I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how the American League East will play out this season. At this point in spring training, the only thing I'm convinced of is the mighty Yankees will finish last. Yes, in fifth place and that's saying a lot for a franchise that's been around since 1903.
In their entire illustrious history, the Yanks have only finished in the basement twice -- in 1908 when they finished with a record of 51-103, and in 1966 when they were 10th with a mark of 70-89. Between 1926 and 1964, they never finished below .500. That's 39 years and that's longer than the Blue Jays have been around.
The Yankees are a mere shadow of the team Detroit knocked out of the playoffs last fall. Alex Rodriguez is recovering from hip surgery and is going to miss at least half the season, if not more. Derek Jeter, soon to turn 39, is still rehabbing from his broken ankle. Mark Teixeira has a strained tendon in his right wrist and is out 8-10 weeks. Robinson Cano, while healthy, is in the final year of his contract before free agency, which could create a season-long distraction. Curtis Granderson is down for the first month or so of the season with a broken arm. Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, Russell Martin and last year's closer, Rafael Soriano, all left as free agents and right hander Phil Hughes has back issues.
If that's not enough, the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, is set to announce that this will be his final season at age 43. You wonder how much "Mo" a cinch for the Hall of Fame will have left after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury.
The Yankees are not devoid of talent; C.C Sabathia is still one of the great pitchers in the game. Cano, even with his contract situation, is still arguably the best second baseman in the game and Ichiro even pushing 40, is still a tremendous all-round player.
Yet in their quest to get their payroll down to $189 million by 2014, the Yankees didn't do enough in the off-season to replace what they'd lost. This week, GM Brian Cashman, who broke his ankle in a charity parachute jump, conceded that nobody makes trades now until June or there abouts.
The American League East is just too tough for a beaten up Yankees team to win by trying to come from off the pace when they finally get healthy in June or July.
The Yankees have played in 40 World Series' and they've won 27. They are the only team to have won five in a row from 1949 through 1953. You might get an argument from Boston Celtics or Montreal Canadiens fans, but the Yankees are the greatest organization in North American sports history.
Though far overshadowed by their successes, the "pinstripes" have had their down times. They had a four-season run from 1989 through 1992 where they finished below .500. In fact, in 1990 under Buck Dent and Stump Merrill they wound up 67-95 and weren't much better in '91 going 71-91 under Merrill.
For me, though, their worst spell followed their World Series loss to St. Louis in 1964. In a bizarre turn of events, manager Yogi Berra was fired after that series and was replaced by the Cardinals skipper, Johnny Keane.
Keane couldn't duplicate his success in New York. The Yankees, with Mickey Mantle's career winding down, slipped below .500 in 1965 -- the first time since 1925. In 1966, the Yanks dropped into the cellar at 70-89 and Keane was fired in-season only to be replaced by the "Major" Ralph Houk, who had been the GM and was the Yanks' skipper in their previous World Series victory in 1962.
The Yankees didn't finish first again until 1976. One of the worst things about that era, though, was that the ball club fired two of the greatest broadcasters of all time -- Mel Allen in 1964 and Red Barber in 1966. Barber's crime was telling a cameraman to pan over all the empty seats at Yankee Stadium during one dismal game in '66.
I don't count myself as a "Yankee hater." In fact, I really admired Joe Torre's crew that captured four Fall Classics in five years from 1996 to 2000.
Baseball needs the Yankees to be successful. They add a certain cache and mystique to the sport. But 2013 isn't going to be one of those years.
Things are not exactly going smoothly in Boston for John Farrell either. David Ortiz doesn't know when he will be ready to play again, as he continues a painful recovery from his Achilles tendon injury. On top of that, the Red Sox new closer -- ex-Pirate Joel Hanrahan -- has been taking his lumps this spring.