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May 20, 2000
AL West Notebook
News & Notes
Running with the Pack
For better or worse, "parity" has been a buzzword in the NFL for the last decade or so. It's the result of league rules that reward poor performance with a creampuff schedule that enables perennial sad sacks to sign Arena League quarterbacks and win the Super Bowl.
Baseball's economic disparities and relatively neutral scheduling means that the NFL's level of parity probably won't find its way into baseball anytime soon. However, at the quarter pole of the 2000 season, that's exactly what we have in the AL West, with all four teams bunched within two-and-a-half games of each other.
The clubs entered the recent ten-game stretch of intradivisional contests with only four games separating the engine (Seattle) from the caboose (Texas). The ten-day stretch was an opportunity for any of the top three teams to catch fire and break from the pack, but the only things broken were the sleep patterns of the division's pitching coaches, as the clubs combined for an 265 runs on an 874 OPS. The A's and Rangers collected the majority of those runs, each averaging at least eight runs a game while going 6-4. The Mariners and Angels lurched to 4-6 records, and the brief soiree concluded with the division tighter than when it began.
Lone Star Seismic Tremors
As the Pacific Northwest reminisces about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens' 20 years ago, baseball seismographs detected activity emanating from The Ballpark in Arlington on May 9. Signs indicated that all the pieces were in place for another upheaval from Mt. Piniella.
The rumblings from Lou Piniella about his pitching staff were becoming louder and more frequent after a few ineffective outings by the bullpen. In need of a fifth starter, Piniella opted to move Paul Abbott into the starting rotation, leaving half a dozen suspects for late-inning work. Of the remaining relievers, Piniella is afraid to mete out meaningful innings to anybody answering to the name Jose or rookie southpaw Robert Ramsay. With Kaz Sasaki's fastball laying on an operating table in Japan, Frankie Rodriguez his usual unpredictable self and Arthur Rhodes very effective but overworked, a short outing by Abbott could have triggered a violent explosion from the Mariners' unstable baseball god.
Disaster was averted when Seattle's offense plated ten runs in the first five innings while Abbott tossed shutout ball. Northwest residents shouldn't let their stockpiles of toilet paper and potable water dwindle, though; there'll be more tremors this summer.
Jeff Bower can be reached at email@example.com.