- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate an issue in major league baseball. This week’s question: Is anyone in the AL capable of beating the Yankees in the postseason?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: A few weeks ago, I didn’t think anyone was capable of taking down the Yankees, but I’m starting to think it’s possible. While New York is obviously the most talented and deepest team in the AL, questions remain about its starting rotation after CC Sabathia (who doesn’t have a great postseason track record). Combine that with Boston’s recent surge, and I’m thinking the Red Sox would have a real shot at toppling their hated rivals in the American League championship series should that scenario arise. The Red Sox have no fear of the Bronx Bombers; that whole notion of the “Curse” has long since died. And Boston has a great 1-2 pitching punch in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Sounds to me like the kind of combo that could beat the almighty Yankees.

BEN GOESSLING: I began the year with some serious reservations about the Yankees, and I’m still not ready to pronounce them unbeatable in the playoffs. I will say, however, that if Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte can hold it together for a month, it’s going to be tough for anybody to overtake them. Look at that lineup; Melky Cabrera has the lowest OBP at .335. You better have a deep bullpen to deal with that for seven games. And they’re getting enough production from other spots that they might be able to withstand another bad October from Alex Rodriguez. If anybody beats them, I agree it’s probably the Red Sox. But I don’t like their pitching behind Beckett and Lester much better than I like the Yankees’ staff. It would be a great series, but I think the Yankees take it in the end.

MZ: It’s a little surprising to me that no one ever talks about the Angels. They’ve got a really good team, and you’d think they would be considered among the legitimate contenders to win the AL pennant this season. But I guess they’re forgotten because they play out west late at night and they don’t have a bona fide ace, unless you count John Lackey. Still, I wouldn’t just leave them out of the conversation altogether. If they can get past Boston in the first round, they could challenge New York for the pennant.

BG: For me, the second thing you just mentioned is the reason I don’t take the Angels as seriously as the Red Sox. But I’ll add a third: too many first-round implosions against Boston. The Red Sox are built for October; they’ve succeeded there time and again. I just can’t see the Angels pitching well enough to beat them and after that having enough to outlast the Yankees in a seven-game series. I still think it comes down to Yankees-Red Sox, with the Yankees prevailing.

MZ: A nation of New York and Boston haters awaits.

AWARD WATCH

Looking at the front-runners for baseball’s season awards. This week: AL MVP

Joe Mauer, Twins

There’s little question Mauer has been the AL’s best player this season. His .374 batting average puts everyone else to shame, as does his 1.054 OPS. Throw in the fact that he has done all this as a catcher, and it only strengthens his case. The only knock on Mauer is that he doesn’t play for one of the best teams in the league. But even that argument looks flimsy now because the Twins (thanks in large part to Mauer) are making a late push to catch the Tigers in the AL Central.

Others to watch: Mark Teixeira, Yankees; Jason Bay, Red Sox; Miguel Cabrera, Tigers.

MLB POWER POLL

Team Record Comment

1. YANKEES 95-55 Clearly the front-runners, but will they survive October?

2. DODGERS 90-60 Home-field advantage could be significant for them.

3. RED SOX 89-59They’re starting to look like a legit contender at last.

4. ANGELS 89-60 They are going to have to get over their Boston bugaboo.

5. PHILLIES 87-61 Looked sharp against the Nationals. Then again, who doesn’t?

6. CARDINALS 87-63 Is there a better 1-2 pitching combo than Carpenter-Wainwright?

7. ROCKIES 85-65 They’re closing in on a well-deserved wild-card title.

8. RANGERS 81-67 Didn’t quite have enough. But watch out for them next year.

9. TIGERS 79-70 Even if they hang on, hard to see them winning a playoff series.

10. TWINS 76-73 Don’t blow up the Metrodome - the Twins aren’t dead yet.

* Records and stats through Sunday

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