THE YANKEES' HEAD START WILL SEE THEM THROUGH
By Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
Well, the first reason the New York Yankees are in better position to win the AL East is simple -- just take a look at the standings. The Yanks are 20-14. The Red Sox are 17-20, six games back in the loss column.
But it goes deeper than that. The Yankees are off to a much better start, even though their lineup is woefully underperforming in several spots.
Derek Jeter is just now snapping out of an early-season funk. Mark Teixeira is batting .263, 22 points under his career average. Alex Rodriguez is at .259, and over his last 16 games he is just 11-for-62 (.177) with no homers and five RBIs.
Nick Swisher, .288 with 29 homers last season, is batting .217 with just two home runs. And worst of all, Jorge Posada is batting an abysmal .162.
Not all of these Bombers may bounce back and have big seasons. But you have to expect some of them to rebound and reach numbers more representative of the back of their baseball cards.
Pitching, particularly starting pitching, was supposed to be the Yankees' weakness this season. But the rotation has been a strength thus far, despite the loss of Phil Hughes to injury. Veteran newcomers Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have been pleasant surprises to go along with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and young Ivan Nova.
True, you can't count on Colon and Garcia performing this well for an entire season. But you know the Yankees aren't going to stand pat with this rotation as currently constructed. Brian Cashman will be trying to add starting pitching from now until the July trading deadline, and it's a pretty good bet he'll be successful.
I don't expect the Red Sox to be under .500 much longer. I'm sure they've got a big run in them, and I expect them to be in the playoffs, at least as the wild card team.
But these Yankees should have a big run in them, too. And I'd rather be six games up in the loss column, as opposed to six games down.
THE RED SOX ARE LESS VULNERABLE TO INJURY
By Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston.com
Taken at face value, it would seem absurd to argue that the Red Sox are better positioned to win the AL East, given that the Sox come into the Bronx without having sniffed .500 once this season, while the Yankees are atop the division.
But it's not.
Adrian Gonzalez got it right: "In the end," he said, "it always comes down to who is able to stay healthiest."
The Red Sox ultimately faded in 2010 when they were overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies that went down for big chunks of time, and ran out of viable reinforcements.
And from this vantage point, the Yankees look more vulnerable than the Red Sox, especially when it comes to pitching. Phil Hughes is expected to miss another six to eight weeks with what the Yankees are calling a dead arm. And in the meantime, the Yankees have been relying heavily on the elderly tandem of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, both of whom have pitched better than the Yankees expected but come with very limited warranties.
Hey, the Red Sox have issues, too. If anyone can empathize with the scrutiny Derek Jeter has endured through his rough start, it is David Ortiz, who went through a similar wringer in each of the past two years. Ortiz came out intact on the other side and chances are that Jeter will, too, though his plight underscores the aging component of this team, as does that of 39-year-old Jorge Posada, who has struggled mightily making the adjustment to full-time DH.
The Red Sox also haven't played consistent baseball in the season's first six weeks, but for the most part have remained healthy. John Lackey's performance has thrown up huge red flags, but the Sox's Big Three of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz give the Sox a measure of reliability superior to the Yankees'. The Sox are counting on their best pitchers to right the ship in the Bronx this weekend, and the everyday lineup, which has operated in fits and starts so far this season, eventually will click.
One other thought: Can we make sure that we continue to include Tampa Bay in the conversation? They're not going away anytime soon.