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West Coast clubs set to continue success

Posted: December 24, 2012 9:45 a.m.
Updated: December 26, 2012 5:00 a.m.

After the 1994 strike in Major League Baseball, only one West Coast team made it to the World Series in the years leading up the turn of the century.

The San Diego Padres were the rare gem for fans living along the Pacific, climbing their way to the championship game in 1998 against the New York Yankees.

San Diego featured six All-Stars that year -- pitchers Andy Ashby, Kevin Brown, and Trevor Hoffman, and outfielders Tony Gwynn and Greg Vaughn -- but ultimately got swept by the Bronx Bombers in four games.

After the surprise championship success of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, the West Coast has still only been represented four times in the title game in the last 11 years.

However, in two of the last three World Series, the West Coast has come out on top after the San Francisco Giants edged the Texas Rangers in 2010 and swept the Detroit Tigers last year.

Look for the team by the Bay to be a strong contender this year, but they’ll need to get by three other California teams if they want to reign supreme again.

Fortunately for San Francisco fans, the team brought back a trio of key players in the off-season in Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt.

Essentially, the Giants will have the same roster as last season and should be primed for another run, especially with National League M.V.P. Buster Posey behind the plate.

While the Bay Bombers kept the core of last year’s roster in place, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim added a number of new pieces to a team that finished a solid 16 games above .500 last season.

The Halos didn’t make the playoffs, but they finished only four games out of the wild card spot. After picking up future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and ace pitcher C.J. Wilson last year, they went on a spending spree this off-season, adding top free-agent Josh Hamilton and a slew of pitchers, including Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, and Jason Vargas.

If the Angels don’t improve on last year’s 89-73 mark and make a push for the playoffs, it will certainly be a disappointment.

The other L.A. team, the Dodgers, also opened their checkbook this off-season. The team spent $147 million on starting pitcher Zach Greinke, signing the former Royal, Brewer and Angel to a six-year deal. He’ll be a top-notch addition to a rotation that already includes former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers also signed South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin, who inked a $36 million, six-year deal.

This will also be the first full season as Dodgers for recently acquired players Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez.

A somewhat surprising playoff team, the Oakland Athletics should be able to recapture last season’s success even after losing shortstop Stephen Drew. The brother of former Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew signed a one-year deal with Boston on Dec. 17. Fans of the Red Sox certainly hope their new shortstop doesn’t experience the same pitfalls as his older brother, who was paid premium money in Boston, but saw his stat line fluctuate and diminish each year.   

To fill that hole at shortstop, the A’s signed Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year deal. Overall, Oakland’s lineup isn’t eye-catching, which is expected for a team that ranks last in payroll at $59.5 million. However, they’ve reached the post-season twice in the last six years, a testament to the squad and its management.

While most of the Golden State will likely be represented in the playoffs, San Diego’s changes for a post-season berth are slim to none. They had a quiet offseason and certainly lack any kind of star power.

Of course, all the West Coast teams will still have to contend with virtual post-season locks like Detroit, Washington, and St. Louis as well as potential threats like Atlanta, New York, and an upstart Toronto Blue Jays team.

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