In front of an assembled clan of media in Round Rock on Monday night before his Texas Rangers began decompressing from their near-two months in Arizona and their homestretch approaching the 2012 season, Rangers owner and team president Nolan Ryan addressed the biggest question surrounding the Rangers as the 2012 season approaches: Will the Rangers be able to hold off the rival Los Angeles Angels?
The Angels spent loads of money in the off-season, paying for Albert Pujols and former Rangers starting pitcher C.J. Wilson. That couldn't help but come across as a little bit of desperation after two straight years of the Rangers not only beating the Angels in the AL West, but going to two straight World Series.
Ryan, who played for both the Angels and the Rangers in his near 30-year career on the mound, acknowledged the fact that the Angels have improved their club heading into this season after having a lockdown on the AL West for much of the 2000s and seem poised to make 2012 much more interesting than the past two years.
"The Angels have stepped up and helped themselves," Ryan said. "It's going to be a tough division for us. They are very competitive, and it will come down to who stays healthiest. They have real strong pitching, so we know we have our work cut out for us.
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"It should make it interesting. It should make it a good rivalry. I'm looking forward to it. I still think we have the best ballclub."
The division foes will have to wait more than a month before squaring off for the first time on May 11 in Arlington. They'll play 19 times this season, all of which will likely be high-stakes.
Some folks have started saying the Rangers-Angels have become the new Yankees-Red Sox, and while that's probably an exaggeration, it's not too far off.
"Are we the West Coast version of it?" Ryan said. "I don't know. I don't think a lot about it. Obviously, the fact that we've won the division the last two years and they felt like they had a lock on that. [Angels owner] Arte [Moreno] stepped up and tried to do something about it.
"It will be good for our division and baseball, and it's going to stimulate more interest, obviously, with Pujols and C.J. over there."