The Yankees are listed in Las Vegas with 3:1 odds they will win the 2020 World Series. All very nice, but first they have to win the AL East…
The Yankees barely broke a sweat last season in winning the American League East. On September 1, they led the Tampa Bay Rays by ten full games.
At seasons end, the Rays, despite winning 96 games, were able to chisel only three games from the Yankees lead. Pretty much, the entire division pleaded no contest.
For several reasons, 2020 promises to be different. While it’s not likely the Yankees will be toppled from their throne, they’re going to have to work harder to stay ahead of the challengers.
Consider the following:
Baltimore Orioles – Beware of the snake in the grass
The Orioles may still be the worst team in the major leagues, but it’s improbable the Yankees can repeat their slaughtering of the Birds this season. The Yankees 17-2 mastery of the Orioles was bettered only by the Astros, who went 18-1 against the Seattle Mariners.
The Orioles’ new manager, Brandon Hyde, will have his team lying in wait for the Yankees. On the reverse side, Aaron Boone will need to ensure his team doesn’t put it on cruise control, anticipating a repeat of last season.
Prediction: Yankees 14 Baltimore 5 (-3)
The Red Sox can only get better
The 2019 season for the Boston Red Sox was, and there’s no other way to say it, embarrassing. Superb individual efforts never overcame or met team effort.
Their front office was in shambles and conflict with ownership due to bloated and ill-advised contracts. Chris Sales fell off the planet, and David Price wasn’t far behind him. J.D. Martinez came less than advertised, and Mookie Betts performed as a mere mortal.
That being said, the Red Sox are pretty much the same team that won it all two seasons ago. And there is absolutely no way they are going to be 5-14 against the Yankees again this year.
The team’s new general manager Brian O’Halloran is on board to make the best of a bad situation, but it’s not going to be anywhere near what the Red Sox need to challenge in the AL East seriously.
Prediction: Yankees 12 Red Sox 7 (-2)
Toronto Blue Jays – Team on the rise
No team and that includes the Yankees have had a better offseason than the Toronto Blue Jays. Additions including Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, and Chase Anderson bolstered the starting rotation, and the Travis Shaw signing added some positional flexibility and a left-handed bat.
The Jays are pushing hard to land Josh Donaldson, and if they succeed, everything changes for them.
The Blue Jays have always been a tough nut for the Yankees to crack, especially in Toronto.
Prediction: Blue Jays 10 Yankees 9 (-2)
Tampa Bay Rays – Always ready, always there
The Tampa Bay Rays never get better, but they never get worse either. They stay the same – which is very good.
The Yankees know the Rays will be meeting them with plus major league starters, and 2020 will be no different. Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, and Blake Snell are capable of shutting down any lineup on any given day.
The Yankees played the Rays well last season, and it was a good thing they did. Reverse the Yankees 12-7 advantage, and the pennant race in the AL East is turned upside down.
The Rays are always thwarted by poor attendance and a subsequent limited budget. But much like their counterpart Oakland A’s in the AL West, they also manage to cause awe and wonderment as to how they do so much with so little.
Prediction: Yankees 10 Rays 9 (-1)
So what do we have here?
If you are keeping score, these predictions mean the Yankees will win eight fewer games against the AL East teams than they did in 2019.
We’ll need, of course, to wait for the regular season to play out. But there is every reason to believe the Yankees will face a more significant challenge this year. None of this means the Yankees will not win the division – it just means they face a harder road to get there.