Alex Rodriguez is sure to provide plenty of drama for the New York Yankees… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)
With spring training starting this week, it's time to look at some of the most intriguing story lines across Major League Baseball. Writers from the Tribune Co. will discuss the American League on Monday and the National League on Tuesday. Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment of your own.
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
Given the angst over Alex Rodriguez’s health and recent link to the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, as well as the departure of free agents Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano, it’s easy to take Derek Jeter’s superhuman status for granted.
He’s being expected to play in 2013 like that ugly broken ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS didn’t happen, and that’s unrealistic. Jeter must prove that he can play a solid shortstop on a bad leg at age 38. If he doesn’t, the Yankees are going to unravel around him.
Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant
The Yankees have plenty of intriguing stories, starting with two future Hall of Famers (Mariano Riveraand Derek Jeter) coming off injuries at an advanced age. But the status of their icons may be overshadowed by Alex Rodriguez this spring.
A-Rod, embroiled in a PED scandal, is attempting to come back from a hip injury and he's likely to move his rehabilitation to Tampa at some point. Imagine the media circus that will ensue when A-Rod shows his face at Steinbrenner Field.
Rivera's knee and Jeter's ankle would be the focus of any other spring, not to mention the arrival of former Red Sox mainstay Kevin Youkilisas the new third baseman. But A-Rod and all the drama he brings will turn the Yankees’ camp into a zoo. Grab some popcorn and enjoy, baseball fans.
Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
This might sound weird coming from an East Coast city that produced the most surprising team in baseball last season, but my eyes will be set on the Angels. Rarely does a club present such wildly divergent possibilities.
The Angels could become Yankees West -- a star-laden traveling carnival that buries opponents under avalanches of home runs and quality starts. Maybe Mike Trout really is the next Willie Mays. Maybe Albert Pujols just got off to a bad start last year. Maybe Josh Hamilton can stay healthy and approximate his MVP past.
Or the Angels could be an epic, home-for-October bust. In that version, Trout takes an inevitable step back, Pujols falls another year into his decline phase and Hamilton struggles with injuries and a tougher home park. Either path seems equally possible, and that’s a story worth watching.
[Updated Feb. 11, 1:48 p.m.:
Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
The Toronto Blue Jays are on the clock this spring after a busy winter that saw them assume $145 million in contract obligations when they acquired Jose Reyes, John Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins before spending an additional $46 million on R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera.
The timing seems good. With the Red Sox rebuilding and the Yankees on the decline, Toronto’s front office has seized on the opportunity -- and the thinned competition in the AL East -- to return to the playoffs for the first time in more than 20 years.
Still it’s a high-stakes gamble because if it doesn’t work out, the team will be saddled with a massive payroll of unmovable contracts and minor league system suddenly short on depth. We’ll start to find out whether the wager was a wise one in the coming weeks.]
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