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Pujols, Fielder provide AL power shift
Sluggers give an extra jolt to AL storylines
Albert Pujols gave the Texas Rangers an October preview of what they can expect 18 times in this season, now that the Los Angeles Angels are shelling out a hefty sum for his services.
Prince Fielder is bringing his big bat to the American League, too. He's being paid a pot of gold to help power the Detroit Tigers to a title.
Throw in the Angels luring C.J. Wilson away from Texas and, get this, Los Angeles and Detroit combined to spend more than half a billion dollars for a better chance at stopping Texas' run as AL champions at two.
And let's not forget the rest of a restless league.
The AL East champion New York Yankees rearmed their rotation, adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and welcoming back Andy Pettitte. The Red Sox hired master manipulator Bobby Valentine to manage Boston out of the historic mess it made last September. With Moneyball playing better on the big screen than in the Oakland Coliseum, the A's spent big on Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes.
It's not easy being the first repeat AL champs since the Yankees from 1998-2001. Rangers president Nolan Ryan isn't going to cede anything without a fight, though - new Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura knows all about that from his playing days.
The Hall of Fame pitcher is paying more than $107 million for Japan League ace Yu Darvish and his flashy 1.99 ERA over the past seven seasons for a shot at bringing that elusive World Series title to Texas at last.
"Our league has always been tough, but I'm pretty sure they're excited over in Anaheim to have Albert, C.J. I think it's kind of cool that Prince is in Detroit," New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter said of the West and Central.
Don't count out the East, either. With the new playoff format, the Yankees, Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays with their young aces could all make the postseason. The Toronto Blue Jays are much improved, too.
"That's the one great thing about playing for the New York Yankees is, every year you have an opportunity to, not only make great moves, but you're going to have an opportunity to win a championship," Jeter said. "For us, going to the World Series is not enough ... winning it [is]."
The upstart Royals led by Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar want to break up that party but they'll likely have to settle for hosting the All-Star game in July rather than the playoffs in October.
A more probable scenario is a team from the West will take that third wild card away from the beasts in the East. Texas came a strike from winning the World Series twice against St. Louis last fall and lost, and they are hungry. They bring back a lineup that led the league with a .283 average and added former Twins closer Joe Nathan to the bullpen, freeing up Neftali Feliz to enter the rotation.
The Angels missed the postseason for the second straight season and made a big move to correct that. They shelled out $240 million for Pujols, $77.5 million for Wilson and signed Chris Iannetta at catcher.
"It takes a whole team to win a World Series. It's not just one guy who is going to carry a ballclub. I'm a big believer in that," Pujols said. "Obviously, we know what kind of ballclub we have and our expectations are really high."
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