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April 3, 2005

by Larry Mahnken

It's only a few hours now until the season starts, and I am really, really excited.

There's nothing special about this season, I'm curious about how the imports are going to do, hopeful that Pavano and Wright can be good and that Womack can be not completely putrid. I'm really excited about seeing Randy Johnson in pinstripes, and boy do I hope he makes the Sox look bad tonight.

But what I'm really excited about is just the fact that it's baseball! Baseball that counts! Baseball that people would pay good money to see!

Baseball is always more enjoyable when you have an emotional investment in it. I don't have much emotional investment in anyone other than the Yankees, and it's hard to care that much about a preseason game. And the Yankees Classics on YES always lose something when you know how the game is going to end.

Oh, I'm excited.

I've said this several places, I've made it part of all my picks; I don't think the Yankees are going to win the AL East this season. I think their front line is as good or better than anybody's, but they have absolutely zero depth. There is no position on the field where an injury is not a complete disaster. Kevin Brown may be going on the DL, that means that Tanyon Sturtze is the fifth starter. If Posada goes down, then Flaherty starts; Bernie, Matsui, Sheffield, Giambi or Tino Martinez going down means more ABs for Sierra; if they lose A-Rod, Jeter or Womack, then they're playing Rey Sanchez -- who is actually a downgrade from Womack. Every team of course loses something when someone goes down, but the Yankees lose more than anyone, and by a lot. A few injuries could kill this team, and I think they'll get a few injuries.

I wouldn't have thought that the Yanks would win last year, either, though. I didn't pick them, and had you told me the numbers they would put up, I would have absolutely picked them to finish second. Sometimes the actual games break differently than you'd expect, and they could win out again. I certainly hope they do, but it's important to look back at the last three years, and take note that all you need to do is get in. Four of the last six pennants, and all three World Series' were won by the Wild Card team. And I don't think there's a better team for the postseason than the Yankees.

Unless things go terribly wrong, they'll have two aces, Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina. Carl Pavano might turn out to be good again, and he could be a third ace, or a #2 caliber pitcher. I don't expect much from Brown, maybe Wright will still be good. That's as good, probably better, than what Boston, or any other team will have, and the front end is no-doubt the strongest in baseball. Their lineup is superceded only by St. Louis and Boston, and not by a large margin. The bullpen, if rested enough, is outstanding. That's a killer combo for the playoffs, and I think they can win through no matter who the opponent or the ballpark.

We'll see how things break over the course of the season. But it's finally time to stop speculating about how things will go during the season itself, baseball is finally here!