The Rangers are currently 7.5 games ahead of the Angels in the West after tonight’s loss to the Oakland Athletics. Colby Lewis pitched 7.0 innings of 5 hit, 1 run ball with two walks and 8 strikeouts before giving the ball to Daren Oliver. Oliver not in his greatest form tonight gave up two runs on three hits essentially sinking the Rangers who were handcuffed by Athletics pitching only pushing one run across the plate.
As I mentioned earlier the Rangers are leading the Angels by 7.5 games with 61 games remaining to play. The Rangers acquired Cliff Lee earlier this season for first base prospect Justin Smoak. Lee has four starts under his belt as a Ranger and is 1-2 with one complete game ending in a no-decision before the Rangers won it in the tenth inning.
The Rangers currently have the greatest lead in their division in the American League and are second to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds who are tied 9 games up on the Milwaukee Brewers. The Rangers have started off strong pulling so far ahead of the Angels in their division which is something they haven’t done since 1999. To put how long ago that was in perspective, Pudge Rodriguez was voted American League MVP in 1999.
Rodriguez stayed with the Rangers through the 2002 season. He then signed a one year deal to play for the Florida Marlins in 2003 where he has gotten his only World Series Ring. He then signed a 4 year deal with the Detroit Tigers and appeared in the 2006 World Series before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. In late 2008 he was traded to the Yankees and underperformed for the remainder of the season
Before the 2009 season he signed with the Houston Astros before he was traded back to the Rangers and finished the season with them. Over this past off season he signed a two year agreement with the Washington Nationals. He actually caught the phenom of the current generation Stephen Strasburg in his first start. Basically… its been a really long time since the Rangers have made it to the playoffs.
In the American League West the Seattle Mariners went in to this previous off season building a team with great optimism after finishing second last season in the West. They resigned Ken Griffey Jr. to a one year deal, which most fans assumed would be the last season of his Hall of Fame career. One thing I have to say I was excited to see junior return for one more season. I think in a sense it helps me hold on to my childhood when these players were just starting their career.
The Mariners also made a trade for Cliff Lee to back up ace Felix Hernandez. Lee was his normal self pitching quality innings, but everything started to crumble around the Mariners. Earlier this season, it was reported that Griffey missed a pinch hit opportunity because he was asleep in the clubhouse. In the report it was stated that he had trouble sleeping away from home and was out of it.
Griffey nor manager Don Wakamatsu refuted the report basically trying to get around the subject. Griffey even stated he wished the players who leaked the report would have talked to him rather than telling the media. Griffey knew his career was coming to an end, and instead of making the Mariners release him, he abruptly retired effective that day. He recorded his final hit on May 20th which was a pinch hit walk off single against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Mariners as of today are 20.5 games back from the Rangers in the West. Earlier this month the Mariners knew that they were not going to be successful this season, so they became sellers shipping Cliff Lee to the Rangers. They are still trying to trade away their roster for prospects in order to prepare for the future.
The Athletics signed former Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets to a one year $10 million dollar deal. I was quite shocked they would give him so much money considering he missed all of 2009 with elbow issues. He almost become a Ranger before the 2009 season before failing his physical and cancelling his contract. I would have never paid anybody who had missed the previous season recovering from surgery that much, but I guess I am not Billy Beane (Athletics General Manager).
Unfortunately for the Athletics, it was reported today that he is out for the season and maybe his career due to an elbow tear. This was confirmed today by an MRI. The interesting part about it was that last week Sheets name was being thrown around on the trade market. I figured he wouldn’t finish the season on the field with the Athletics, I figured it would be another team not the 60 day disabled list. The Athletics are now 8.5 games out from the Rangers and are probably done for the season.
The Rangers closet competitor in the West would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels have a strong team every season, although they have taken a couple of blows this past off season. In 2008 Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) set the single season record in saves before signing with the Mets over the off season. During the 2008 season the Angels acquired Mark Teixeira in a trade with the Braves with the hope he would sign a long term deal with the Angels. He eventually signed with the New York Yankees helping them to win the 2009 World Series Last off season John Lackey signed with the Boston Red Sox leaving the Angels short another star player.
The Angels have tried to plug holes where they could, but it seems nearly impossible to make up for these players. Dan Haren who was the Diamondbacks ace and was rumored to be on the trade block before the Angels acquired him for veteran Joe Saunders and three prospects. Even though Haren is a big-time pitcher he can only pitch every 5 days, so I do not see the Angels making up the deficit in the West.
The Rangers are have an amazing year and once every part of the roster clicks as a whole the Rangers will do well deep into October. Like previously mentioned in this blog the Rangers are doing something they haven’t done since 1999. In 1999 I was only 15 years old, and I would love to see the Rangers make it to the playoffs in 2010.