Are the Yankees worthy World Series favourites?
The New York Yankees invested heavily in the off-season, all in the name of landing a first pennant since 2001, and after a season where they won an MLB leading 103 it seems the gamble may have worked.
CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett were the biggest names to arrive in the Bronx as the already mighty Yankees strengthened into a fearsome sight both on the road and in their majestic new ballpark.
But the one question everyone must look at before grabbing hold of their short World Series price of 15/8 is, is there anybody else out there capable of making Joe Giradi's side wait another year before their latest Series?
- The obvious rival is the Boston Red Sox (5/1) who have made a habit of actually achieving over recent years. Terry Francona's play-off canny Sox might have dropped off the Yankees in the AL East race but you have to believe that it'll be a whole different kettle of fish once they know every game matters. David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett have all been there and done it over recent years and they're all the type of player who thrives under pressure - and a potential game seven at Yankee Stadium doesn't get any tenser.
They do have weaknesses though, most notably a rotation that doesn't even come close to comparing with their 2007 effort. Beckett looked tired at the end of the year but I'd still fancy him to come good. I would however have concerns over how the number three and four guys, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, perform. Buchholz has never pitched in October and Matsuzaka has not had a great season, it means Beckett and Lester have to perform or they could be in genuine trouble.
- The LA Angels (8/1) once again were the dominant class of the West and they added well in the off-season with the acquisition of Bobby Abreu. They now have a number of big bats and experience in their line-up and, with an above average rotation, they could cause the Yankees serious problems.
The one massive drawback is their repeated failure in the post season. It's hard to put your finger on what has gone wrong since their 2002 season as Mike Scioscia's team do all the fundamentals so well during regular season play, yet never bring their A game when it matters. It's not like they don't have the experience with Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins all veterans that should produce. Ok, they may lack a little behind John Lackey in the rotation but they should still have more to threaten a great run - could this be their year?
- The NL is typically a lot weaker than the AL but there is a lot of talent around, especially if you look at the St Louis Cardinals (11/2). Tony LaRussa finally got Albert Pujols some protection with Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter give the front end of their rotation a daunting look. They actually seem to be more tooled up now than what they were in 2006, and we all know what happened that year.
It isn't a given that the Cards will win the NL pennant with the Philadelphia Phillies (5/1) also seeming to have a big hope for back-to-back successes. Ryan Howard is a beast, Chase Utley is the best second baseman in baseball and Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton form a great trio on the mound. They have holes, most notably Brad Lidge, but they could be in position to make a challenge.
- It's alright looking at the other contenders but the Yankees themselves have a few demons that need to be dispelled. Alex Rodriguez's October struggles have become infamous, while every single person, other than Yankees fans, wants them to lose no matter who they're playing.
There is also a huge amount of pressure on them christening their new home with a new pennant. Babe Ruth was said to have built the original Yankee Stadium, they now need another hero to step up to the plate and create a whole new chapter in the Evil Empire's history.
So, are the Yankees worth backing at odds on? They certainly have the roster to land the Series, but I know I won't be risking too much on them given their inability to even reach the Fall Classic for eight long years.