Column: Choking on chalk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

I like listening to Peter Gammons, I like reading Peter Gammons&8217; articles but I cannot believe what I saw Sunday surfing the Internet.

ESPN &8220;experts&8221; were predicting the 2006 baseball season winners and losers. Gammons, Jayson Stark, Tim Kurkjian and Mark Simon all picked the New York Yankees to raise yet another banner at season&8217;s end.

Um, I am going to have to disagree on that one for a multitude of reasons not the least of which is that Gammons, Stark and Kurkjian seemingly pick the Pinstripers to win it every year at this time.

Then, I turn on my TV in May or June and they are on Baseball Tonight talking about why this broke down pitcher or this chemically enhanced hitter isn&8217;t getting it done and have ended any hope of a title.

Picking the Yankees every year was great when the Yankees were led by Paul O&8217;Neil, a young Bernie Williams and such, but since Steinbrenner has gone by the &8216;All-Star at every position&8217; theme it has been five years since Mariano Rivera has been called upon to sew up a World Series Title.

Pitching is always pointed to as being the key, although the Twins have shown that a little offensive pop wouldn&8217;t hurt, and the Yankees are just too fragile for my liking.

Randy Johnson can be so dominant he can vaporize birds with a single pitch, but I am not convinced he is Roger Clemens and can be a dominant 40-something pitcher.

Carl Pavano has already had problems with his health in spring training leading me to believe it is a problem that will get worse before it gets better.

Jaret Wright, well, I am pretty sure his middle initials are D.L. and Mike Mussina has never been the same pitcher for the Yanks as he was with Baltimore.

I also have to believe that one of these years the Yankees won&8217;t be able to pull an Aaron Small out of thin air to patch together enough wins to get into the playoffs.

The

lineup has some of the biggest names who, five years ago, were the best at what they did.

Jason Giambi had a solid bounce back season after all the steroid talk but I don&8217;t think you can expect as much or more from him this season.

Johnny Damon seems like he is just waiting for his arm to blow out, Gary Sheffield seems ready to pout for a good portion of the season and Bernie Williams is still going to be playing in the outfield &045; not necessarily a good thing.

I know that A-Rod and Jeter are strong players but I don&8217;t think either can carry this group.

And above any other reason I can think of this may be the biggest as to why the Yanks won&8217;t win another title &045; the American League is good and deep.

The White Sox are defending champs, the Indians are up and comers, the Angels have proven to be Yankee killers, the Blue Jays are much improved, Boston showed us never say never two years ago, the A&8217;s just keep finding new ways to impress and the Twins will be a very tough team if they hit this season.

The Yankees may be able to mash for a while and pitch for a while, but in the end there are to many hurdles for this veteran team to jump over.

It may be easy to go with the chalk (based on payroll), I just don&8217;t think it would be smart.