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Springtime Storylines: Are the Yankees the best team in baseball?

Apr 2, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

Image (1) yankee%20stadium.jpg for post 4012

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The New York Yankees.

The Big Question: Are the Yankees the best team in baseball?

The Yankees won 97 games last year and then they went out and fixed what most people considered to be their biggest problem: lack of starting pitching depth. That, plus the fact that they were six games ahead of the competition, and that the competition didn’t go crazy over the winter, has to make them the favorites this season, right?

I think so. Even with Michael Pineda ailing as the season gets underway, the addition of he and Hiroki Kuroda — and the elimination of A.J. Burnett and what I think will be an improvement in Phil Hughes, no matter where he pitches — makes the Yankees staff extremely formidable. Between what is now a deep rotation and the deadly 1-2 combination of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera in the late innings, there are few if any teams who can match the Yankees’ arms.

And of course the bats are there too. They’re boringly good, of course. What I mean by that is that it’s so expected and ho-hum by now that the Yankees are going to score a lot of runs, that it is hardly remarked upon during spring training. Think about it: how many times  have you heard Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson mentioned in the last month?  Not much. Because there isn’t much to say beyond “they’ll score at least 850 runs even if they have Raul Ibanez in the lineup.” Ho-hum.

Anyway, you can try to make an argument that there is a more complete team than the Yankees right now. And I might entertain said arguments from Rangers fans. But unless father time catches up with five of these guys at once, I think the Yankees get the nod as the top team in the league.

What else is going on?

  • I mentioned Ibanez. That’s brutal stuff, man. He had a bad year last year and has looked awful in spring training. While Andruw Jones mashes lefties just fine, the left-handed part of the Yankees’ DH platoon is going to stink on ice, methinks. Shoulda kept Jorge.
  • Speaking of old dudes from the glory days, Andy Pettitte is back and should be joining the rotation at some point during the season. Again I’ll offer the Pineda health caveat, but it seems to me that people are really underestimating the fact that the Yankees brought in three above average starting pitchers this winter to join what was a 97-win team.
  • There is another potential weakness here, and it’s akin to “half of the DH platoon sucking.”  It’s the lack of a solid lefty in the pen. Boone Logan ain’t exactly vintage Jesse Orosco. Of course, having a great lefty in the pen is not the most important thing on the planet. If that’s one of your biggest problems, you have a decidedly high class set of problems.
  • As mentioned above, one possible weakness here is age. If Jeter, Rivera, A-Rod and maybe, I dunno, Mark Teixeira suddenly went Dale Murphy on us, yes, it could be a horrible season. But people have been saying that about these guys for years. It’s an older team, sure. But their best hitter (Cano) and their best pitcher (Sabathia) are not particularly gray, so it’s more of a storyline/narrative issue than it is serious strategic issue.  One of the veterans could implode and the team would OK. Maybe two could.

So how are they gonna do?

They’re my choice for first place in the east. And I think you’re being a little too cute or optimistic about the Red Sox, Rays or maybe even the Blue Jays if you pick otherwise.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    I might be a trifle biased, Craig, but I do believe you are correct, sir. Season starts in 97 hours.

    • uyf1950 - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      yankeesfanlen – I would hardly consider you biased. In fact If I were asked my opinion I would have to say you are perhaps one of the most open minded, fair posters on this board.

    • Francisco (FC) - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      You guys are just thumbing each other aren’t ya? :D

      • phukyouk - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        I hear thats how Beckett and Bailey got into thier binds…..

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        If your thumbs-up lasts more than four hours, seek the help of a healthcare professional…

      • cur68 - Apr 2, 2012 at 10:42 PM

        I’m not touching anyone’s thumbs. Get Dr. Phil.

    • proudlycanadian - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:06 PM

      The answer to Craig’s question is No!! Pre season favourites usually disappoint .

      • spudchukar - Apr 2, 2012 at 3:25 PM

        I like the French spelling.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Apr 2, 2012 at 9:45 PM

        this coming from a guy who keeps track of ST stats, yikes

  2. yankeesgameday - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    The tigers have the pitching to trump the Yankees hitters and their offense is much improved and seasoned. The Yanks are the second best team in baseball. Front runner status goes to Detroit in my humble opinion.

    • lardin - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      Verlander is the best pitcher on either staff, but if you take the staffs as a whole, give me the Yankees. 7 starters with two all star closers, perhaps three depending on when Ardsma come back, plus Robertson.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:59 PM

        Just beacause Aardsma was an All Star once doesn’t mean he’s worth a damn. He only cracks the pen with an injury or two ahead of him.

