The New York Yankees are Still the Beast in the Weak AL East

By Nik Swartz
Derek Jeter Robinson Cano Mark Teixeira
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In a recent Grapefruit League game, New York Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling told co-host Suzyn Waldman “Ya know, Suzyn you just can’t predict baseball.” What Sterling said needs to be on the minds of all the Yankees as they fight through what has been a tough start to the season, otherwise they may find themselves somewhere they have not been in a long time — the cellar.

Many have been working on the 2013 Yankees obituary even before the sudden rash of bad luck, but the fact is the Yankees can still be a threat in a very winnable AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays‘ spending spree doesn’t mean anything right now, other than they have a higher payroll.

Any team that has Derek Jeter as their leader has a chance, and the good thing about the Yankees is that it does not end with Jeter. As many times as the media has wanted to write off the Yankees as being old and this being the year the run comes to an end, the team still boasts a very impressive roster.

Even without stars Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees still have many weapons in the arsenal. Also, those guys will be back — well at the very least, Granderson will be.

The AL East isn’t as powerful as it once was. There isn’t one team that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. This helps the Yankees this season as they will need time to not only get healthy, but also to get used to playing together.

The Yankees are led by Jeter, but powered by Robinson Cano. If anyone missed the show Cano put on during the World Baseball Classic, he led the Dominican Republic to the WBC Championship, hit a staggering .469/.514/.781 with four doubles and two homers, setting a WBC record with 15 hits.

Cano also snagged a few individual awards – the Pool C MVP for the first round, Pool 2 MVP for the second round and he capped it off with an overall WBC MVP.

It would be hard to argue that there is a better middle infield in all of baseball than Jeter and Cano, who is also in a contract year and already seems ready to show his worth, which may hurt the Yankees in the long run, but can only help this season.

Throughout Spring Training, everything about the Yankees has been negative and it seems the fans and media following MLB have forgotten how many Yankees stars are left. This season, the Yankees pitching staff will decide the fate of the team. Having a horse like CC Sabathia leading the way with future Hall of Fame pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera strengthens the Yankees chances in this season.

Having All-Stars like Cano and Jeter would give any team a chance, but the stars don’t stop shinning there. The Yankees have one of the most durable pitchers to ever come from Japan — Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees will rely on the pitching staff more than ever this year, and having one of the most reliable pitchers in the baseball only increases the Yankees chances at another division title.

Pitching leading the way is not something fans are used to from the Bronx Bombers, but the team will need to win games 3-1 or 4-2 this year, and there will be less home runs; but at the end of the day, a Yankees win is a Yankees win.

Another product of the fine Japanese baseball system, Ichiro Suzuki, is having his best spring ever. Suzuki, along with fellow outfielder Brett Gardner, are doing what great teams do when players go down — stepping-in and stepping-up. That is exactly what Gardner and Suzuki have been doing this spring, which is a very good sign for the Yankees.

Of course, the fans that despise “The Evil Empire” will want to point out the lack of depth, the injuries, the “Who’s on First” routine and the questions at the back-end of the Yankees rotation as reasons to give the Yankees no chance. How can a team with so many stars have no chance?

The Yankees, even without the injured players, have as good a team, top-to-bottom, as any other in the wide-open division.

When the Yankees get healthy, the rest of the league better hope they come out of the gate slow, or they will be the team that runs away with the division.

Nik Swartz is the Featured Columnist for the New York Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @sweetnesz13

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