frankly…that ain’t too shabby.

One last interesting sidenote about AL West. Did you know that it is home to two of the lowly three Major League Teams that have never appeared in a World Series game?

It’s true, Texas, Seattle and the Washington Nationals have never played in the Fall Classic. Will 2010 be the year the streak is ended…stay tuned!

Smart betting, however, says it won’t.

The National League West is next and should wrap things up. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East, American League Central, National League East and National League Central.


BallHype: hype it up!

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