Baseball Predictions: Thaaaa Yankees Win!

There should be no Darrell May or Tim Redding one-and-done debacles this season. Beside the five starters we mentioned above, this team also has last year's two miracle saviors, Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small. Beyond them, Scott Proctor this spring looked like a guy who could step in and start and not embarrass anybody. And waiting in Triple-A is rising prospect Matt DeSalvo, who opened eyes with his 1.13 spring ERA.

That's nine potential starters. "And as you know," Cashman chuckles, "we'll need them all to do what we want to do."

The bullpen has also been retooled, with Farnsworth, Mike Myers, Ron Villone and Octavio Dotel moving in to build a new bridge to the great Rivera, who is obviously really slipping. He faced 27 hitters this spring -- and gave up one hit.

But there is one more major difference between this year's staff and last year's: The 6-foot-10 ace looked like an ace all spring. Johnson got his mechanics locked in early, bonded with new pitching coach Guidry, and says: "I feel really good."

4. Bombs away

Is there a better lineup in baseball than this one? We can't find one. True, there's only one addition: Damon. But here's the difference he can make: The Yankees finished just 14 shy of 900 runs last year, even though they finished last in the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage by their center fielders.

So guess which team's center fielders finished first in the league in batting average and slugging (and second in OBP)? That, of course, would be the Red Sox, whose primary center fielder was a fellow named Damon.

5. They're the Yankees

As a friend of ours told us last week, you can never go wrong picking the team with the most talent to win the World Series. Let alone the team with the most money.

And that's the Yankees. The Yankees' payroll is down $10 to $13 million, depending on how you calculate it. But the team still writes the biggest checks around. It still starts an all-star at every position except second base. And even though its pitching staff may not be a win-the-World Series kind of staff, it's certainly a make-the-playoffs kind of staff.

So even in an American League with so many good teams that Cashman calls it "a nightmare," the Yankees are the safest bet to reach the playoffs. And after that, says Jeter, "you don't have to be the best team. You just have to be the hottest team."

Only nine players on this roster, though, have ever won a World Series. And the men who won elsewhere often wonder what it would be like to win in New York.

Take Randy Johnson. The team he won the World Series with -- the 2001 Diamondbacks -- played in a city that had never won any title in any pro sport. So winning here, he says, can't possibly be as exhilarating as winning was there.

"When something is actually expected of you," the Unit says, "it's not quite as exciting."

But Damon -- whose title in Boston was literally a life-altering experience for millions -- isn't conceding that.

"I think it would be just as fun," Damon says. "It all depends on the players you have. If winning the World Series is not a big deal, that wouldn't be right. And if you look around this clubhouse, there are a number of guys in here who have never won. So to me, it's not an issue. You've got to enjoy every single opportunity, because they don't happen that often -- not even here."

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