MLB Power Poll: It’s Yankees-Phillies … again

Get ready for baseball’s first World Series rematch since Reggie Jackson’s Yankees beat Steve Garvey’s Dodgers in 1977 and ’78. We took our annual preseason rankings—featuring two familiar foes at the top— to 30 analysts and asked for their two cents.

Expect to see Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi shaking hands again in October.
Expect to see Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi shaking hands again in October.

1. Yankees

Yankees TV analyst Ken Singleton says: "This is where the world champions belong. The main ingredient for the Yankees to repeat would be health, although they were able to win it all despite Alex Rodriguez playing in only 124 regular –season games. The outfield might not be as strong as others in the American League, but the addition of Curtis Granderson should bring some power and speed."

2. Phillies

Phillies radio analyst Larry Andersen says: "No. 2? I truly believe the Phils have the ability to reclaim the title of world champs if Cole Hamels gets back close to where he was in the playoffs of 2008. Another key is Brad Lidge. The Phils won the NL with an obviously underperforming Lidge. The Yanks, once again, rode the arm of Mariano Rivera in the back of their ‘pen, and we know how that worked out for them."

3. Red Sox

MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac says: "Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey give the Sox one of the best, if not the best, 1-2-3 starting punch. The outfield defense should greatly improve with Jacoby Ellsbury making the switch from center field to left and Mike Cameron patrolling center. If healthy, J.D. Drew also provides solid defense in right. Two key moves really solidify the defense in the infield—Adrian Beltre at third and Marco Scutaro at short. The Red Sox look to be formidable challengers to the mighty Bombers from the Big Apple."

4. Cardinals

Cardinals radio analyst Mike Shannon says: "That’s just about right. The starting pitching is the strongest in the league—adding Brad Penny is a tremendous plus—and the lineup is as good as anyone’s."

5. Rockies

Rockies TV analyst Jeff Huson says: "Wow, finally getting some national recognition. The productive starting rotation will be enhanced with the return of a healthy Jeff Francis, who can win 15 to 17 (games) and fill the void of Jason Marquis. There is no question how good their defense will be. Todd Helton will hit .315. Troy Tulowitzki could be a 30-20 guy for the second straight year."

Hideki Matsui will be the Angels' new DH.
Hideki Matsui will be the Angels’ new DH.

6. Angels

Angels TV analyst Mark Gubicza says: "They have taken a hit with their No. 1 starter, leadoff man and No. 1 power threat all leaving via free agency, but the addition of Joel Pineiro and a full season of Scott Kazmir should give them the deepest five-man rotation in the division. Hideki Matsui gives them patience at the DH role. Erick Aybar continues to grow into a superstar and should do well in the leadoff role."

7. Mariners

MLB Network analyst Joe Magrane says: "The Angels are weaker, and Texas is stronger. The concern for the Mariners: Where’s the thunder coming from? Will they be able to put runs on the board when they don’t pitch? Jack Zduriencik has put together a team of defense and pitching that tailors well to Safeco. Winning a division is about collecting series wins. Who wouldn’t want to take their chances with Cliff Lee and King Felix (Hernandez) toeing the slab in a three-game series?"

8. Rays

Rays TV analyst Kevin Kennedy says: "That’s about right. B.J. Upton is the key. If B.J. comes back and his shoulder is healthy, he is a very talented player. One through five in the rotation, they can compete with anybody."

9. Twins

Twins TV analyst Bert Blyleven says: "Fair. The question mark is the starting staff. I do not—and never will—like pitch counts, and the starters have to attack the strike zone early so they can get later into the game. If this doesn’t happen, the relievers will get worn out during the summer months in their new outdoor stadium."

The Cubs need Geovany Soto to bounce back.
The Cubs need Geovany Soto to bounce back.

10. Cubs

Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly says: "Probably right where they should be. They need returns to form by Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. Team chemistry should be much improved with no Milton Bradley."

