Done deal: Clemens makes Yanks champ

May 8, 2007 4:25 AM

It’s over.

Call in the jewelers and begin engraving the trophy. A lifetime of frustration and disappointment is about to end for those fans age 6 and younger, who are about to witness their first World Series Championship for the New York Yankees.

Although the Yanks have made the playoffs every season since 1995, success in the Bronx is measured not by such appearances but by World Series titles. The Yanks haven’t won a World Series since their 2000 conquest of the cross town rival Mets.

Roger Clemens has signed on and expected to make approximately 20 regular season starts for the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees start this week a game below .500 after winning 5-of-6. The league’s most powerful offense has been beset by pitching woes from the start of the season. Part of their problem has been an unusually large number of injuries.

Part of the problem has also been a lack of depth. With rookie Matt DeSalvo starting Monday’s series finale against Seattle, the Yanks will have had 10 different pitchers start games through the season’s first five weeks.

The ineffectiveness of the starting rotation has placed a great burden on the bullpen. The toll may not be completely evident until late summer when several mediocre arms are asked to exceed their limit of innings pitched. Still, the addition of Clemens does strengthen the rotation and gives New York a psychological lift as they battle Boston for the AL East title. Clemens’ debut could come in a series at Boston in early June.

While the Clemens signing has been the biggest off the field news, the major on field news involves the rebirth of Milwaukee. The Brewers begin the week with the best record in baseball, 21-10. Though not excelling in any one single phase, the Brewers have a solid lineup and have gotten strong pitching. Based on early returns, the NL Central appears to be baseball’s weakest division along with the AL East.

Very quietly, Chicago’s Cubs have turned things around and are the other NL Central team above .500. Lou Piniella won’t any Manager of the Year awards at 15-14, but considering the Cubs were written off as contenders in mid April their recent 8-2 run illustrates that baseball is streaks and cycles.

Kansas City and Washington, with baseball’s poorest records, will show signs of life at some point and win 4, 5 or six games in a row to give their few fans a false sense of optimism. The Royals’ much ballyhooed off season signing of starter Gil Meche provided an ”˜ace.’ KC is a good bet as a nice sized underdogs in his starts, at least in the short term.

Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.

Brewers at Mets: At 21-10, Milwaukee has baseball’s best record. The Mets are right behind at 19-11. The Mets have gotten solid starts from Tom Glavine, John Maine and enigmatic lefty Oliver Perez. Their potent lineup has been held in check at times by good opposing starters. Milwaukee should be dogs throughout this series marked by low scoring games when capable starting pitchers are involved.

PLAYS: Milwaukee +150 or more, Mets -125 or less. UNDER 9 or higher if Glavine, Maine or Perez oppose Milwaukee’s Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan or Claudio Vargas.

Reds at Dodgers: Both expected to contend for the post season. The Dodgers lead the tightly bunched NL West at 18-13. The Reds three games below .500, but are getting better than expected starting pitching. The offense has been inconsistent. LA has received average pitching, but the offense has come through in key spots. Pitchers Brad Penny and big lefty Mark Hendrickson are off to fine starts.

PLAYS: Cincinnati as dogs in starts by Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Kyle Lohse or Mark Belisle. Dodgers -150 or less against Eric Milton. UNDER 8 or higher if Penny faces Harang or Arroyo. OVER 8 or lower if Milton starts.

Tigers at Twins: The AL Central is developing into a four team race. Detroit has the deepest starting rotation, but an average lineup at best. Minnesota’s pitching has been better than expected, although Johan Santana has yet to regain his dominant form. The offense has been a bit inconsistent. Both have proven closers that figure to be involved.

PLAYS: Either team at +140 or more. UNDER 9 or higher in pitching matchups other than Detroit’s Mike Maroth or Minnesota’s Sidney Ponson. OVER 10 or lower if Maroth or Ponson start except if Maroth opposes Santana.

Indians at A’s: Cleveland leads the AL Central, while Oakland is a game behind the Angels in the West. The Tribe are offensively driven. Oakland relies on pitching. Cleveland has gotten decent starts from both CC Sabathia and young Fausto Carmona. Oakland’s ace Danny Haren leads a solid rotation with no starters owning a WHIP higher than 1.29. A Cleveland win favors OVER, while an Oakland win favors UNDER.

PLAYS: Oakland -150 or less in starts by Haren or right-hander Joe Blanton. Cleveland as underdogs in any start by left-hander Sabathia except when opposing Haren or Blanton. Cleveland at +125 or higher facing anyone besides Haren/Blanton. UNDER 9 or higher if Sabathia has to face either Haren or Blanton.