The Houston Astros may have dominated the AL West for years, but now the Oakland Athletics are positioned to turn the tables in 2020.
The Houston Astros dispatched the Oakland Athletics by 10 games in the AL West last season, and most experts expect something of the same to happen this year.
But most of this winter has been spent stripping the veneer of invincibility from the Astros. They lost their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency. He will be replaced by Lance McCullers, who lost all of 2019 to elbow surgery. Their ace, Justin Verlander, will be 37, and their other ace, Zack Greinke, will be 36.
Perhaps most importantly, the sign-stealing scandal deprived the Astros of perhaps the team’s greatest asset, its cocksure attitude. The smugness radiated by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and George Springer for three seasons simply will not play against the backdrop of the loss of both the team’s manager and general manager due to their cheating.
The role of Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers in exposing that scandal may be ironic, but it also provides a major window through which divisional challengers can pour…and Fiers’ own Athletics are best-positioned to do so.
Consider the two teams on a position-by-position basis.