Supremacy in the AL has shifted to left coast
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
Web linksBaseball blog: On-Base Perception
With the Yankees and Red Sox settling into a period of wary detente for the immediate future, a new arms race has developed on the opposite coast in a power grab for supremacy in the American League West.
Among the things that Tuesday's non-waivers trade deadline taught us, it's become clear that the Rangers and Angels have replaced the longtime AL East combatants in trying to outdo each other -- whether that means outspend, outmaneuver or outsmart.
We'll consider the resurgent Athletics as the outlier among the heavyweights, as their plucky but modest $52-million payroll has forced its way into the playoff picture. But the seismic blows were delivered by the Rangers, who acquired Ryan Dempster within minutes of Tuesday's deadline in apparent response to the Angels' acquisition of Zack Greinke four days earlier.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who made waves of his own by dealing Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees on July 23, still feels as if he's more on the sideline as the other two go toe-to-toe and he continues to rebuild.
"It all started at the winter meetings with what those two teams did," Zduriencik said. "But there's a price to pay for everything. Right now, with what they're doing, it's interesting to watch."
The opening salvos were launched during the winter, as the Angels spent $317 million on two players -- Albert Pujols and former Rangers ace C.J. Wilson. Coming off two failed World Series appearances, Texas replaced Wilson by spending more than $100 million on Yu Darvish, with half going to the posting fee.
"When clubs are on top like that, and they're fighting for a division crown," Zduriencik said, "you want to improve your chances. You're trying to send a message to your team."
In the NL East, the message was very different. While the division-leading Nationals were one of only three teams to stand pat at the deadline -- the Mets and Padres were the others -- the expected preseason favorites went into fire-sale mode.
Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach. GM Ruben Amaro sent outfielders to both NL West rivals -- Hunter Pence to the Giants and Shane Victorino to the Dodgers -- but the Phillies extended the homegrown Cole Hamels with a new six-year, $144-million contract, so their surrender was hardly on par with Miami's decision to mail it in for the remainder of this season.
Yet the NL East landscape has been altered, even if it remains unclear how those changes will affect the division. For the Mets, who expect to be a contender in 2013, it's not as if the road to a postseason berth is going to get much easier in the years ahead.
"Our division has undergone a real sort of metamorphosis," Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. "I don't think it's totally unexpected. I don't think it changes our strategic view of where we are and how quickly we can compete.
"I think we're going to continue to become more competitive. But I think if nothing else, it points out the traps that exist for any team. Whether you try to maintain success over a long period of time or create it overnight, it's tough to do."
in the bigs
Oliver Perez made his first New York appearance Friday night since his 2011 release from the Mets, this time wearing a Mariners uniform and in a new role as a late-inning reliever.
After starting the season with Triple-A Tacoma and leading all PCL relievers with 12.19 strikeouts per nine innings, Perez has a 2.45 ERA in 17 appearances for Seattle. He has struck out 15 and walked four in 14 2/3 innings.
On Friday, he allowed two inherited runners to score on RBI singles by two lefthanded hitters, but his fastball regularly hit 95 mph and he still has his sweeping slider.
"He was in a very unique situation -- we can all agree on that," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It's a testament to his passion for the game and his wanting to get back to the big leagues."
Perez, who was unfazed by much of the negativity during his Mets tenure, is very interested in how his former teammates are doing. He asked about Johan Santana's no-hitter -- "that was a lot of pitches," Perez said -- and Jenrry Mejia's progress.
"What are they going to do about David Wright?" Perez asked. When told the Mets will work to re-sign him, Perez replied, "They need to."