Once Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout in the last World Series appearance, the Japanese star quickly returned as a teammate in what could be his last attempt to lead the Los Angeles Angels to the postseason.
For the A’s, this could be their last season in Oakland.
The Mariners ended their longest drought by making their first playoff appearance since 2001 — and they think they can do it again. Three-time World Series winning manager Bruce Bochy and National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom joined the Texas Rangers, who have won six consecutive losing seasons.
But in the AL West, everyone except Dusty Baker and his World Series champion Houston Astros must pass.
Even with the injury to Jose Altuve and the departure of Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in free agency, Houston remains the favorite to win the division title, according to DanDuel Sportsbook.
Their batting captain will be out until June after suffering a broken toe while playing in the World Classic in Venezuela.
The only time the Astros didn’t win their division in the last six years was in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. They have played in every series in that span and four World Series, winning two.
How do they look?
1. Astros: Altuve will be out until at least June after taking a hit on a pitch, but the Astros added first baseman and former MVP José Abreu in free agency to another largely intact lineup with Cuban Yordan Álvarez and third baseman Alex Bregman. and reliever Kyle Tucker. All-star lefty Framber Valdez is 28-12 the past two seasons and Cristian Javier has 11 1/3 scoreless innings in his last two starts. But the depth of their rotation will be tested as Lance McCullers Jr. (right elbow) will miss the start of the season.
2. Mariners: After playing in their first season in nearly two decades, the Mariners think they have the pieces needed to close out the division. They have one of the strongest starting rotations and will certainly benefit from having the Aces cast in the full season after arriving in Cincinnati in the middle of last year. Julio Rodríguez, the last Rookie of the Year, is the face of the franchise and will be even better in his second year. His success in his offense depends on the addition of Kolten Wong, AJ Pollock and Teoscar Hernandez.
3. Rangers: General Manager Chris Young, who pitched under Bochy, convinced him to end his three-year layoff and rebuild the Rangers’ starting lineup. Coaches like deGrom ($185 million over five years) and who have been plagued by injuries the last two seasons with the Mets, Nathan Eovaldi and lefty Andrew Heaney are multi-year signings in free agency. Jake Odorizzi came in a trade. And they didn’t suffer from all the injuries of the last season. Ditto for Jon Gray, who was signed on the disabled list three times last year, even though Venezuelan lefty Martin Perez was a first-time All-Star. With 68 wins, Texas finished with just eight more than in 2021 by adding infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
4. Angels: Ohtani, a star in two ways, makes it clear he wants to play for a winning team. The 2021 MVP and runner-up last year (15-9, 2.33 ERA/.283 batting average, 34 home runs, 95 RBIs) will be in his sixth and final season with the Angels. He had no time for the arrival of the victors from Japan. Trout, a three-time MVP and the leader of the United States in the World Classic, has a contract with Los Angeles through 2030 and has played in just one season in 12 seasons. Los Angeles lost the 2014 Division Series, four years before Ohtani, and their playoff drought is now the longest in Major League Baseball.
5. A’s: The team is coming off its first 100-loss season since 1979 and the A’s are trying to free up cap space by scrapping two of their stars, sending catcher Sean Murphy to the Braves and Cole Irvin to the Orioles. These decisions were translated into other figures about a year later. Manager Mark Kotsay, who remained calm and cheerful despite the team losing 102 games in his first year, will have a tougher time. Two years ago, he won the A division in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Oakland acquired Japan right-hander Shintaro Fujinami for one year for $3.25 million.
PAWN OF LAS VEGAS
The A’s are considering a move to Las Vegas and MLB said the Oakland Coliseum does not provide a long-term answer for the franchise that has played in this park since 1968 and has the lowest average attendance in baseball, at 9,973 per game.
Baker Y Bochy
Baker, 73, and Bochy, 67, begin 26 seasons in charge of teams with at least 2,000 career wins, as they are now the oldest players. Baker captured his first World Series championship, his third year with Houston since taking over after a sign-stealing offense that cost the team a title in 2017. The Astros lost a six-game series to Atlanta in 2021.
Bochy won titles with San Francisco in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The first was against Texas, who played in the last World Series in 2011.