Seeing the great Derek Jeter saying farewell to baseball after this season is the perfect lead-in to my preseason look at the American League East. I will even throw in the National League East as a bonus.
Runs, Runs and more runs will be the theme of this division. We will give the Red Sox the label of the favorite, but any team can finish first or fifth.
Boston: The defending champions have all the ingredients to make another run to the World Series. The Red Sox have a mixture of experienced players led by David Ortiz and Justin Pedroia and some young rookies led by Xander Bogaerts at shortstop.
They Red Sox were very fortunate to have a season with minimal injuries last year to key players and the question will be if that can be that fortunate this year? It has become very difficult to repeat and have back to back championships but if anyone can do it the Red Sox could be the team barring injuries.
Tampa Bay: Manager Joe Maddon is becoming a legend in baseball lore with his unusual management style. The players respond to his various mixing and matching. The Rays will be a team to challenge the Red Sox.
Led by David Price and Evan Longoria the Rays have all the ingredients including AL rookie of the year Wil Myers.
New York: Jeter starts the season at age 40 and, coming off his worst year, can he be healthy? Mark Teixeira comes off an injury, will he be healthy? Brian Roberts replaces Robinson Cano at second. Jacoby Ellsbury will be the new centerfielde. How many games will he be able to play and will he stay healthy? That is the theme of the Yanks this year.
Carsten “CC” Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and the multi-million dollar man Masahiro Tanaka lead the pitching staff with David Robertson as the new closer. It could come together but we will take a wait and see approach.
Baltimore: Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis make up a lineup that will produce plenty of runs. The problem will be if the Orioles can overcome the pitching staff and how many runs they give up.
In a hitter’s park like Camden Yards you can expect the O’s to be a great OVER bet.
Toronto: The Jays have been a high scoring team over the years and this season will be no exception. Even with Jose Bautista missing the last month of the season the Jays were in the top ten in runs scored. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera join Bautista in the lineup.
Pitching in a hitter’s park will be a challenge again this year. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle lead a staff that needs a good year to have any shot.
This is a two team race!
Atlanta: If the Cards do not repeat as the NL Champions look for the Braves to step up. A solid starting rotation and perhaps the best bullpen in the National League. Led by Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman we look for the Braves to win the NL East.
Washington: It will be great to see if the Nationals can bounce back from a disappointing season. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann lead a solid rotation, a good bullpen and an offense led by Las Vegan Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman will be on the heels of the Braves and most likely a solid wild card this year.
Philadelphia: It’s now or never. Injuries and age are a major factor in the Phillies’ recent slide. Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley spent too much time on the DL for the Phils to mount a serious run last year. The retirement of Doc Halladay leaves the “ace” role in the hands of Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels. Jonathan Papelbon is still the closer.
New York: No miracle this year. The Mets suffered a huge blow when pitcher Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery. Harvey was the starting pitcher in the All Star game and the ace of the staff. Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and newly acquired Bartolo Colon will need to step up. David Wright is still the face of the franchise and is joined in the lineup by Curtis Granderson, a free agent signee from the Yankees. Next week we will start looking for some over and under total wins plays.
Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].