    • pilferk - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      The Tigers will have the best record in baseball, IMHO. They’ve got cupcakes in their division to feast on, their inter-league is not tough (Pirates x 2, Reds, Cubs, Rockies and Cards) and they’ve got enough pitching and offense to mask what I suspect is going to be a BAD defense.

      Yankees ARE the best team in baseball, on paper. Better/deeper starting pitching (Verlander not withstanding), better bullpen, slightly worse than Detroit on offense (maybe) based on age and projections, and better defense. The problem is they’ve got a TOUGH division (Sox, Jays and Rays are all pretty good) and their inter-league is not as easy (Nats, Reds, Mets x2, Braves x2)…in general, they’re going to have a tougher schedule.

      Now we’ll see how it all plays out. Injuries could kill either team, quick.

  3. mybrunoblog - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Let’s leave the “best team in baseball” talk until after the WS concludes in October.
    That being said Yankees are probably the strongest team in the Al maybe all of MLB but the games are played on the field not on the Internet.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      How do the Tigers have the pitching? They have Verlander and a bunch of back-end types. Fister was a flash in the pan. They don’t have the bullpen or the defense to match the Yanks, and the offense lacks depth. It’s the Yanks and Rangers, with the Angels/Rays/Tigers/Sox dangerous in a short series but inferior overall.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        Whoops, meant to reply to gameday.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Agreed, except for the part about the WS determining the best team in baseball. I’d take games over a 162 season than a 7 game sample.

      • spudchukar - Apr 2, 2012 at 3:29 PM

        Again, I have to correct you Church. The best team in baseball is the team that wears the ring. The most talented teams often watch. The defining difference, and I will argue this point all the way to my grave is, the team that wins is the team that plays the best. That is decidedly different than being the most talented team. And it is why they play the games.

      • rooney24 - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:02 PM

        The best of 162 games and the WS winner are two different things. Due to so many off days for travel in the playoffs, teams with depth but fewer stars (thinking Twins from early 2000’s) can compete in the regular season, but teams that can afford the stars are often better come playoff time. At least that is why I like to think the Twins got knocked out by they Yankees in what “felt like” 47 straight seasons.

        Someone has to be best on paper, and I would give it to the Yankees, as they have star power and now even more depth (especially in starting pitching). Most teams can have good hitters in the top 4-5 spots in the lineup, but if you want to split hairs, look at the hitters in the 6-9 spots (6-8 in the NL). The Yankees certainly compare favorably to most teams. That is the spot where Detroit lacks slightly in comparison (in my opinion).

  4. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    No. Next question, please.

  5. sportsfan8888 - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Best teams in the AL are:

    1)Tigers

    2) Rangers

    3) Angels

    Yankees may not even be the best team in their division.
    NYY will get a serious argument from the Red Sox and Rays to even win the AL East

    • phukyouk - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I get it…. you were making a joke. Thumbs up for the laugh.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      If the game were all about fitting the most 1B/DH types on the field at the same time, then the Tigers, Angels and Rangers should be considered heavy favorites. If we are still talking about playing actual baseball, however, it is tough to make a case against the Yankees.

      Colby Lewis is pitching the Ranger’s opener, right?

    • damnyankee13 - Apr 2, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      The Yankees owned the rangers last year as Detroit owned us. The Angels arent as good as they once were, CJ Wilson? ROFLMAO. he had his 15 mins in the sun, all downhill from there. Weaver is good, but ya need more.Fielder will help the O but ya need more. Is there more?

      This is a new year. . The errors that Detroit will make will not help their chances.we might get an argument from the Rays, but not Boston. they out of it.

  6. sportsdrenched.com - Apr 2, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Isn’t being a Yankee fan like going 160-2 on MLB The Show on Rookie level? Or rooting for Exxon Mobile? Don’t you ever get bored and feel the need to root for another team?

    • Kevin S. - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Nope. My other teams are the Nets and the Dolphins. Trust me, it’s way more fun rooting for a winner.

