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MLB 2013: West is suddenly best in the major leagues

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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hits a double to score teammate James Loney in the fifth inning of a spring training exhibition baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Monday, March 11, 2013, in Port Charlotte, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

By Martin Renzhofer

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 30 2013 08:35PM
Updated Mar 31, 2013 12:05AM

West Coast baseball is suddenly sexy.

It’s hot. It’s hip. And, thanks to billions of dollars in TV money, the bankrolls — at least in Southern California — have certainly gotten a lot bigger.

The addition of the Houston Astros to the AL West may have slanted the debate about the best division in baseball back toward the AL East. But there is little doubt about which region’s teams dominated the offseason.

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are yesterday’s news.

For both Los Angeles area teams, money, it seems, is only paper. The big contracts who have flocked to the City of the Angels — and its suburb of Anaheim — drew plenty of attention.

Recently, Los Angeles Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl brushed aside a question of having to compete for the entertainment dollar with the neighboring Dodgers, instead looking at the bigger picture.

"The Dodgers are not my competition," Kuhl said. "I have to compete with the sun and the beach and all the X Games and all the other things in Southern California.

"What the Dodgers are doing is great; it’s great for baseball. It’s awesome for Southern California. There are other teams west of the Hudson River. Look at the Giants ... and what the Dodgers are doing; what we’re doing. San Diego getting better every year. ... Oakland won their division, and that’s really exciting."

Even Seattle has improved and boasts of the game’s best hurler in Felix Hernandez.

But it was the Angels who stunned baseball in the offseason by snaring Josh Hamilton. By placing the slugging outfielder in the same lineup as Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the Angels became one of the favorites to win the AL pennant. Only Detroit could argue it has a better everyday lineup.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ brightest star is outfielder Matt Kemp. And the franchise, co-owned by the master of sports showtime, Magic Johnson, spent bushels of money to surround Kemp with talent, including Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez.

During the winter, Los Angeles paid — some say overpaid — pitcher Zack Greinke with a $147 million contract. Team chemistry remains the only question for the Dodgers.

Can the Dodgers and Angels and their free-spending ways overtake the San Francisco Giants, World Series champions in 2010 and 2012? Fans embraced the Giants’ carefree outlook, which masked a ferocious will to win.

And what’s not to like about San Francisco’s’ baby-faced MVP catcher Buster Posey?

The Giants didn’t do anything fancy during their offseason. They just added a few more little pieces, players who fit the Giants’ philosophy. And that can’t be bought.

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