Wednesday, March 31, 2010

All systems go for Yankees repeat quest

Can you really call it a prediction if the New York Yankees are picked to repeat as division leaders and eventual World Series champs? It doesn't seem like much of a prediction, but it's pretty accurate.

Several previews rank the Yankees #1 in baseball, followed by the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays (not always in that order). Why? A strong lineup with fewer question marks than most teams, namely will Curtis Granderson be able to hit lefties and can Robinson Cano really protect Alex Rodriguez. A good starting pitcher staff, led by CC Sabathia. And of course the man who puts the Yankees over the top by miles: Mariano Rivera.

Given that three of the top four teams in baseball are in one division, one could argue that the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays could beat each other up enough to allow another division champ or wild card team to beat them in the playoffs. The Phillies with Roy "Doc" Halladay would worry me in the World Series (although I would have been more worried if they kept Cliff Lee, pre-spring training injuries). But no other team has the talent and depth of the American League East three-headed monster.

The previews are pretty consistent in the one thing they believe can disrupt the Yanks quest to repeat: injuries. Mark Teixeira's sore elbow gave the team a brief scare, but a devastating blow would really be an injury to one of these three Core Four members: Rivera, Derek Jeter or Jorge Posada. I think they have enough starting pitching depth to survive a moderate injury to Andy Pettitte (although they would need him back for the playoffs), but a major injury to one of the other three would put the team's repeat quest in serious jeopardy.

Barring that, I'm confident that the Yankees will fulfill all expectations to win another title. Only four more days to go, folks.

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