© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
08/17/07 1:56 PM ET
Notes: The West looks like the best
AL East gets attention, but AL West may be toughest division
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
BOSTON -- For all their perceived deficiencies, notably in the power department, the Angels alighted in Beantown in pretty fair shape -- travel, logistics and roster-juggling issues notwithstanding.
Not only do the Angels own the Majors' second-best record, a game and a half behind the Red Sox entering Friday's day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park, manager Mike Scioscia's troupe also leads the toughest division in the game.
That's right, the American League West is the best. Top to bottom, the smallest of the six divisions is a force unlike any other. No arguments, please. The numbers don't lie.
The Angels, Mariners, A's and Rangers came into Friday's action a combined 19 games over .500. Next was the National League West, 14 games above .500. The NL East was nine games above the break-even mark, with the AL East a plus-four. The AL Central comes in one game under .500, with the NL Central a whopping 45 games below .500.
Further evidence is found in Interleague Play, where the AL West finished on top by a comfortable margin -- 16 games over .500. Next, at plus-six, is the AL Central, with the AL East dead even. Dead last in Interleague Play is the NL West at 10 under .500, with the NL East five under and the NL Central seven below the .500 barrier.
They're inhospitable, too. The entire AL West is better than .500 at home, something no other division can claim.
Garret Anderson, the Angels' longest tenured player, is accustomed to the lack of national attention focused on the only team he's represented in relation to the celebrated superpowers dwelling in the Eastern time zone.
"They don't want to accept us," Anderson said. "They want to see superstars, players they're familiar with. They don't even have to be good players -- it's the perception that matters.
"We put a bunch of good players on the field that people don't seem to recognize. Look at Chone [Figgins]. The year he's having [batting .341, and .410 since May 31], imagine the attention he'd be getting playing on some of these other clubs. Here, he just goes about his business.
"Fans can tell you everybody who plays for the Red Sox and Yankees, but they'd have a hard time identifying our players. On the West Coast, they know about the East Coast, but it doesn't work the other way.
"It boils down to who gets air time. You watch the TV highlight shows, and they break down everything the Red Sox and Yankees do. For the West Coast teams, they show two highlights and it's over."
Anderson takes it beyond Anaheim and a team largely known as "Vladimir Guerrero and Co."
"Even when [Ken] Griffey [Jr.] was playing in Seattle, and A-Rod when he was young, they didn't get that much national attention, really," Anderson said. "Edgar [Martinez] was one of the best hitters in the game, and a lot of people didn't know it. It's all about the exposure.
"That's just the way it is. Those are the facts."
Maicer Izturis, one of those underrated players Anderson was referring to, has been nails under pressure, batting .404 (23-for-57) with runners in scoring position. His 34 RBIs in 208 at-bats represent a 100-RBI pace projected over a full season of plate appearances.
A .265 career hitter with a .386 slugging percentage, Izturis -- in 202 career opportunities -- elevates to a .327 hitter with a .500 slugging mark with runners in scoring position.
"He's a contact hitter, a good hitter," Scioscia said. "His normal game is to use the whole field, and if you're putting it in play, feeling comfortable, you're going to find holes. He's done a great job with runners in scoring position."
On Aug. 17 in Angels history:
Anderson's three-hit game against Detroit in 2003 pushed him past Brian Downing as the club's all-time hit leader with 1,591. Downing had 1,588. Anderson is at 2,154 and counting.
Up next: Jered Weaver (8-5, 3.85) faces Curt Schilling (6-5, 4.06) on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. PT