There will not be a more competitive race in baseball this summer than the American League West. Three of the teams won 89 games or more, and two of them -- the Texas Rangers and Oakland A's -- made the postseason.
Given the offseason defection of outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Rangers to the rival Los Angeles Angels, there should be plenty of animosity between those clubs. The Angels are favored to win the division after missing the postseason by four games in 2012. Only the depth of their rotation is a real question mark after Zack Greinke left for a high-priced contract with the Dodgers.
The A's may have been baseball's biggest surprise in 2012 after a shocking late close to steal the division from Texas. Do they have a repeat performance in store? This was a group that relied on its pitching -- especially at spacious O.co Coliseum. The bullpen was among the sport's best. But the lineup may need an even better year from Yoenis Cespedes, who was a force as a rookie.
Meanwhile, the Rangers faded late but still made the playoffs for a third year in a row. Can they survive the Angels pilfering another key player? The season before it was starter C.J. Wilson. This time it is Hamilton, who appeared to have worn out his welcome in Texas by the end of 2012. And the Rangers chose not to add any pieces to the lineup or rotation. It's a weaker team but still should contend.
The division even boasts the best last-place team in the sport. The Seattle Mariners won 75 games and could push for a winning record. They certainly won't finish last again with the addition of the woeful Houston Astros from the National League.
- Brian McNally