1. Yankees Will Win East…But Red Sox Will Pass Rays, Jays
Look, what can I say? I know how to call an annoying Red Sox season when I see it. I feel them in my bones.
The New York Yankees have a better offense than the Boston Red Sox, though it’s closer than you may think. Even in a shortened 2020, the Yanks outpaced Boston in runs scored (fourth in MLB, Boston finished 11th), but the Sox got the Bombers in average, finishing third in the entire league (.265) while the Yankees finished 14th (.247).
And Boston was terrible in 2020! Just patently awful! “Fourth overall pick” bad.
This year, they haven’t made any great strides, though every pickup to pass through the gates at Fenway serves a purpose. Kiké Hernández and Marwin Gonzalez provide versatility. Hunter Renfroe (and a full season from rookie Bobby Dalbec) brings increased power. Garrett Richards is a good-not-great starter who will wow you if you catch him on the wrong day. JD Martinez has access to the video room again, which should (totally organically) bring his numbers back up to snuff.
But more importantly, premier Yankees antagonist Alex Cora is back. The captain of the ship has returned, and of his two seasons at the helm, one was a 108-win masterclass built on a foundation of … well, you be the judge. Cora alone is good for a heightened tension in the rivalry, and while we’ll never know exactly what went wrong in his 2019 denouement, the extremely icky-feeling re-hire after his 2020 firing for cheating allegations in Houston (and additional unrelated alleged incidents in Boston) will lead to a dead cat bounce in the AL East.
I do not believe Boston is a division-winning team (though stranger things have happened last decade in 2013). But I do believe in them being feistier than anticipated. The Tampa Bay Rays have attempted to sell us this spring on their machine continuing to work, even though the offense produced dreck all October long and got lucky time and time again before the franchise sent two of their three top starters packing. The injury concerns have already begun in Toronto; closer Kirby Yates is gone for the year, starter Robbie Ray has an elbow bruise (and is somehow essential), and everything but the Jays’ lineup is held together with string and mud (George Springer is also battling an oblique already, FYI).
It’s not a truly satisfying Yankees season unless they A) win a World Series and B) have to really battle past a far-too-annoying Red Sox team to get there. This year’s group of Bostonians is the second-place team that will give the Bombers the most trouble on their road to capturing the AL East, something they will do by … let’s say seven games (95 wins). It’ll all come down to the pitching depth, something the rest of the division wasn’t able to piece together.