      • rooney24 - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:06 PM

        Kevin S. gets a thumbs up for not being a front runner fan. If your other teams had been the Patriots and the Heat, I may have considered you one of those fans that just jumps to the good team at the time. But, you obviously follow a team because you follow them, not just because they are hot now. I can’t even rip you on being a Yankees fan (well, not more than every non-Yankee fan is obligated to rip any other Yankees fan anyway).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:21 PM

        Devils and Jets fan as well. Hated the Rangers growing up, and when I was younger it seemed like Brodeur and the Devils were constantly beating the Rangers, so Devils fan. And my dad gave me the curse of being a Jets fan…

      • ditto65 - Apr 2, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        Been a Browns fan since I was a Yankees fan, circa 1975. The only two sports teams I ever liked. I should not have to change teams just because you don’t like them.

    • bobdira - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      I think being a Yankee fan has two characteristics. First rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the IRS, not Exxon Mobile. The Yankees are like that Black hole of baseball, all money eventually finds it way there and the players follow. Second, I believe most Yankee fans live outside NY and have the characteristic of being lost souls who have found a “hero” in the fact that the IRS, I mean the Yankees play with an advantage over other teams. An advantage that the lost souls only wish they could enjoy.

      But, when the rest of us get one over on the IRS it makes the victory all the sweeter and the wailing and gnashing of teeth all the more enjoyable.

      • ezthinking - Apr 2, 2012 at 5:42 PM

        Bitching about people being a Yankees fan (I’m a Rockies fan) typically involves bitching about the last 15-20 years. Do realize there are Yankees fans who grew up or endured 1966-1975 or 1982-93. So rooting for the Yankees is not like rooting for the IRS, rooting for Tampa Bay is.

        They are purely league subsidized while the owners realize a gigantic profit when they decide to sell the team. My guess it will occur right about the time the team move to a new facility. I think 2020 is when their deal with the Trop expires. Depending on how well the Marlins do, the team should be worth about $1 billion with the farm system and a new partially public-funded stadium coming online.

      • basedrum777 - Apr 4, 2012 at 10:51 PM

        What i don’t understand about this comment is just one thing: in every other sports example fans like me (and others) bitch that the owners don’t care whether they win and never take our money from tickets/gear and put it back into the team. The Yankees are the prime example of doing just that. Now I’m sure there are other examples of teams who do this as well but let me ask you this: the two richest owners in the MLB are the owner of the National and the Mariners. Why don’t you bitch about them NOT putting more money into their team so that they can compete ever year? Some of us lived through the 1980’s and know about having a team that didn’t compete. You like to bitch because its easier than to get mad at the owner of your team for being too cheap to invest into their team.

    • pilferk - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      Nope. I’ve been a Yanks fan since around 1980, when my dad took me to my first game (I was 6). 1980 – 1995 were not exactly bell weather years for the Yanks, in case people have forgotten.

      Not everyone is 20 years old and only remembers the Yanks post-1996.

  7. sdelmonte - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    I look at the Yanks and see a lot of great players getting old. I see an injury-prone A-Rod and a steadily declining Tex and a Jeter who still brings everything with him but whose contributions are not what they were. I see a rotation that is better but that has question marks in Kuroda moving to the AL and Hughes and Pineda and Pettitte. And I see a Rays team that isn’t the least bit scared of the Yankees, and a Rangers team that went to the Series two years running, and a Tigers team that already beat the Yanks in the playoffs.

    I don’t think the Yanks are clearly the best team in the league (by which we mean baseball – sorry, Cards and Phils). I think the Rays have a slightly better rotation (and better manager than anyone, which is only worth a couple of wins, but that’s better than anyone else will do). I think the Tigers have the most potent bats for now. And I see the Rangers as the most complete team.

    Which isn’t to say that the Yanks can’t win the whole thing. Because I don’t see them possibly missing the playoffs. But I remain a doubter.

    They will, however, lap the Red Sox. Badly.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 2, 2012 at 2:24 PM

      great players getting old

      Age by position:
      C – 29
      1b – 32
      2b – 29
      SS – 38
      3b – 36
      LF – 28
      CF – 31
      RF – 31

      SS/3b they are old, but rumors of the rest of the team’s demise is greatly exaggerated.

      • rooney24 - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

        Agree with church on this one. They may be “getting” older, but aren’t in imminent danger of falling apart, unless they stick with the same guys over the next few years without developing (or signing) younger guys. Although, some of their bench guys are older (Jones, Ibanez), so could suffer slightly if they have any long term injuries to starters.

  8. umrguy42 - Apr 2, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Sorry for the off-topic (slightly), but is there any rhyme or reason to the ordering of the teams for how these are posted?

    • spudchukar - Apr 2, 2012 at 3:30 PM

      Does not appear to be so. I was wondering the same, but I cannot see any pattern.

