When the final out is recorded in today's Angels game in Seattle, it will mark the finish of the American League West being comprised of four teams. This has been the way the American League has been aligned for nineteen seasons. The Houston Astros will be switching leagues and balancing out the American League West as a five-team division beginning in 2013.
Not counting the lockout season of 1994 where Texas finished ahead of every other team in mid-August despite a sub-.500 record, the number of division titles won by the four teams have been disbursed in a surprisingly even manner:
4 Wild Card spots (including Texas today), were won by AL West teams during its "Four Team Era".
3 American League Pennants and 1 World Series title were claimed by AL West teams during this era.
Nineteen years is a long time, and yet it is a short time, too. It can be encapsulated in four rows of single digits if need be. And yet nineteen years can be a whole lifetime to some people. And others reading this haven't even lived this long, it has always been this way, it is the reality they know.
I personally do not recall the era where there was no league championship series. That was changed in the fall of 1969. And so for 25 seasons winning your division met playing in the League Championship Series. At one point this LCS was a best of five! The Angels lost in Game Four in 1979 and Game 5 in 1982. Then, when winning three was not quite there we were up three games to one and lost three straight in the 1986 ALCS. But the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox and the Minneosta Twins were considered "the west". The NL East had the Chicago Cubs and the AL West had the White Sox, go figure.
As an anomalous era ends, maybe it makes us all think about how quickly time flies, how the heroes of our youth are retired old men and what does that make us? Maybe it just makes us wiser to the world, having this prism through which we measure the lost summer nights and entire decades in the same instant.