MLB Season Preview: Which Baseball Team Rules California?

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Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 11.44.03 PMIt’s 2016, an even-numbered year, which in Major League Baseball means the San Francisco Giants are going home with the grand prize. As a Giants-hating, A’s-loving San Francisco native, even I have to admit another World Series title is within the realm of plausibility. But despite the chances of another parade in downtown San Francisco (not the kind you’re probably thinking of), the Giants have four other teams in their own state that can prevent this psychologically devastating outcome from coming to fruition. Here, I give my definitive ranking, from worst to best, of every MLB team in the Golden State.

Note: Each team’s 2015 win-loss record, division standing, and playoff results (if applicable).

5San Diego Padres (74–88; fourth place in NL West)

39 year-old closer Fernando Rodney will provide a contrast in both numbers and experience to his 27 year-old predecessor Craig Kimbrel. Photo courtesy of MLB.

The Padres went all-in for 2015 by trading high-end minor league prospects for high-ceiling major league veterans — outfielder Justin Upton and closer Craig Kimbrel among them. It was obvious to some at the time of these acquisitions that the team acted on impulse rather than on strategy and shafted long-term promise in favor of short-term ticket sales. Unfortunately, the team’s front office had to experience this to learn it, wasting top prospects and millions of dollars only to finish with three fewer wins than it had the year prior. In the offseason, the team let many of these acquisitions go and opted to replace them with mere stopgaps like Jon Jay and Fernando Rodney until they have the resources to build a competitive roster. Until then, UCSD students will have to look to their own athletics to find a good baseball team to root for.

4Oakland Athletics (68–94; fifth place in AL West)

Newly acquired left-fielder Khris Davis will try to add punch to a lineup that ranked 20th in home runs last year. Photo courtesy of MLB.

Being an A’s fan, as much as I would like to put the Athletics over the Angels, making up a 17-win differential in just one season is wishful thinking. Even harder is to, in that short time frame, grow from zero to hero, loser to winner. From the teams on this list, the Athletics were by far the worst one last season. However, they’ve made significant strides toward returning to their 2013 to 2015 glory. Shoring up one of the league’s worst bullpens is no easy task, but Billy Beane — the architect of “Moneyball” roster-building  — did just that by acquiring comeback kid Ryan Madson, late bloomer Liam Hendriks and former closer John Axford. They also added the slugging Khris Davis and reacquired the steady Jed Lowrie to supplement a lineup that, a year ago, lacked punch and consistency. The team hopes this will allow them to, at the very least, compete again, but they’ll likely have to settle for minor improvement.

3Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (85–77; 3rd place in AL West)

Light-hitting defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons is the only major addition the Angels made to a lineup that ranked 20th in runs scored last year. Photo courtesy of MLB.

The Angels were on the brink of clinching a wildcard spot in the playoffs last year, due in large part to their one-two combo of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but they lost out to the Astros on the very last day of the season. One would think then that the team would have pushed hard this offseason to get itself past the threshold of “just not good enough.” However, they instead opted to rely on mostly minor upgrades, if even that, to get them to this year’s Fall Classic. Their acquisition of shortstop Andrelton Simmons — one of the best defensive players in the game — might nab them a few extra wins, but overall, they’re likely looking at another third-place finish in the AL West.

2Los Angeles Dodgers (92–70; first place in NL West, eliminated in NLDS by New York Mets)

Southpaw Scott Kazmir will replace one of the best pitchers in the league, Zack Greinke, in the No. 2 spot of the Dodgers starting rotation. Photo courtesy of MLB.

It’s only fitting that this list comes down to one of the most intense rivalries in California and all of sports. While the Dodgers and Giants have, in recent years, see-sawed to determine who comes out on top — with L.A. winning the most recent season by seven games — the reigning NL West champions aren’t looking as robust as they were last year. The loss of their secondary, or arguably primary, ace Zack Greinke to the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks and a myriad of other significant contributors to the ever so infamous disabled list will certainly hurt the team’s playoff prospects. Though Scott Kazmir, one of the Dodgers’ few offseason acquisitions, looks to stop some of the bleeding, he can only do so much to offset the equivalent of a whole starting rotation. Ultimately, it looks like Los Angeles will have to sit through another year of spending the most money in baseball only to take second place to the Giants, both in their division and on this list.

1San Francisco Giants (84–78; second place in NL West)

The Giants signed Johnny Cueto for $130 million over six seasons to a pitching staff that already ranked 9th in the league in ERA last season. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

The Giants, over the last five years, have been one of the most interesting phenomenons in sports. After a post-Barry Bonds playoff drought of six years between 2004 and 2009, the team came back in a big way by winning the 2010 World Series with a majorly underdog team. Since then, they’ve alternated between missing the playoffs completely in odd-numbered years (2011 and 2013) and winning the whole shebang again in even-numbered ones (2012 and 2014). Well it’s now 2016, and as much as I would like to call the past few championships flukes, history has tended to repeat itself and the top-to-bottom strength of this year’s team only boosts their chances. With an incredibly balanced lineup that relies on consistency over punch and a pitching staff bulked by the additions of potential aces Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija — as well as a team full of three-time World Series champions — the most inconsistent dynasty in sports might strike gold once again.