11. Braves

Braves TV analyst Brian Jordan says: "This team can win the wild card. The Phillies might be the frontrunners in the division, but the Braves will challenge them if they can stay healthy and produce some offense—if Troy Glaus is healthy and drives in 80 to 90 runs and if Chipper Jones can stay on the field 150 games."

12. Dodgers

Dodgers TV analyst Steve Lyons says: "Pretty good, Sporting News. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will lead the team offensively unless Manny Ramirez was so embarrassed by last year that he comes on strong. The staff will be led by an older Clayton Kershaw; Chad Billingsley, who has to prove he has a heart; and Vicente Padilla, who will want to get paid more in the future."

13. Giants

Giants TV analyst Duane Kuiper says: "Thirteenth is pretty close. Remember, they won 88 games last year—more than any team that didn’t go to the playoffs. They have the same staff back , and their offense is improved. We’ll see if it’s enough."

14. White Sox

White Sox TV analyst Steve Stone says: "They should be in the top 10. They were second in the American League in pitching last year with a 4.14 ERA, and adding Jake Peavy for a full year will make it even better. The back end of the bullpen, after adding J.J. Putz, matches anyone’s."

15. Rangers

Rangers TV analyst Tom Grieve says: "Even though the offense was not up to its usual standards in 2009, the team improved dramatically because the pitching and defense were significantly better. While the West is getting much more competitive, the organization will be disappointed if the team doesn’t return to the postseason for the first time (since 1999)."

Justin Verlander gives the Tigers a legitimate ace.
Justin Verlander gives the Tigers a legitimate ace.

16. Tigers

Tigers TV analyst Rod Allen says: "A tad too low. Justin Verlander is going to be in the Cy Young conversation for years to come; then you have Rick Porcello. If they get a lot out of Max Scherzer, they could be one of the top three rotations in baseball. In the bullpen, they’ve added Jose Valverde. Miguel Cabrera has his problems behind him; he’ll be an MVP candidate."

17. Mets

Mets TV analyst Ralph Kiner says: "This is going to be a difficult season. They don’t have any wellknown, qualified starting pitchers other than Johan Santana. Our catching is a question mark, and we don’t have power at first base."

18. Marlins

Marlins TV analyst Tommy Hutton says: "I don’t have too much of a problem with the Marlins sitting at No. 18, but I fell off my chair when I saw the Mets were 17th. Over the last seven years, the Marlins have won more games than the Mets—and have spent $600 million less during that stretch."

19. Brewers

Brewers TV analyst Bill Schroeder says: "The Brewers are every bit as good as the Cubs. General manager Doug Melvin addressed the starting pitching issue, and the bullpen depth is the best it’s ever been. They’re going to miss Mike Cameron offensively; it’s all going to come down to how Carlos Gomez does in center, getting on base."

20. Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks radio analyst Tom Candiotti says: "Three reasons the Diamondbacks will be much better than this: Brandon Webb has been throwing pain-free and is incredibly motivated to return to his Cy Young form; Chris Young had a killer September after making huge adjustments in his swing; and a healthy Conor Jackson adds stability and a professional bat in the middle of a very potent lineup."

21. A’s

A’s TV/radio analyst Ray Fosse says: "The A’s could surprise many people. Because of great pitching and defense, the offense should not have to outslug other teams to win. The starters can go six innings and turn the game over to several quality setup men to get to Andrew Bailey. There will be three center fielders playing in the outfield."

Johnny Cueto won 11 games for the Reds in 2009.
Johnny Cueto won 11 games for the Reds in 2009.

22. Reds

Reds TV analyst Chris Welsh says: "Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey match well with walk-year veterans Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. They have a solid bullpen and a tight infield, but it will take an MVP-caliber year from Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips to jolt them into the top 10."

23. Astros

Astros TV analyst Jim Deshaies says: "I’m a bit more bullish on this team. Here’s how they surprise: Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman bounce back. Will they score enough? Hunter Pence may be the key. A monster year might push the Astros closer to the top."

