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Thursday March 26, 2009 7:54 pm

2009 Season Preview - American League East 2009 Season Preview

Is C.C. Sabathia the New York Yankees' savior?

This American League East season preview will be full of surprises… NOT!  Guess what kids, the New York Yankees spent a ton of money during the offseason, primarily on free agent pitchers C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and hitter of the winter that had every team salivating, Mark Teixeira.  Also, Alex Rodriguez was in the news again for his off-field shenanigans, including kissing himself in the mirror, which I find nothing wrong in doing, but hey, we all can’t be egoists.  In any case, despite spending a boatload of bucks again, the Yankees were actually getting a lot of money off the books and were simply replacing those dollars in other players.  Hopefully, these players pay off as the Yankees have not won a World Series since 2000 and the recent track record of throwing money towards “superstar” players have not gotten the Yanks any rings.  Will it pay off this season?  It better.

The Boston Red Sox were thought to have the inside track on signing Teixeira, but talks broke down last minute and the Yankees came swooping in to sign the slugger.  However, don’t feel too bad for the Bosox as they still have a strong lineup with reigning A.L. MVP Dustin Pedroia, the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury, multi-faceted Jason Bay, breakout revelation Kevin Youkilis, and veteran hitters David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, who are coming back to prove a point.  However, the aspect of the Red Sox that really stands out is their pitching with ace Josh Beckett, wunderkind Daisuke Matsuzaka, the overcoming Jon Lester, consistent Tim Wakefield, and firebrand closer Jonathan Papelbon.  So, don’t worry about them at all as they will be in the fight for the division all year.

How about the defending A.L. East and World Series runners-up, Tampa Bay Rays?  Hear me now and believe me later, last season was not a fluke.  The Rays have always been known for having some great young talent and it always seemed like a matter of time before it blossomed and reaped the rewards of being stocked full of blue-chip prospects, particularly with their pitching.  Scott Kazmir was an import from the New York Mets, but has had his success with the Rays, James Shields has excellent K rates and is basically the Rays’ second ace, Matt Garza was a very solid third pitcher in his first season with the Rays, Andy Sonnanstine should breakout in his third season as he has great peripherals, and, of course, at some point David Price, the prized pitching prospect will come back up from the minors and frustrate batters.  The offense has up-and-coming superstars Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, power-hitting Carlos Pena, and a just needs to stay healthy to produce Carl Crawford.  However, the key to the Rays will be the continued developement of its young pitching staff.  There is no reason why a successful defense of the the division crown can’t happen.  But with the aforementioned acquisitions of the Yanks, will they?

The Toronto Blue Jays have averaged 85 wins the past three seasons and if they were in any other division, they would have been contenders during that time period.  However, in the A.L. East, all you get is a third or fourth place finish with that record and now with the Rays having the talent to keep their winning ways going for years, the Jays are out of luck as far as moving up in the division.  Arguably the Jays best player, Roy Halladay, should continue to rule the plate and do well, but after him, who else can keep Toronto in the game to win on a consistent basis after the departure of A.J. Burnett?  Third-year player Jesse Litsch is a strong possibility, but is he up to the task?  The team has a strong outfielders corp in Vernon Wells who needs to stay healthy, Alex Rios, Adam Lind, and Travis Snider.  The latter two players are young and could give Toronto much needed breakout seasons to help the Jays’ chances to make noise in the division, but there are no guarantees.

Poor Baltimore Orioles, you might say.  Not necessarily.  Yes, they’ve finished in third place only once since 2002, finishing fourth consistently, and last place in 2008, but they do have some nice pieces in place to be a solid ballclub if not a contending one, which they have very little chance of being.  In any case, Aubrey Huff is getting up there in age, but had a nice comeback season last year.  Adam Jones can be a special player if he figures things out, Nick Markakis is one of the best unknown players in the league, Melvin Mora is as consistent as you can get, and most of all, what gives the Orioles’ faithful hope, is catcher and baseball’s best prospect, Matt Wieters.  He’s been called “Joe Mauer with power,” which says a lot about his hitting ability since the Minnesota Twins’ Mauer is a consistent threat to win the batting title.  Other than Jeremy Guthrie there isn’t anything to get excited about pitching-wise for the O’s, which is the main reason they will probably stumble quickly to claim the cellar of the division.

Predicted Order of Finish: 1. New York Yankees, 2. Boston Red Sox, 3. Tampa Bay Rays, 4. Toronto Blue Jays, 5. Baltimore Orioles

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