Let it never be said that athletes don’t pay attention to what those in the media say about them. Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander proved on Tuesday that he’s quite aware of predictions that have been made.
Chris Russo, host of MLB Network’s “High Heat,” made it clear that in the American League, the Yankees are the team to beat, specifically citing the additions of manager Aaron Boone and reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 13, 2018
“They bring Boone in and then on top of that, here comes Stanton who hit 59 home runs last year. If you put all of that on the table and the Red Sox have been sort of quiet, there’s no way you can think that the Yankees aren’t the team to beat in the American League. That’s not going to make Houston happy. But that is the truth.”
Verlander responded on Twitter, making it known that he feels a little differently.
? I can think of a reason. https://t.co/Pt3nTunBNK
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) February 13, 2018
Boone as a manager is a question mark. But certainly, Stanton will make the Yankees a better team than they were in 2017. Given that New York was narrowly defeated by Houston in the 2017 ALCS, it’s not a stretch to say that the Yankees have vaulted the Astros.
But we’re not quite ready to make that leap. While the ALCS was highly competitive, Houston was 10 games ahead of New York during the regular season. That’s a rather significant gap.
Additionally, the Astros have improved, as well. Gerrit Cole will not only make the starting rotation better, but it should bump some of Houston’s very capable starters into the bullpen. Given that relief pitching was one of Houston’s few weaknesses in 2017, that should make a sizable impact.
The games between the two should be a lot of fun in 2018. Certainly, one who is not a fan of another American League competitor would be hard pressed to turn down an ALCS rematch. But while the gap is small, we’re taking Verlander’s side here.