24. Orioles

Orioles TV analyst Jim Palmer says: "They ought to be a better club. But it’s difficult to project how that will translate into wins if you play in the AL East. They’ve helped themselves. They needed a third baseman, they got (Miguel Tejada). They needed a first baseman, they got (Garrett Atkins). And they got Kevin Millwood."

25. Blue Jays

Blue Jays TV analyst Pat Tabler says: "This team will finish in the bottom 20 percent of baseball. The reason: Who will pick up the slack in the starting rotation after the trade of Roy Halladay?"

26. Royals

Royals TV analyst Paul Splittorff says: "You don’t have us too low. For this to be a good year, they need to clean up the fundamental play. Situational hitting last year was bad, baserunning was awful, and defense was an absolute killer. They need to increase their on-base percentage and be better at advancing runners."

Ryan Zimmerman won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base in 2009.
Ryan Zimmerman won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base in 2009.

27. Nationals

Nationals TV analyst Rob Dibble says: "They have addressed almost every need—Jason Marquis, Brian Bruney and Matt Capps to help the pitching staff ; future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez to call games and help Jesus Flores develop; Adam Kennedy at second base. Will they finish 27th? No way. I think the Nats are three wins better per month this season. That’s 77."

28. Padres

Padres TV analyst Mark Grant says: "With Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup and the younger guys … this team could hover around the middle of the pack. It’s about winning games, not about how many runs you score. The bullpen was nails last year; if the starters can pitch deep into games and bridge that gap to Heath Bell, the Padres won’t have to score an abundance of runs."

29. Pirates

Pirates TV/radio analyst John Wehner says: "I don’t believe they are the second-to-worst team in baseball. The one thing they have is pitching. The rotation is not a group that is well-known nationwide, but the top four all have had impressive stretches in their short careers. The question mark is the offense."

30. Indians

Indians radio analyst Mike Hegan says: "No. 30 may be warranted, but there is enough talent for the Indians to jump to the middle of the pack—or better—if: Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona have solid seasons; Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and others set up Kerry Wood; and Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner come back from injuries."

This story first appeared in the March 1 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

Get ready for baseball’s first World Series rematch since Reggie Jackson’s Yankees beat Steve Garvey’s Dodgers in 1977 and ’78. We took our annual preseason rankings—featuring two familiar foes at the top— to 30 analysts and asked for their two cents.

Expect to see Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi shaking hands again in October.
Expect to see Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi shaking hands again in October.

1. Yankees

Yankees TV analyst Ken Singleton says: "This is where the world champions belong. The main ingredient for the Yankees to repeat would be health, although they were able to win it all despite Alex Rodriguez playing in only 124 regular –season games. The outfield might not be as strong as others in the American League, but the addition of Curtis Granderson should bring some power and speed."

2. Phillies

Phillies radio analyst Larry Andersen says: "No. 2? I truly believe the Phils have the ability to reclaim the title of world champs if Cole Hamels gets back close to where he was in the playoffs of 2008. Another key is Brad Lidge. The Phils won the NL with an obviously underperforming Lidge. The Yanks, once again, rode the arm of Mariano Rivera in the back of their ‘pen, and we know how that worked out for them."

3. Red Sox

MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac says: "Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey give the Sox one of the best, if not the best, 1-2-3 starting punch. The outfield defense should greatly improve with Jacoby Ellsbury making the switch from center field to left and Mike Cameron patrolling center. If healthy, J.D. Drew also provides solid defense in right. Two key moves really solidify the defense in the infield—Adrian Beltre at third and Marco Scutaro at short. The Red Sox look to be formidable challengers to the mighty Bombers from the Big Apple."

4. Cardinals

Cardinals radio analyst Mike Shannon says: "That’s just about right. The starting pitching is the strongest in the league—adding Brad Penny is a tremendous plus—and the lineup is as good as anyone’s."

5. Rockies

Rockies TV analyst Jeff Huson says: "Wow, finally getting some national recognition. The productive starting rotation will be enhanced with the return of a healthy Jeff Francis, who can win 15 to 17 (games) and fill the void of Jason Marquis. There is no question how good their defense will be. Todd Helton will hit .315. Troy Tulowitzki could be a 30-20 guy for the second straight year."

