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Opening Night linkaliciousness

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Some more predictions...

Rob Neyer predicts the A's finish first in the AL West, and the Rangers finish last.

Ditto Keith Law, who has the Rangers finishing with 75 wins.

BP's staff predictions have an aggregate third place finish for Texas, although one writer has them finishing first.  Ditto THT's staff predictions...third place in aggregate, one brave voter picking them first.

Although the first BP Hit List of the season has the Rangers ranked 29th.

Steven Goldman (author of the "Texas is a crappy franchise" piece in the 2008 BP) looks at how the bottom feeders could end up making the playoffs, and has this snippet as part of his hypothetical for Texas:

The resultant offense allows the Rangers to overcome a starting rotation that somehow allows 4.5 runs per nine innings instead of 5.5 until July, at which point top pitching prospects Neftali Perez and Derek Holland arrive on the scene ready to pitch like All-Stars.

Joe Sheehan did a chat session today, and fielded a question on breaking in pitchers:

X (Y): The A's have taken Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, highly regarded pitching prospects with little experience over A-ball, and put them in the Opening Day rotation. The Rangers have taken Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland, highly regarded pitching prospects with little experience over A-ball, and put them in AAA, with Nolan Ryan saying they will likely initially pitch out of the bullpen when they do get to the majors. Which path do you think is preferable?

Joe Sheehan: I lean towards the latter, although the pitchers in question are so different that the divergent approaches probably work best for each pairing. It's worth noting that breaking in pitchers in Oakland is much different than doing so in Arlington, so you can push the envelope more.

The umpire's union has voted out John Hirschbeck as president, and voted in the once-banished, notoriously-tempermental Joe West.  West, who was out of the majors for two years before being re-hired in 2002, also gained notoriety in 1984 when he was the first umpire in 44 years to be suspended, following a physical confrontation with Joe Torre, and again in 1997 when he ejected Bobby Wine before game 2 of a doubleheader for taking too long bringing the lineup card out.  And in 2004, when he was the crew chief in the ChiSox/Astros World Series that set a new standard for poor post-season umpiring.

West is generally considered not very competent, and part of the more confrontational, in-your-face contingent among major league umpires.  It remains to be seen whether this is a sign of the umps taking a more aggressive, visual role in the game -- something that, I know, all fans really want.

14 of 30 teams cut their payroll in 2009.  The Rangers, to my surprise, are not one of them.