Here’s another subplot in the build-up to what should be a free-for-all in the AL East this summer:
Almost every team in the division can play the nobody-believed-in-us card.
With the exception of maybe the Blue Jays, who generated the most offseason hype this winter, the teams in baseball’s deepest division might all enter the season with a chip on their shoulder.
Case in point: Yankees first baseman (and Mount St. Joe alum) Mark Teixeira suggesting that his $200 million team is embracing an underdog role this season.
“I really feel good about our team this year," Teixeira told the New York Daily News. "It's actually fun when everyone else counts you out because it kind f makes guys want it a little bit more. Every year we want it, but this year especially, it's going to be even more of a challenge. I think that's going to make it more exciting as the year goes on.”
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was also quoted using the “U” word this week.
“It’s better to be the underdog,” he told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who opened said story referring to the Sox’s spring home as “Camp Low Expectations.”
Maybe the usual heavyweights up north aren’t so far off with thinking they’re being overlooked. In our Google+ Hangout this week on Orioles Insider, Peter Schmuck talked about how he feels the Orioles and Rays will ultimately battle for the AL East title.
My take is that all five teams could finish in any of the five spots and it wouldn’t be a shocking development.
What do you guys think? Are there any underdogs in the AL East this year?
Now, on to this week's team-by-team roundups:
New York Yankees
It's hard to decide which team to put this under, but the discussion of whether Kevin Youkilis is truly a Yankee or Red Sox continues to generate headlines. (Silly me for thinking it was something that would just clog the sports talk radio jabber in those cities.)
Those things tend to get sorted out when the paychecks from the new team start showing up.
In other Youkilis news, it seems that the Greek God of Walks is dumping ‘the best stance ever.’ (Julio Franco might have something to say about that distinction, anyway.)
And, speaking of paychecks, the Robinson Cano contract extension watch is officially on.
Finally, while Yogi Berra isn’t helping out at camp this season, fellow former Yankee catcher Jorge Posada is filling that void.
Boston Red Sox
If you thought the Red Sox had cleaned house and eliminated all of their problem-causing egos, you would be mistaken.
Reliever Alfredo Aceves delivered his latest example of petulance when he started lobbing up Little League-esque pitches during a round of live batting practice this week.
Much like Posada, Jason Varitek is in his former team’s camp, working as a special assistant. The former catcher and captain is apparently learning quite a bit from the experience.
Also, the Sox made a trade this week, acquiring first baseman-outfielder Mike Carp from the Mariners for a player to be named later or cash.
And ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes profiles new Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, who threw a no-hitter in Baltimore in April of 1987 while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Toronto Blue Jays
John Lott of the National Post points out that the Jays didn’t just trade for R.A. Dickey this summer – they also snagged a handful of catchers with experience working with the knuckleballer. Either Josh Thole or Henry Blanco – whoever wins the backup role behind J.P. Arencibia – is likely to become Dickey’s personal backstop.
Aside from that, the only other notable competition in Toronto’s camp is for the starting second baseman job, which will go to either Emilio Bonifacio or Maicer Izturis. (Bonifacio's versatility should lead to both will get plenty of time.)
Also, former Orioles pitching prospect Adam Loewen, now a minor league outfielder with the Jays, is relishing his Team Canada role at the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Tampa Bay Rays
AL Cy Young Award winner David Price tossed a log into the fire this week, saying he wouldn’t ever sign with the Yankees because of their no-beard policy. He backtracked a bit the next day, calling them “probably the best organization in all of sports.”
James Loney's low-key personality didn't make him a particularly popular player in Los Angeles or Boston – and neither did the fact that he’s a first baseman with very little power. But the Rays say they want their free-agent acquisition to just be himself, a strong defender and gap hitter.
There’s also some baby news in Port Charlotte, as star third baseman Evan Longoria’s girlfriend Jaime Edmondson gave birth to their first child on Wednesday night.
That’s it for this week’s links. Click over to the blog for all the updates from the Orioles' camp down in Sarasota.