For the fans, there are endless opportunities, and the most are already boasting that this is their team’s year. That is the beauty of spring training, because anything is possible, everything is new, even though much may have not changed at all. Nothing matters but the future.
Coming into this year’s spring training, there has been a power shift in the MLB. It has not been a sudden change, but one that has been months and years in the making.
From the high rolling Dodgers, dubbed the “New Yankees”, to the World Championships Giants, and the offseason active Angels, the MLB has been experiencing a renaissance in the West. No longer is the East Coast the sole abode of the most feared teams in baseball, but now the West has come into the picture. It hasn’t just been the actions of West Coast teams that have lead to this shift in power, but the actions of East coast teams should be held just as accountable.
The Yankees are no longer leading the league in payroll, instead trying to get under the salary-cap to avoid the heightening luxury tax rates for repeat offenders. As a result of this, they have been absent in the offseason, taking a backseat, letting the Angels and Dodgers make big offseason splashes, which is what the Yankees are usually doing. So now instead of making headlines for signing the biggest fish in the free-agent market every offseason, the Yankees are now making headlines for doing the opposite of that. It seems as if the biggest offseason news is the recent allegations targeted at Alex Rodriguez, who seems to be using steroids again, or may have never stopped.
With half of the Red Sox’s roster residing the Dodgers clubhouse now, it seems as if they have been following along the same lines as their arch-nemesis, the Yankees. No high profile signings have taken place for the Red Sox, as it seems they may be in rebuilding mode. The Red Sox and Yankees are known for big expenditures during the offseason, but they are straying from their familiar tendencies, instead opting to save money and rebuild their teams.
In an interesting turn of events, the Toronto Blue Jays, who have not made the post-season in twenty-years, have been the most active east coast team, acquiring all-stars Josh Johnson from the Miami Marlins, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, also from the Marlins, and R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. This trade makes the Blue Jays a serious contender, instantly providing them with a pitching staff to be reckoned with.
As a counter to all of this lack of activity from two of the highest spending franchises in baseball, West coast teams have made moves to create much buzz in the land of sunshine and Hollywood. Two Los Angeles baseball teams, the Dodgers and Angels, have decided that this lack of spending on the Yankees and Red Sox parts should be taken upon by the teams.
The Dodgers, now having the highest payroll in the Majors, have landed the biggest pitching free-agent in the market. A year before, with the Dodgers still under their previous owner, Frank McCourt who was notorious for limiting spending, this new Dodgers franchise is almost unrecognizable, with few of the same players on the roster. The future is looking bright for Dodgers fans.
Only a thirty minute drive down south, the Angels have been making splashes of their own, choosing to land the biggest hitting free agent in the market in Josh Hamilton, once the biggest pitching free agent was taken by their freeway rivals, the Dodgers. With the addition of Albert Pujols the year before and now Josh Hamilton, the Angels are making a habit of shelling out the money for power hitting, creating an exciting environment for Los Angeles baseball fans and making it a yearly offseason habit.
A few hundred miles up north is another notable team, the San Francisco Giants, that may have not made any offseason splashes, but did win the World Series last year and have retained almost their entire core group of players that made the journey to the postseason possible. It is funny that people are talking about all of the activity of these other teams, yet it is the Giants who are the defending world champions with an established chemistry.
But this lack of attention to the defending world champions, winners of two championships in the past three years, just proves that the West is growing in baseball prowess, and all of the attention is on the West Coast, and not the East. This shift may not last for long, but coming from California, it sure is an exciting team to be a baseball fan on the West Coast.