Jump on the bandwagon: Yanks in '03
I love opening day. Every team still has a chance, including my beloved Colorado Rockies. The lowly Marlins, the woeful Brewers, the inept Devil Rays, and the overpaid Rangers all have a shot at winning sport's most historic championship: the World Series. Even the cursed Red Sox and their faithful fans believe that this is their year.
Each of those teams, however, will be sorely disappointed when the New York Yankees claim their thirty-ninth American League Pennant and twenty-seventh World Series championship. How could I pick any other team in the face of those astronomical statistics?
No other team in Major League Baseball has even reached double-figures in titles won. The St. Louis Cardinals are the closest with nine, while a host of other teams are sitting on five-including the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately for Bostonians, the team's last title came in 1918. An 85-year drought has ensued. In the meantime, New York kept on winning.
Of the 98 World Series played in MLB history, the Yankees have won 26. In other words, the odds are historically set at 3:1 in New York's favor. I would be an absolute moron to choose any other team.
Plus, the timing is absolutely perfect. In 1903, the Red Sox and Pirates battled in the very first championship series. The 2003 World Series will mark baseball's 100-year anniversary. It is only fitting that the most blessed and storied franchise of the century runs away with the title in the centennial year.
In addition to having history on their side, the Yankees are the best team in Major League Baseball-again. Let's start with their star-studded pitching staff: Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens, all-stars Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, and perfect-gamer David Wells round out the first four spots in the rotation. The only question mark is Jeff Weaver, who spent the early part of his career pitching for the perennial loser Detroit Tigers.
If Weaver is to falter, Jose Contreras, a 31-year-old "rookie" from Cuba equipped with an arsenal of nasty pitches, and reliable journeyman Sterling Hitchcock will step in to shore up the number-five spot of the rotation. Catching for the best starting five in Major League Baseball is Jorge Posada, an all-star catcher who has averaged 23 homers and 99 RBIs per 162 games during his career.
If having the best pitching staff is not enough, the Yankees also boast the game's best infield-offensively, at the very least least. In his debut season last year, first baseman Jason Giambi knocked in 122 runs and hit 41 homers. Next to Giambi, Derek Jeter (the best clutch player in baseball) and Alfonso Soriano (the game's most complete player) patrol the middle of the infield.
After putting up 39 homeruns, 102 RBIs, and .300 average in addition to stealing 41 bases and playing Gold Glove defense, Soriano will be out to prove that MVP voters over-looked him in 2002. Alongside Soriano, veterans Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile will platoon at third.
Frighteningly, the Yankees outfield is its weakest link. Former all-star Bernie Williams is good for 25 homers, 100 RBIs, and solid .330 average. Flanking the center fielder will be the erratic but talented Raul Mondesi and Japanese import Hideki Matsui.
Despite hitting only .232 in 2002, Mondesi drove in 88 runs and smacked 26 homers-not bad for the lineup's worst hitter. Additionally, Mondesi's strong arm from right field intimidates opposing runners.
In left field and hitting clean-up will be the 28-year-old Matsui, who spent his first ten professional seasons in Japan. During those years, he totaled 332 homeruns and 889 RBIs while posting a rock solid .304 batting average. Based on Ichiro Suzuki's success, there is no reason to doubt that Matsui will excel in the bigs. Look for him to challenge Giambi for the Yankees' homerun lead in 2003.
Without Contreras, Matsui, and Hitchcock, the Yankees finished the 2002 regular season with 103 wins but uncharacteristically suffered an early postseason exit. In 2003, the Yankees will win a minimum 110 ballgames during the regular season. In the era of expansion and deluded talent, the Yankees have broken all the rules.
With the exception of right field and third base, the Yanks have all-star quality starters at every position on the field. If the Yankees do not win the 2003 World Series, it will be the biggest flop in baseball history. With significant run production from every spot in the batting order, the Yankees will simply dominate pro baseball.
Enjoy your spring training fantasies and Mike Piazza's immature escapades while you can. After all, there will only be one story next fall -the Yankees' absolute mastery of baseball. I use to hold a grudge against George Steinbrenner and his never-ending cash flow, but now I'm a true bandwagon fan of America's most dominant franchise.
How good is this year's squad? If the Yankees were to play the N.L. or A.L. All Star squads, they would win a seven game series. The Angels, Mariners, Athletics, Cardinals, and every other powerhouse are playing for second place before the season even starts. Steinbrenner ruined my opening day fantasies, but I don't care-I'm rooting for one of the most talented Yankee squads of all time.