Is this season locked up, or is it too early to tell?
Just in time for the start of spring training, it’s time to make quick judgments and hasty generalizations about how the 2009 baseball season will shape up. We start with an American League preview, giving you just enough baseball fodder to sound smart around the water cooler. Of course, the beauty of a subjective preview is that it gives way to disagreement, so voice your own opinion by commenting below.
A National League preview is on its way tomorrow.
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry will live up to the hype this year after big offseason signings by both teams and a disastrous scandal for New York. The Yankees add slugger Mark Teixeira and amp up their rotation with A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia, causing many to beg for a salary cap. But if the Yankees aren’t careful, A-Rod’s steroid admissions could become a bigger story than their big-name roster. The Red Sox add pitchers Takashi Saito, Brad Penny and John Smoltz and seem to be drama-free entering the season; bringing back a healthy David Ortiz and Mike Lowell doesn’t hurt, either. The third-wheel Tampa Bay Rays lost Rocco Baldelli to Boston but also have added Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce, both useful acquisitions. Still, their young superstars need to have another stellar season to pull off the sophomore Cinderella story. Oh, by the way, there’s two other teams in this division. The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are playing t-ball compared to the AL East love triangle.
1. Red Sox
4. Blue Jays
The mediocre AL Central consists of five teams that made little improvement during the offseason. The White Sox are getting old and everyone is tired of manager Ozzie Guillen’s antics, resulting in low expectations for a team whose daily clubhouse fodder typically resembles an episode of Desperate Housewives. The Kansas City Royals put up a good fight last year, but they lack stability and it’s still too soon to put them above the .500 mark. The unpredictable Detroit Tigers, a huge World Series favorite during last year’s preseason, had the opportunity for success but blew their chances during what could only be called an epic meltdown. They are the epitome of “good in theory, bad in practice” with impressive names on their roster, but don’t call it a comeback just yet. The Cleveland Indians struggled after losing Sabathia last season, but this year should fare better for the Tribe; if the individual play of Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Fausto Carmona are any indication of what’s to come, they’ve got a shot. But the Minnesota Twins should end up taking this one; even though they lost some big names to teams out east, they retained Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Francisco Liriano, all key components of their formula. Still, it’s a “best of the worst” scenario; none of these teams would have a chance in another division.
3. White Sox
The Angels have little competition in the four-team division, even after losing Teixiera and Francisco Rodriguez during the offseason. The only team close to catching them is the Oakland A’s, who smartly added Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi, but their rotation needs a huge boost before it can catch up to the likes of high-caliber teams. Despite signing houshold name Ken Griffey Jr., the Mariners are destined to stay stuck in a last-place rut “" but at least they haven’t skipped town like Seattle’s NBA franchise. The dark horse Texas Rangers could potentially become an offensive powerhouse, but who can name a decent pitcher in their rotation OR their bullpen? Give this one to Los Angeles and call it a day.