      • ditto65 - Apr 3, 2012 at 7:50 AM

        The lack of pattern is the pattern.

  9. randygnyc - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Yes, yes they are.

  10. cackalackyank - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Well, I like the idea put forth here, just as I am sure Red Sox and Phillies fans everywhere revelled in the glory of their teams preseason annointment as the teams to beat last year……and we all know how that worked out, don’t we? I do agree that the Yankees certainly have the tools on paper to go all the way, but as many have already said the games aren’t played on paper. (All you stat lovers get ready for my next comment so you can dispute it by the numbers..lol) I really think the issue with the Yankees the last 2 seasons, and I know some folks are going to laugh because of the gaudy runs scored numbers, is NOT pitching. It is CLUTCH hitting. Believe it or not I feel that Swisher and Tex and even Jeter leave too many guys in scoring position. I am sure I am exagerating but it seems to me there are a lot of occaisons where the story is something like this: Tues. NYY 12 runs, 8 hits, 4 wallks OP 3 runs =W; Wed. NYY 1 run, 9 hits, 4 walks OP 3 runs =L. Just feel you can’t count chickens before they are hatched…just sayin.

  11. dallasstars9 - Apr 2, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    When you consistently have the highest payroll in baseball, it’s nice to think you have the best team in baseball. But like years of past the same continues today so in short, the answer is NO! Go Halos!!

  12. charlutes - Apr 2, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    “They’re my choice for first place in the east. And I think you’re being a little too cute or optimistic about the Red Sox, Rays or maybe even the Blue Jays if you pick otherwise.”

    I honestly think all 3 of those teams are better than the Yankees.

    The Rays have a vastly superior rotation, its not close IMO, and they can hit.

    The Red Sox also have a better rotation, and they are loaded offensively too. They are the best all around team in the AL East.

    The Jays can match power hitters with any team in baseball. It’s true that the Yankees are better overall right this second, but they Yankees are an injury to a pitcher away from being a worse pitching team than the Jays, who now have a solid pen to go with a talented, young pitching staff. I’d much rather be heading in the Jays direction for the next few years than the Yankees. Money doesn’t always buy chips.

    I think the Yankees miss the playoffs this year because Kuroda and Pineda don’t end up helping them much.

    Rays win the world series. Price grabs the CY young. Jays win awesomest team in history award.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 2, 2012 at 6:04 PM

      The Yankees’ seventh starter is better than the Red Sox 4th starter. You might want to check your evals.

    • cur68 - Apr 2, 2012 at 10:48 PM

      Love the optimism man, and I hope you’re right. I’ve awarded you my first ‘thumb click’ in about a month. Its an ‘up’ too. Beaver Power.

  13. crackersnap - Apr 2, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    If the Yankees truly were the best team in baseball for 2012, the Commissioner’s office – headquartered in New York, curiously enough – would not have needed to press the 2nd Wild Card playoff slot into this season in order to increase the odds for the Yankees making the playoffs and contributing to the FOX/ESPN TV revenue streams.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 2, 2012 at 7:43 PM

      Since the WC was implemented, the Yanks have missed the playoffs what, once? Yeah, they definitely needed the commissioners help getting back.

      • crackersnap - Apr 2, 2012 at 7:47 PM

        sar-chasm

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 2, 2012 at 9:02 PM

        Apologies, reading far too many stories that have the Yanks 3rd or 4th that I i think I’m losing my mind. Can’t wait to see who is this year’s version of Jeff Pearlmann.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 2, 2012 at 9:20 PM

        My money’s on Jeff Pearlman.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 3, 2012 at 8:11 AM

        I’ll go with Keith Olbermann* who predicted a TB > Tor > NYY > Bos > Balt finish, which per Colin Wyers at BPro happened in only 0.12% of their simulated seasons.

        Doubt he’ll pull a Pearlmann though and change it:

        http://keitholbermann.mlblogs.com/2012/03/30/2012-previews-a-l-east/

      • basedrum777 - Apr 4, 2012 at 10:56 PM

        And that is why Keith no longer broadcasts sports…

    • pilferk - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Change that first line, replacing “Yankees” with “Red Sox”…and you’d likely be more on point.
      The Sox have made use of the wild card more often than any other team in baseball (7 times), since it’s inception.
      They’ve missed the playoffs 2 years running (and haven’t won a playoff game since 2008). In BOTH those years, they would have been the second wild card in the AL.

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