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Have the New York Yankees bought their way back to the top of the American League East? The money has been spent on all the right names. This off-season the Yankees paid $471 million for talented players like Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, among others. Will it be enough?
The answer is “No,” if MLB.com has anything to say about it. Last week Anthony Castrovince posted a list of the projected top offensive lineups around the league. The Texas Rangers hold the top spot, and our Boston Red Sox slide into second place right behind them. While giving credit to who it is due in the Rangers organization, I quickly noticed something was off about the list: where were the Yankees? Suspiciously, after all the work the front office has done, New York is nowhere to be found on this list. Money can’t buy you love, nor can it buy a strong offense. Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa are the other three teams from the AL that make the list. One of them will place higher at the end of the season because they are offensively stronger. It appears that the Yankees have built up a strong defensive presence with the addition of more pitchers and catchers, and additional depth in the bullpen and outfield, but the offense will only improve slightly with the addition of a few new faces. Ellsbury and Beltran may be able to make contact with the ball, but what about the rest of the team?
In other projections of American League East team rankings, the Yankees fall into second place behind the Red Sox. I do not see them making it to second place. New York is a wild card team at best. $471 million is a lot of money for third or fourth place. Yes, they made some changes, but the Blue Jays, Rays and the Orioles were the teams to beat in the division in 2013. The numbers say it all. Just look at the eighteen games Boston played against Baltimore in 2013, the Red Sox won only seven of those tilts. The Birds beat the World Champions 11 times during the regular season. If this trend continues in 2014, Baltimore has a much greater shot at the second place playoff spot, not New York. Why? Because the Red Sox along with the Blue Jays, Rays and the Orioles made few off-season changes to their rosters. If they were good last year, they will be good this year, too.
A few new faces in New York will not be the difference they need to top the division this season. There is no replacement for the intangibles that are a strong team dynamic, a top-notch, deep farm system, and proper management of players on the field. These qualitative parts of the game were what won it for the Sox in 2013. These elements affected the quantity of games won by the Boston Red Sox. The same will be true forever and always, as we look ahead to this season and seasons to come.