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Lackey Hurt - Is It A "Whole New BallGame" In The West?

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You have no idea what the Angels fans are going through right now, hearing that their team's ace has an arm injury (strained right triceps) and watching the rotation your team will open the season with bear less and less resemblance to the one it envisioned. OK, maybe you do.

Lackey, Escobar, Weaver, Garland, E. Santana or Saunders – looks darn good. Weaver, Garland, E. Santana, Saunders, Moseley – not looking like the rotation of a team that will run away with a division. In fact, not looking any better than Bedard, F. Hernandez, Washburn, Silva, Batista. Suddenly, the A’s rotation of Harden, Blanton, Duchscherer, Gaudin, and DiNardo, Eveland, or Smith, is arguably the best rotation in the division for at least the month of April, when we know we won’t see Lackey, and do figure to see Harden.

Meanwhile, if the A’s sacrifice some outfield defense to put Jack Cust and Mike Sweeney in the lineup together, the offense will start to look pretty good along side the Angels’ and Mariners’ starting nine. All three teams can boast bullpens that are both effective and deep. All three defenses figure to have areas of significant strength and weakness.

The Angels, of course, hope that Lackey and Escobar return by early to mid-May, that the cream rises quickly to the top, and the Angels still own the division as predicted by pre-season prognosticators. But there is no guarantee on how quickly Lackey and Escobar will get back into regular season form, how effective they will be upon their return, or how careful the team will need to be with these precious commodities. Oakland and Seattle also know how easy it is for teams to get into cycles where just as one key piece returns another goes down – by the time Lackey is ready, how will Jared Weaver be doing, how will Vlad be doing, what key player on an AL West team will have been felled by a hard slide or a line drive back through the box?

There are very few starters in the major leagues that are worthy of the “ace” designation, and certainly Rich Harden followers know how big a piece of the overall puzzle an ace can be. As Lackey has been leveled, I say so has the playing field.