Rangers, Astros, and Angels, oh my!

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Bruce Bochy’s Rangers aren’t the only AL West team pushing in all the chips.

Bruce Bochy’s Rangers aren’t the only AL West team pushing in all the chips.
Photo: AP

At 40-20, the Texas Rangers looked to be a lock for the postseason. The Dallas-area MLB team always appears to have a loaded farm system, and those moves looking toward the future paid off at the same time the big-money signings stayed healthy. In addition to all that, pitching whisperer Bruce Bochy worked his magic from the dugout, and gave the Rangers an advantage from the mound for possibly the first time in the franchise’s existence. Since that 20-games-over-.500 mark, Texas is 20-26, and now only has a one-game lead in the AL West over the Astros. And those pesky Angels are only five games back. The Mariners have turned a corner and are only 5.5 back. And Oakland! Well, not Oakland, which has the largest division deficit in baseball by six games.

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The top trio of the AL West are all going all in at once when there’s still a decent chance at least one of them doesn’t make the postseason. The Angels and Mariners are 4 and 4.5 games back in the Wild Card races heading into Monday’s games. Not insurmountable by any stretch, but tons of variables have to fall the Anaheim Ohtanis way. Not making the postseason will make Los Angeles’ grip on the best player in baseball look dumber at the deadline. When the Halos could have acquired an entire farm system for Ohtani, who has given the team no confidence he’ll be an Angel on Opening Day next season, why not stock up? That decision will either haunt the franchise for a long time to come or be the key to staying relevant for the next generation of baseball fans. And with fourth place in the AL West possibly one loss away, the Angels are the most all-in among their division rivals. They’re the ones with the most doubt beyond this November.

After a brutal stretch for the Rangers, losing seven of nine, counter-balanced their 6-game win streak to start the second half of the season, Texas’ schedule is pretty light for the entire month of August. On paper, the Rangers should use the next 31 days to solidify a playoff spot. Keyword: SHOULD. With Corey Seager hurt again, Jonah Heim possibly out for the season, and Nathan Eovaldi on the DL, it could appear that Texas is falling apart. That’ll come to reality with a so-so August or worse. Overcoming those speed bumps would be the triumphant nature pennant winners show. Unlike the Angels and Astros, the Rangers have the most faith from their fan base to figure it out compared to expectations. Things haven’t looked this bright in Arlington since Rougned Odor made Rockin’ Robin more than a Jackson 5 song.

The Astros have the deceiving appearance of not being all in because having pushed their chips to the center of the figurative poker table has been their constant state since 2015. Their moves aren’t as flashy. They made those already through every trick in the book, and some that are ethical too. And Houston is the unlikable team that has the talent to continue to be successful. No one outside of H-Town wants to see the Astros have success, somehow making the Angels more likable.

I find it unlikely the playoffs won’t feature the Rangers or Astros despite any previous trouble this season. They’re just straight-up better than the Angels and are way less reliant on a superstar duo than the other teams. That balance will catch up with Los Angeles eventually and possibly drop it out of the postseason altogether. Ohtani staying at this incredible run of form isn’t sustainable. Even dropping down a few notches keeps him as the best player in baseball. And it won’t be his fault if carrying the Angels on his back isn’t enough to put them in the postseason. And the gamble of holding onto him at the trade deadline will look like a team-altering bad decision. And I’m here for that chaos.

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