Via Jayson Stark -
Most Intriguing American League Spring Stories
1. Yanks For The Memories: Every spring is a soap opera in Yankee Land. So why should this spring be any exception? Will Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera perform their standard miraculous healing act? Will a proven catcher (not counting Yogi Berra) stop by one of these days? Will the Yankees figure out a way to replace those 101 home runs that just vanished off the roster over the winter? Will Robinson Cano’s walk year before free agency erupt into crisis-hood? And will the artist formerly known as A-Rod appear in this camp at any point? That’s about 1/87th of the plotlines hovering over Steinbrenner Field this spring. But again, what else is new?
Most Unimproved American League Teams
1. Houston Astros
2. New York Yankees
Nothing amazed us more during this entire survey than the votes flowing out of this precinct. We expected the Astros to swamp the most unimproved competition. Instead, it was stunningly close: The Astros showed up on 11 ballots, to the Yankees’ nine. So what’s up with that? We’ll tell you what’s up with that. The Yankees might wind up winning 40 more games than the Astros. But the Astros were already a 107-loss team, and their 2013 record is almost irrelevant in the context of their long-term (make that REALLY long-term) blueprint. The Yankees, on the other hand, are an outfit that has led us to believe the only acceptable outcome of any season involves confetti and massive champagne spritzing. So to see this team jettison its emergency closer (Rafael Soriano), its catcher (Russell Martin), its right fielder (Nick Swisher) and its latest, greatest Mr. October action figure (Raul Ibanez), among others, while adding only Kevin Youkilis and a bunch of low-budget free-agent lottery tickets (Travis Hafner, Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, etc.) was apparently staggering to many of our voters. One described the Yankees as “the most unimproved good team.” Another asked, though not entirely seriously: “Is someone going to pick the Yankees last? I know that’s unlikely. But one of these years, all the age on that team is going to hit them. Right? Doesn’t it have to?” Yeah, we guess so. But we still didn’t see this vote coming. Did you?
The more I think about the Yankees chances this season, the more it keeps going back to their starting pitching. And, then I think about that, I think about Sabathia’s mileage and injury last year, Pettitte’s age, and Kuroda no longer being new to the league. Oh, that and the fact that you have no idea if Phil Hughes is going to be solid this season or who will be their fifth starter. Pondering all that, I don’t know how anyone can feel confident about the Yankees chances in 2013. Yes, they will not lose more than 81 games. But, will they win more than 85?