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AMERICAN LEAGUE: Yankees raise the bar
Take that, Lou Piniella.
George Steinbrenner isn't about to cede American League superiority to one of the guys he has fired as manager.
Rather than watch Piniella's Seattle Mariners assume favored status as teams begin to report to spring training this week for the 2002 season, Steinbrenner used the New York Yankees' unrivaled resources to restock the dugout with the likes of 2000 American League MVP Jason Giambi and half a dozen other reliable veterans. Oh yeah, David Wells too.
But Steinbrenner's creation of a $130 million payroll is hardly the only intriguing development in the American League.
The Cleveland Indians, who parted with Juan Gonzalez and Roberto Alomar in a wave of cost cuts, face serious challenges from the White Sox and Minnesota Twins. And Oakland, a playoff team two years in a row, lost three prominent free agents but still will surround the majors' best group of young starters with a dangerous lineup.
For comic relief, there's Alex Rodriguez's fiefdom in Texas, with its ever-changing cast of Texas Rangers players. A-Rod, owner Tom Hicks, general manager John Hart and highly paid assistant GM Grady Fuson recently played golf at Augusta National.
Wonder if they asked John Rocker or Carl Everett to caddie.