Hideki Matsui will be the Angels' new DH.
Hideki Matsui will be the Angels’ new DH.

6. Angels

Angels TV analyst Mark Gubicza says: "They have taken a hit with their No. 1 starter, leadoff man and No. 1 power threat all leaving via free agency, but the addition of Joel Pineiro and a full season of Scott Kazmir should give them the deepest five-man rotation in the division. Hideki Matsui gives them patience at the DH role. Erick Aybar continues to grow into a superstar and should do well in the leadoff role."

7. Mariners

MLB Network analyst Joe Magrane says: "The Angels are weaker, and Texas is stronger. The concern for the Mariners: Where’s the thunder coming from? Will they be able to put runs on the board when they don’t pitch? Jack Zduriencik has put together a team of defense and pitching that tailors well to Safeco. Winning a division is about collecting series wins. Who wouldn’t want to take their chances with Cliff Lee and King Felix (Hernandez) toeing the slab in a three-game series?"

8. Rays

Rays TV analyst Kevin Kennedy says: "That’s about right. B.J. Upton is the key. If B.J. comes back and his shoulder is healthy, he is a very talented player. One through five in the rotation, they can compete with anybody."

9. Twins

Twins TV analyst Bert Blyleven says: "Fair. The question mark is the starting staff. I do not—and never will—like pitch counts, and the starters have to attack the strike zone early so they can get later into the game. If this doesn’t happen, the relievers will get worn out during the summer months in their new outdoor stadium."

The Cubs need Geovany Soto to bounce back.
The Cubs need Geovany Soto to bounce back.

10. Cubs

Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly says: "Probably right where they should be. They need returns to form by Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. Team chemistry should be much improved with no Milton Bradley."

11. Braves

Braves TV analyst Brian Jordan says: "This team can win the wild card. The Phillies might be the frontrunners in the division, but the Braves will challenge them if they can stay healthy and produce some offense—if Troy Glaus is healthy and drives in 80 to 90 runs and if Chipper Jones can stay on the field 150 games."

12. Dodgers

Dodgers TV analyst Steve Lyons says: "Pretty good, Sporting News. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will lead the team offensively unless Manny Ramirez was so embarrassed by last year that he comes on strong. The staff will be led by an older Clayton Kershaw; Chad Billingsley, who has to prove he has a heart; and Vicente Padilla, who will want to get paid more in the future."

13. Giants

Giants TV analyst Duane Kuiper says: "Thirteenth is pretty close. Remember, they won 88 games last year—more than any team that didn’t go to the playoffs. They have the same staff back , and their offense is improved. We’ll see if it’s enough."

14. White Sox

White Sox TV analyst Steve Stone says: "They should be in the top 10. They were second in the American League in pitching last year with a 4.14 ERA, and adding Jake Peavy for a full year will make it even better. The back end of the bullpen, after adding J.J. Putz, matches anyone’s."

15. Rangers

Rangers TV analyst Tom Grieve says: "Even though the offense was not up to its usual standards in 2009, the team improved dramatically because the pitching and defense were significantly better. While the West is getting much more competitive, the organization will be disappointed if the team doesn’t return to the postseason for the first time (since 1999)."

Justin Verlander gives the Tigers a legitimate ace.
Justin Verlander gives the Tigers a legitimate ace.

16. Tigers

Tigers TV analyst Rod Allen says: "A tad too low. Justin Verlander is going to be in the Cy Young conversation for years to come; then you have Rick Porcello. If they get a lot out of Max Scherzer, they could be one of the top three rotations in baseball. In the bullpen, they’ve added Jose Valverde. Miguel Cabrera has his problems behind him; he’ll be an MVP candidate."

17. Mets

Mets TV analyst Ralph Kiner says: "This is going to be a difficult season. They don’t have any wellknown, qualified starting pitchers other than Johan Santana. Our catching is a question mark, and we don’t have power at first base."

