On the side of Angels.

In the last few days, as clubs have left Arizona and Florida en masse and national writers have returned to their home perches, the inevitable crystal ball articles have sprouted.  At ESPN.com, for instance, 49 contributors were asked to predict the six division winners and the four Wild Cards and the pennant winners and the World Series champions, the results of which were published this morning.

Nearly half (21) have the Angels in the World Series, with a staggering 18 of those calling for an Angels title.

After that, eight have Texas emerging from the American League (seven of whom give the Rangers the title), the same number that have Tampa Bay getting to the World Series (and winning) and one more than the Detroit camp.  The stragglers give the pennant to the Yankees (four) and Red Sox (one).

Peter Gammons is no longer at ESPN and so his vote wasn’t requested, but in his MLB.com space he had something targeted and interesting to say this week in the context of an article weighing in on the state of the game as spring training comes to an end and we stand on the doorstep of the first season in which 10 spots to play past 162 will be offered.

“Several GMs believe that midseason trades will be harder to make,” Gammons writes, “because there will seemingly be more teams in races for October.  There are fewer draft choices, and since Pat Gillick figured out 20-something years ago how to trade for players who would require compensation and store additional draft picks, there have been trades made with that in mind that now won’t exist.  But there are teams that will clearly be positioned to make the headline trade.”

He lists four: Texas, Toronto, Arizona, and Los Angeles – the Los Angeles Dodgers, that is.

The Angels are all in for this season and the next few – the years before the Albert Pujols contract starts to weigh too much – and maybe by that time the Los Angeles farm system (under Scott Servais’s supervision) will have enough near-ready and vertical depth to be included on a short list like that.  But for now?

The Rangers, Gammons suggests, “probably are not going to deal Jurickson Profar or Martin Perez, but look around baseball and see the paucity of third base bats, think Mike Olt, throw in a big arm and GM Jon Daniels can probably get whatever the Rangers need, if they turn out to need anything.”

I figure some of the eight ESPN folks who pegged Texas to leave Los Angeles and everyone else in the American League behind factored in the July factor.  But I bet some of those eight and lots of the Angels 21 looked strictly at Opening Day rosters and nothing more.  And that’s fine.

But it’s incomplete.

Look at the Rangers’ most-days bench (Craig Gentry, Brandon Snyder, Alberto Gonzalez, and one of the two starting catchers), and you know that Texas isn’t going to take that group to October.  There won’t be a key late-inning playoff at-bat in which Alberto Gonzalez is asked to deliver where Esteban German couldn’t.  There will be veterans available in July and August who aren’t available now, and the Rangers will make at least one trade to strengthen the back of the roster in those months.

If not in the next few hours, before today’s 4:00 deadline to set rosters.

A timeframe during which there could be major progress made on a six-year contract extension for Ian Kinsler, particularly considering that the years rather than the dollars were recently reported (by Fox Sports columnist Ken Rosenthal) to be the primary hang-up.

I’m not much on forecasting win totals, because it seems sorta silly in baseball, where there are more than twice as many games played than quarters in a football season, and where roster stability is significantly affected by injuries that we can’t foresee, and by trades that we can’t yet envision.  I think it’s kinda cool to see a writer like Keith Law (ESPN) predict that Yu Darvish will win AL Rookie of the Year and AL Cy Young, but I’m far more interested in seeing him win Monday.

Sports balloting just doesn’t move the needle for me.  And sitting here today and deciding between 88 and 93 and 98 wins isn’t something I care to spend any time thinking about.

Pegging the Angels to win something in 2012 is fashionable right now, and far from foolish.  But the games get played between the lines – and on General Managers’ cell phones – not on webpages in April, and this is shaping up to be one fantastic race in the AL West and beyond that.

This Rangers-Angels rivalry will be going strong even when one team belongs to Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar, the other to Howie Kendrick and Mike Trout.  But no need to think that far ahead.

Game on.  Bring it.  And all that.

The significant chunk of life that I’ve thrown into this project might reveal that I’m driven by the big picture, but the great thing about following a great team that’s poised right now to win (and yes, to sustain) is that all the crystal-balling about what things will look like in six and seven months can fire the adrenaline and reinforce confidence, but if it’s all the same to you, you can save the Wild Card and MVP and Prospect of the Year predictions and just get me to 1:05 on Friday afternoon.

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