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Handicapping the Yanks

Why the Red Sox shouldn’t get too confident.

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Three baseball experts—Fox commentator Tim McCarver, ESPN.com writer Rob Neyer, and a longtime American League scout who asked to remain anonymous—weigh in on the Yankee year ahead.

How well will Jason Giambi play under the scrutiny produced by the steroid scandal?
SCOUT: I think he’s going to be all right. He was always a good hitter—I scouted him in college. He didn’t have the kind of power that materialized in Oakland, but supplements can’t give you good eye-hand coordination.
NEYER: It’s extremely unlikely that he will be the player he’s been. I would say that even if everything that’s happened in the last year or two hadn’t happened. He’s 34. Players simply aren’t as good in their mid- and late thirties. I would look for the sort of production that the Yankees got from Darryl Strawberry.

Is the high number of yankees 35 or older a problem?
MCCARVER: You could ask that question of any team. Tony Womack’s 35—so what? A lot of guys at 35 are doing very well.
SCOUT: Put it this way: They’re built to win now. They didn’t go out and get any young, promising players. Pavano’s the youngest guy they picked up. And he’s 29.
NEYER: The trap that teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees fall into is the notion that they have to be good every year. If that’s the goal you’ve set for yourself, it’s very difficult to get young. You’re going to end up with guys who make a lot of money—so much that you can’t trade them—when their skills are declining.

Which Yankee will improve this year?
SCOUT: I think Rodriguez will play better.
NEYER: I think Alex Rodriguez is going to be better than he was last year.
MCCARVER: Alex Rodriguez.

Is this season the last chance for Torre and Cashman?
NEYER: Besides Bernie Williams, I think the team is so talented you could throw them out there in 2006 and win 90 games. But there is a pretty good chance this is Cashman’s last season. I would give them a 25 percent chance of missing the playoffs because of the age of the roster and the fact that their division has gotten better. If they miss the playoffs, I think Cashman would be fired.

Why didn’t the team sign Carlos Beltran?
NEYER: I don’t understand why they didn’t.
SCOUT: I haven’t the slightest idea.
MCCARVER: With the money that they have, I think it’s a mistake for the Yankees not to sign anyone.

Will they beat out the Red Sox for the division title and meet them again in the playoffs?
NEYER: I think the Red Sox are about five games better [over the course of a season]. They came into the off-season with a big advantage, though the Yankees probably had a better off-season than the Red Sox did purely because they got Randy Johnson. I think the Red Sox are going to finish in first and the Yankees are going to win the wild card.
SCOUT: I think the Yankees have to be favored. I think they’re gonna get more production at first base, and they have Johnson. Johnson likes the pressure. He may not like the press, but he likes the pressure. I think the Red Sox lost more than they gained. But come playoff time, it’s a sprint—whoever’s hotter wins.

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