Over the past four seasons, the AL West has been a two-horse race, basically.
And over the past two years, those two horses have been the Texas Rangers and Oakland A's, who have topped the Rangers for the division title in the past two seasons, ending the Rangers' two-year run as division champs and AL pennant winners in 2010 and 2011.
A big reason the Los Angeles Angels have fallen off the pace in recent seasons has been the disappointment of their big-money contracts they gave to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton was infamously bad last season, being dropped as low as No. 7 in the Angels' lineup at times before finally showing some signs of life down the stretch but finished the year with just a .250 batting average and a .307 on-base percentage. Now, he's in spring training 28 pounds heavier than he was last year, and back to the weight he was when he was winning MVP awards with the Rangers. He's hoping to be back to where he was prior to falling off the cliff in 2012, his final year with Texas.
"Oh man, it's a cake walk," Hamilton told MLB.com. "I've never failed in baseball before. And I wouldn't call it a failure [last season]; I just wouldn't call it meeting expectations around me and what I put on myself as a player. My life has been about redemption."
Pujols was limited to 99 games last season after a disappointing 2012 — his first year in Anaheim. His health has been questioned, as has his durability moving forward in the midst of his $240 million deal.
"You are never going to hear excuses out of my mouth," Pujols told MLB.com. "If you hear me complaining or using an injury as an excuse for a struggle, then correct me. I'm not that type of guy. I struggled because it's part of the game. My first year, I struggled the first month, but look at the last five months. Nobody was better than me after the All-Star Game. You can compare slugging and all that. Last year was the same -- a great start, but the injury happened. ... Look what I was able to do with one leg. It was like having a flat tire and a broken rim. This game is tough enough being 100 percent. Imagine having an injury to deal with. It's hard."
Even though the Angels can pretty much assure themselves they're going to get serious production from Mike Trout, arguably the best player in baseball, they need more than just him to be able to compete with the Rangers, A's and possibly even the retooled Mariners.