MLB

In wild NL West, it's anyone's game

Share This Story

Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

MORE>>
 
   
 

San Diego began its offseason rebuilding plan last July, sending outfielder Ryan Ludwick and his contract to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

CASH COWS

See which MLB stars earn the highest annual salaries, who's in the $150 million club and who makes the most at each position.

Then, once the offseason officially began, they let closer Heath Bell leave as a free agent, despite his public proclamation he would take less money to stay with the Padres. And they dealt rotation ace Mat Latos to Cincinnati for prospects.

Not totally surprising. After a last-place finish, and with budget constraints, the Padres were looking at cutting costs while they rebuilt.

But then . . . they acquired closer Huston Street from the Colorado Rockies, agreeing to pick up $7 million of his $7.5 million salary, and dealt two pitching prospects to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Carlos Quentin, who, like Street, is a potential free agent at season’s end.

The Padres are definitely sending mixed messages.

But then that’s part of life in the National League West.

It has been a division that underscores baseball’s bid for parity.

It’s the only division in baseball in which all five members have made a postseason appearance in the past six years. The NL West, in fact, has had nine postseason entries in that stretch.

Colorado is the only NL West team that hasn’t won a division title, but the Rockies were the NL wild card in 2007 and 2009, advancing to the World Series in 2007. Los Angeles has won three division titles and Arizona two.

While San Diego and San Francisco have only one postseason appearance each in that stretch, the Giants made good on their opportunity, claiming the world championship in 2010. The Padres, who shared the NL West title with the Dodgers in 2006, have been eliminated from the postseason in the final game of the regular season two other times — in Game 163 against Colorado in 2007 and Game 162 against the Giants in 2010. Both times the team that eliminated the Padres won the NL pennant.

David Stern

GRABBING HEADLINES

Texas' Yu Darvish debuted to massive hype. Who are MLB's other ballyhooed pitching prospects?

More to the point, five times in the past six years, an NL West team coming off a losing season has advanced to the postseason the following year.

So it comes as no surprise that the NL West has been the most active in baseball this offseason. It’s a division in which there’s always hope, and the offseason hype has no carryover to regular-season success.

A year ago, the offseason debate was whether the Giants or the Rockies would win the NL West, and the three other teams in the division were an afterthought.

Arizona was the consensus to finish in last place.

Arizona won the division title.

That’s why this offseason Arizona general manager Kevin Towers has not hesitated to tinker with his roster. Arizona’s only significant offseason loss was left-handed starter Joe Saunders to free agency. Towers, however, filled that rotation void by acquiring right-hander Trevor Cahill along with left-handed reliever Craig Breslow from Oakland in a deal for prospects. The D-backs GM then fleshed out the bullpen by signing right-handers Takashi Saito and Joe Martinez and provided a right-handed power bat with the signing of free-agent outfielder Jason Kubel.

"Fans like a team that plays hard-nosed baseball, that doesn’t quit, and we were all of those things," Towers said, "and I think we can be even better this year."

The Giants have been the least active team in the division. Their big deal was a head scratcher. They dealt the live left-handed arm of Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City for journeyman outfielder Melky Cabrera, continuing to search for an answer to the mystery that has been center field at AT&T Park.

MLB Buzz

HOT STOVE

Our experts bring you all latest news. Read MLB Buzz.

The Giants, however, still have a pitching staff that is among the game’s elite, a rotation built around the potential Cy Young arms of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner and an offense that is expected to get a boost with the return of catcher Buster Posey, limited to 45 games last year because of a broken leg suffered in a home plate collision.

The Dodgers are the real puzzle. They finished third in the division in 2011 despite featuring Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and MVP runner-up Matt Kemp, which underscores the lack of a strong supporting cast.

General manager Ned Colletti has tried to address that this offseason with the signing of second basemen Mark Ellis and Adam Kennedy and versatile Jerry Hairston, known more for on-field acumen than raw ability. He has looked to fill rotation holes created by the free-agent departures of Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland with the additions of Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.

Colorado, meanwhile, is looking for a different mix in the clubhouse with moves such as the signing of free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who provides a much-needed right-handed run-producing bat in addition to a take-charge personality.

It took creative work from general manager Dan O’Dowd to come up with the money to pay Cuddyer $34 million over the next three years without a payroll hike.

Gone are Street, third basemen Ian Stewart and Ty Wigginton, second baseman Mark Ellis, outfielder Ryan Spilborghs and starting pitcher Aaron Cook. Added are starting pitchers Tyler Chatwood and Kevin Slowey, catcher Ramon Hernandez, third baseman Casey Blake, second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, and outfielder Tyler Colvin, in addition to Cuddyer.

And the Rockies have one major move left — dangling outfielder Seth Smith as the basis for a package to land an experienced starting pitcher.

Will that be enough to give them an opportunity to win the first division title in franchise history?

Well, in the NL West, anything is possible.

Tagged: Cubs, Reds, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Ty Wigginton, Michael Cuddyer, Huston Street, Mark Ellis, Tim Lincecum, Ian Stewart, Mat Latos

More Stories From Tracy Ringolsby

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..