Baseball's Back And So Are The Yankees. Here Are This Season's Super Teams
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Major League Baseball is back. Today is opening day - also back? The evil empire.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "THE IMPERIAL MARCH")
CORNISH: The New York Yankees, the team everyone outside of the Bronx loves to hate, is loaded with talent again. They already had one of the two most terrifying young hitters in baseball - 6-foot-7 Aaron judge.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That is absolutely clobbered. Good gosh, where is that going to land? Oh my, what a bomb from Aaron Judge
CORNISH: But after falling short of the World Series last year, they signed the other one - Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 home runs last year and was the National League MVP. So once again, Yankee fans are giddy. And the Yankees are just one of a few super teams heading into this new season. Don't forget about the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros. Joining us to talk about all this is Marly Rivera. She covers baseball for ESPN. Welcome to the program.
MARLY RIVERA: Thank you so much for having me, Audie. Hopefully it won't be the last time. It is the first one but hopefully not last.
CORNISH: (Laughter) No. We joke a bunch around here about the evil empire, but are they still the team to beat?
RIVERA: Well, I think that - we're going to have to be very careful with this term because I think people forget who are really, you know, the champions of the AL East. And those are the Boston Red Sox. So while obviously the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton does give that immense power in the middle of that lineup, I don't know that they are the team to beat. I actually firmly believe that the Boston Red Sox are still the team to beat in the AL East.
CORNISH: Meanwhile the team with the highest payroll in Major League Baseball, the Dodgers, still don't have a title. So are people in LA like, what gives?
RIVERA: I absolutely think that's exactly what they're saying. Every post-season, we hear about the Dodgers - that this is their year. And we saw that historic winning streak that they had last year. We were expecting them, right? And still they didn't do it. And they were, you know, absolutely beat in the World Series by - you know, some people don't think a better team in the Houston Astros. So definitely that's what everyone is expecting. And going back to the evil empire that were mentioning before, Audie, that's one of the things that they used to say about the Yankees. They bought all the best players, so you should be expected to win. The people in LA are hungry - hungry for a title.
CORNISH: Are there any other teams that we should pay attention to that people are not? Like, who could be a surprise?
RIVERA: Watch out for the Philadelphia Phillies because where they play the National League East is a very weak division. The Washington Nationals are expected to take it. But in that division, it's going to be interesting to see what the Phillies can do, you know. And they just acquired a great pitcher in Jake Arrieta, who won the championship with the Cubs two years ago. And they're really slowly building a very, very good thing in Philly.
CORNISH: So before I let you go, this is a big day for you, right? I mean, what are you actually excited about this season?
RIVERA: I think one of the most exciting things about this season is to see what's really going to happen with all these new managers. You know, I know you're from Boston. You know, you got right there my man Alex Cora, you know, the first minority manager for the Boston Red Sox - a momentous day today in baseball. And just to see what Aaron Boone, the new manager for the Yankees, can do. I mean, all these guys - you know, they're barely over 40. Most of these guys - some of them are younger than me.
So that's what I'm excited about - to see this new wave of what is called, you know, the player-friendly type of managers. And the old-school manager that never spoke to you - and you just looked at the lineup to see where you were supposed to play in the game - that's sort of gone. And this is going to be very interesting to watch. All these guys that - at least me - right? - being a little bit of an older generation - got to see as a player. To see that transition, that should be pretty fun.
CORNISH: ESPN National Baseball writer Marly Rivera. Thanks so much. And have fun.
RIVERA: Thanks for having me, Audie.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "THE IMPERIAL MARCH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.