18. Marlins

Marlins TV analyst Tommy Hutton says: "I don’t have too much of a problem with the Marlins sitting at No. 18, but I fell off my chair when I saw the Mets were 17th. Over the last seven years, the Marlins have won more games than the Mets—and have spent $600 million less during that stretch."

19. Brewers

Brewers TV analyst Bill Schroeder says: "The Brewers are every bit as good as the Cubs. General manager Doug Melvin addressed the starting pitching issue, and the bullpen depth is the best it’s ever been. They’re going to miss Mike Cameron offensively; it’s all going to come down to how Carlos Gomez does in center, getting on base."

20. Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks radio analyst Tom Candiotti says: "Three reasons the Diamondbacks will be much better than this: Brandon Webb has been throwing pain-free and is incredibly motivated to return to his Cy Young form; Chris Young had a killer September after making huge adjustments in his swing; and a healthy Conor Jackson adds stability and a professional bat in the middle of a very potent lineup."

21. A’s

A’s TV/radio analyst Ray Fosse says: "The A’s could surprise many people. Because of great pitching and defense, the offense should not have to outslug other teams to win. The starters can go six innings and turn the game over to several quality setup men to get to Andrew Bailey. There will be three center fielders playing in the outfield."

Johnny Cueto won 11 games for the Reds in 2009.
Johnny Cueto won 11 games for the Reds in 2009.

22. Reds

Reds TV analyst Chris Welsh says: "Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey match well with walk-year veterans Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. They have a solid bullpen and a tight infield, but it will take an MVP-caliber year from Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips to jolt them into the top 10."

23. Astros

Astros TV analyst Jim Deshaies says: "I’m a bit more bullish on this team. Here’s how they surprise: Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman bounce back. Will they score enough? Hunter Pence may be the key. A monster year might push the Astros closer to the top."

24. Orioles

Orioles TV analyst Jim Palmer says: "They ought to be a better club. But it’s difficult to project how that will translate into wins if you play in the AL East. They’ve helped themselves. They needed a third baseman, they got (Miguel Tejada). They needed a first baseman, they got (Garrett Atkins). And they got Kevin Millwood."

25. Blue Jays

Blue Jays TV analyst Pat Tabler says: "This team will finish in the bottom 20 percent of baseball. The reason: Who will pick up the slack in the starting rotation after the trade of Roy Halladay?"

26. Royals

Royals TV analyst Paul Splittorff says: "You don’t have us too low. For this to be a good year, they need to clean up the fundamental play. Situational hitting last year was bad, baserunning was awful, and defense was an absolute killer. They need to increase their on-base percentage and be better at advancing runners."

Ryan Zimmerman won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base in 2009.
Ryan Zimmerman won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base in 2009.

27. Nationals

Nationals TV analyst Rob Dibble says: "They have addressed almost every need—Jason Marquis, Brian Bruney and Matt Capps to help the pitching staff ; future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez to call games and help Jesus Flores develop; Adam Kennedy at second base. Will they finish 27th? No way. I think the Nats are three wins better per month this season. That’s 77."

28. Padres

Padres TV analyst Mark Grant says: "With Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup and the younger guys … this team could hover around the middle of the pack. It’s about winning games, not about how many runs you score. The bullpen was nails last year; if the starters can pitch deep into games and bridge that gap to Heath Bell, the Padres won’t have to score an abundance of runs."

29. Pirates

Pirates TV/radio analyst John Wehner says: "I don’t believe they are the second-to-worst team in baseball. The one thing they have is pitching. The rotation is not a group that is well-known nationwide, but the top four all have had impressive stretches in their short careers. The question mark is the offense."

30. Indians

Indians radio analyst Mike Hegan says: "No. 30 may be warranted, but there is enough talent for the Indians to jump to the middle of the pack—or better—if: Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona have solid seasons; Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and others set up Kerry Wood; and Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner come back from injuries."

This story first appeared in the March 1 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*