2010 MLB Preview: AL East

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

First up is the AL East.

1. New York Yankees (1)
If you think I would get cute in these rankings and suggest that some upstart team would derail the Yankees this season, then you sir, are sadly mistaken. I just don’t have the conjones to bet against them, especially after they added Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson to their already stacked roster. Sure they lost World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, the latter of which loved to work the count and provided the Yanks with some pop over the last couple of seasons. But thanks to Granderson, Johnson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada, the lineup is still stacked from top to bottom. Vazquez, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mariano Rivera will once again highlight a strong pitching staff and assuming they don’t suffer any major injuries, there’s nothing to suggest that the Bombers won’t make another championship run. That said, let’s not be oblivious to the potential problems that could arise for the Yanks this season. Age is a factor, as is the fact that Granderson can’t hit lefties and will be under the spotlight as the club’s biggest offseason acquisition. Plus, for as good as Vazquez was over the past couple of years, he was a disaster the last time he wore pinstripes (Boston fans remember this well.) Should the Yankees win another World Series? Yeah – especially considering they have the best-purchased roster in baseball. But just like last year, they still have to prove it between the lines and they’re not immune to hurdles getting in their way.

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2009 MLB Preview: #2 Boston Red Sox

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Offseason Movement: The Red Sox made a slew of moves this offseason, including signing free agent starters John Smoltz and Brad Penny, as well as adding outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Brad Wilkerson. Boston also added pitchers Takashi Saito, Junichi Tazawa, Billy Traber, Ramon Ramirez, Miguel Gonzalez and Randor Bierd.

Top Prospect: Lars Anderson, 1B
Anderson was considered a top talent in 2006, but slipped to the 18th round of the 2006 MLB Draft because teams were worried about whether or not they could sign him. The lefty first basemen can hit for average and power, and has an excellent feel for the strike zone. He was named Minor League Offensive Player of the Year for the Red Sox in 2008 after clubbing 18 home runs and driving in 80 runs while hitting over .300. After spending most of the year in Single-A, Anderson has a while to go before he makes his MLB debut – especially considering the Red Sox are never out of contention these days. But he’ll be a name to keep an eye on down the road.

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Rays to face Phillies in 2008 World Series

Matt GarzaWith their 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to the World Series for the first time in the history of their franchise.

There was no choke from the bullpen this time as reliever David Price struck out J.D. Drew with the bases loaded to end the top of the eighth, then (after putting the first guy on) retired the BoSox in the ninth. Starter Matt Garza was amazing for Tampa, limiting Boston to just one run on two hits. It was the second time he baffled the Red Sox this series, holding them to just two runs in 13 innings.

I’ll take full credit/blame for Tampa Bay’s victory. I wrote after Boston’s Game 6 victory that the Red Sox were a virtual lock to head to the World Series. As I wrote in that post, I wasn’t necessarily rooting against the Red Sox, but I appreciate how the Rays built their team over the year. They’ve done it with youth and through their farm system and they should be commended for doing so in a league that sometimes rewards teams for being able to spend the most money.

A Tampa-Philadelphia World Series certainly isn’t the most glamorous matchup the postseason could have produced (and it’s no doubt killing the TV networks), but the Rays were the story of the year and it’ll be exciting to see if they can cap this amazing season off by winning a championship.

Rays winning despite not having large payroll

With their 13-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the ALCS, the Tampa Bay Rays are sitting just one win away from heading to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. And as John Romano of The St. Petersburg Times writes, the Rays are beating a team with a much larger payroll, and more resources at their disposal.

Tampa Bay RaysFor, in Tampa Bay, this season is beginning to look like sweet payback after all the years of ridicule. This series is quickly turning into validation after putting up with a lifetime of smug and an earful of snide comments.

The Rays are not just a hot team. And they are not a fluke. What they appear to be is deeper and more well-rounded than Boston. That’s remarkable considering the disparity in resources.

When the Red Sox decided to invest in a Japanese player in 2007, they spent $103-million on Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Rays spent about $12-million on Aki Iwamura.

When the Red Sox went looking for a bat in the free agent market in ’07, they signed J.D. Drew to a $70-million contract. That same winter, the Rays spent $800,000 on Red Sox castoff Carlos Pena.
When they needed help this summer, the Red Sox brought in Jason Bay, Mark Kotsay and Paul Byrd in various deals. The Rays acquired Chad Bradford.

So if Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is a genius with a $137-million payroll, what does that make Friedman and his $43-million allowance?

In other words, if the Red Sox lose, they will have no excuses.

Just the knowledge that they were beaten by a team that appears intent on making history.

The Rays follow the 2007 Rockies as examples of how payroll means noting in the postseason. And apparently experience is starting to mean less and less too, because this is one of the youngest rosters in the league. It’s amazing to watch this series and note that the Red Sox appear to be no match for the Rays. Think about that for a second. The mighty Red Sox, can’t handle a Rays team that many predicted to finish last in the AL East for the whatever-straight year. Amazing.

Red Sox own Angels in postseason Vol. II

As Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe writes, if it’s Red Sox-Angels in the postseason, the BoSox are going to win.

The Angels lost to their Boston Daddies at home again last night. This time it was Red Sox 7, Halos 5, in what was easily the best game of the postseason anywhere yet this year. J.D. Drew won it for the Sox with a ninth-inning, two-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez while most of New England slept (the game ended at 1:28 a.m. EDT).

The best-of-five series moves to Fenway tomorrow, and the Sox should be drenched in champagne well before midnight. There might even be a closer with a cardboard box on his head step-dancing on the Fenway lawn. Make sure the bases are bolted down.

Regarding Red Sox vs. Angels, we have moved well past the arena of standard athletic competition. We have wandered into Rod Serling’s space “between the pit of a man’s fear and the summit of his knowledge.”

Hmm. Boston columnist used to write about how the Red Sox would blow games, even if things were going the team’s way. Now they’re writing about how wins are already a given. How the times have changed.

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