Has the day many Orioles fans have been hoping for finally arrived? Are the New York Yankees finally going to take a step back in the American League East? Have age and injuries finally caught up to this team?
I am sticking to my opinion that I will believe the demise of the Yankees when I finally see it. This is a franchise that has averaged 97.5 wins the last four seasons and has made the playoffs in 17 of the last 18 seasons.
But this time you can make a solid case that they could be in for a tough season and it's more about what has actually happened than simply the hopes of rival fans.
Mark Teixeira (strained wrist), Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) and Curtis Granderson (fractured forearm) will begin the season on the disabled list. That is more than $60 million worth of players. Tampa Bay could produce an AL East winner with that kind of money. Derek Jeter is no sure thing, coming off ankle surgery, and neither is Mariano Rivera, who is coming back from knee surgery, and starting pitcher Phil Hughes has been dealing with a back injury in camp.
Here is the projected Yankees opening day lineup:
RF - Ichiro Suzuki
SS - Derek Jeter
2B - Robinson Cano
3B - Kevin Youkilis
DH - Travis Hafner
LF - Juan Rivera
1B - Dan Johnson
CF - Brett Gardner
C - Chris Stewart
Youkilis hit just .214 with an OPS of .727 last season after the All-Star break. Hafner batted just .228 in 66 games with Cleveland. Both have missed some time the last several seasons.
This looks bad. It does look like this is the time the Yankees could finally come up short with a second division finish in the AL East.
But here is what Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos told the New York Post:
"A few things about the Yankees," Anthopoulos said. "People want to count them out because of the injuries. Last year, Mariano Rivera, A-Rod, Joba (Chamberlain), (Brett) Gardner and (Andy) Pettitte were out for extended periods and they still won 95 games.
"Just look at their rotation. You might not want it in five years, but I think just about any team would take their rotation in 2013. Tampa has shown in this division what you can do with a strong rotation. Last year the Rays lost (Evan) Longoria for most of the season, their offense probably wasn't as good as the Yanks have now even without Teixeira and Granderson - and they still won 90 games. I am not counting the Yanks out, no way."
Those wishing for a true decline from New York also can point to the Teixeira and Granderson injuries in another way. Just because they are expected back in May doesn't mean they will actually make it back then and, with wrist and arm injuries, who knows how well they will play if and when they do return to the lineup.
It looks like Yankee detractors may get their wish for the team to finally fall off. But will looks be deceiving?
Tweet, tweet: There were a couple of tweets on Twitter yesterday that are unrelated to this story but interesting reading. Adam Greenberg tweeted:
"Can't say enough positive things about the #orioles organization. Minor league games start Wednesday time to#playball."
Lew Ford sent a note to Adam Jones: "@SimplyAJ10 ya make me proud to be an American and an Oriole #funtowatch Jonesy!"
Next up for the Americans: Team USA plays Puerto Rico tonight at 8 p.m. as it opens second-round play in the World Baseball Classic. If the U.S. and the Dominican Republic win their games today, they will meet in the next game and we could see Pedro Strop pitch against Adam Jones in a key spot in the game.