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THE PAYOFF PITCH ...
ALBERT CHEN
March 26, 2012
BEST CASE
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March 26, 2012

The Payoff Pitch ...

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BEST CASE

Arte Moreno's spending is rewarded with a title—and Albert Pujols's seamless transition to the AL, the dominance of the rotation and the emergence of outfielder Mike Trout signal more to come.

WORST CASE

The Angels are all pitch and no hit as age catches up to Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and the rest of the veterans in the lineup. The supporting cast around Pujols falls flat, and Texas's rule over the West continues.

BEST CASE

Yu Darvish lives up to expectations, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz bloom into stars in the rotation, and the juggernaut offense keeps rolling. The Rangers return to the World Series—and this time seal the deal.

WORST CASE

Darvish wilts in the Texas heat. The Feliz-less bullpen struggles. Bad luck hits injury-prone stars Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. The Angels (and the AL East powers) squeeze the two-time league champs out of a playoff spot.

BEST CASE

Oakland hits the jackpot with its two off-season lottery tickets: Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez each hit at least 25 homers. The A's finish over .500 and build momentum for a stadium project in San Jose.

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