New York, L.A., Chicago: Multiple teams, but which city is best?

Updated: March 22, 2009

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Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Mets GM Omar Minaya have built two strong franchises.

THREE CITIES, SIX TEAMS … ONE WINNER

Three big cities (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) have two baseball teams. Which city has the best combination, though? My knee-jerk reaction is New York because the Mets were just a bullpen away from making the playoffs last season and the Yankees went out and made several major free-agent moves in the offseason to solidify not only their playoff chances, but more importantly, their chances at a World Series title.

But then I got to thinking and realized that Los Angeles and Chicago weren't going to lose in a rout, but that this one would go down to the wire.

First off, Los Angeles has an excellent National League team in the Dodgers that could actually be better than the Mets in the long run because of the versatility in the lineup and because they have such a dangerous hitter in the middle of the order in Manny Ramirez.

As good as the Mets and the Yankees are right now, I hesitate to say that either team has a guy like Manny who can come through in the big moments like he can. He's proven time and time again that he can put a team on his back in the middle of May, the dog days of August and, especially, in September and October. In addition to Manny, the Dodgers have an interesting mix of young pitching that could mature and pose problems come playoff time for National League teams.

In the American League, the L.A. Angels are a team that may not be as good as last season because of the loss of Mark Teixeira to the Yankees in the offseason and Francisco Rodriguez to the Mets, but this team still is the class of its division. The Angels may end up falling short of the Rays and Red Sox come playoff time, but that is more a testament to just how good those two teams are and not a shot at the Angels.

Now let's jump to Chicago and take a look at the Chicago White Sox. Of the two Windy City clubs, the White Sox are the lesser team, but not by as much as some people think. As usual, the Cubs are taking the majority of the headlines in Chicago, but White Sox general manager Ken Williams has put together an intriguing squad that could surprise a lot of people.

This team has the potential to make another postseason run and surprise some people because of the talent and attitude in the starting rotation and lineup. This is a nasty team that matches manager Ozzie Guillen's attitude. No team should expect an easy game or series when the White Sox are in the building.

On the flip side, the Cubs have the talent to finally break the curse and win the World Series. I know people say that almost every year, but I like the changes management made to get more balanced offensively. I also like that they've followed teams like the Red Sox in terms of letting fan favorites go instead of holding onto them as they've done in the past. This team now understands that the point is winning, and in recent years we've seen guys like Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Rich Hill either leave or be traded. In years past, the Cubs would have hung on because these guys were lovable Cubs. It's good to see Cubs fans being treated to a management style that is all about winning.

In the end, the New York teams simply have too much money and too many intelligent people handling that money for Chicago and Los Angeles to keep up. This isn't like in years past, when the Mets and Yankees were messing up their farm systems and spending on big-name free agents who were going to only give them a year or two. We're seeing smart, valued decisions by both front offices. While that's great for their fans, it's terrible for other teams who used to relish watching the New York teams squander their money and struggle to make the playoffs.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: March 19 | March 18 | March 17 | March 16 | March 15

BEST OF THE BLOGS

Each day, ESPN.com's contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. Buster Olney takes a look at the 10 players to watch in 2009:

Players grow weary of spring training in the same way that we all grew tired of high school by spring, with the last days dragging on, the anticipation for the summer games building. By now, most of the players feel like they're ready to start the season, and are increasingly bored by the final exhibition games.

But there are still two weeks to go, still two weeks to think about what might be. After seeing a bunch of teams and talking with a bunch of front-office types and coaches and scouts, here are 10 players I'm really looking forward to watching this year:

1. Jason Motte, Cardinals: He has the aggressive makeup to be a closer, he has the stuff to be a closer, and St. Louis -- which was taken down by its bullpen failures last year -- has the need. He's looked good this spring, and his performance during the regular season could be pivotal.

2. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: I wrote early in the 2007 season that the Rangers would have a difficult time getting a good package of players in return for Mark Teixeira, but in the end, Texas did very well -- and this is the guy who was regarded by most rival evaluators as the most promising part of the deal. He has stepped in to take over at shortstop and said over the phone a few weeks ago that Michael Young -- who was pushed from short to third to facilitate the insertion of Andrus -- has been a big help to him. We'll see how quickly he assimilates to the big leagues, and whether there will be major growing pains.

For the rest of this entry from Buster Olney's blog, click here.


Peter Gammons gives a sense of which players might be available:

• Some of the players being dangled because of roster space and economics: Geoff Jenkins, Phillies; Brian Giles, Padres; Gary Matthews Jr., Angels; Marcus Thames, Tigers; Nick Johnson, Nationals; Jason Repko, Dodgers; Jeff Baker, Rockies.

• Mark Teahen has made some progress in his second-base experiment, and the Royals have held on to him despite interest from several teams, including the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees.

For the rest of this entry from Peter Gammons' blog, click here.


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MONDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Gavin Floyd• The White Sox were busy Sunday. The club locked up right-hander Gavin Floyd to a four-year deal worth a reported $15.5 million. Floyd went 17-8 a year ago for the White Sox. The team also settled on a starting second baseman, telling Chris Getz he had beaten out Jayson Nix, Brent Lillibridge and Gordon Beckham for the job.
WORST
Trevor Hoffman• It doesn't appear Trevor Hoffman will make his official debut with his new team on Opening Day. Hoffman will likely miss the start of the season because of a strained right oblique. The Brewers will likely hand the closer duties over to Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung while Hoffman heals.

WBC HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT: U.S. LOSES

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Ian Kinsler had his best year as a member of the Rangers last season, hitting .319 with 18 homers, 41 doubles and an OPS of .892 in 121 games. How should opposing pitchers approach Kinsler? Look at the inner third of the plate, but be careful not to leave anything in the middle-in part of the strike zone, because he'll punish it:

Ian Kinsler
Location In Middle Away
BA SLG BA SLG BA SLG
Up .250 .389 .297 .541 426 .936
Middle .360 .580 .322 .500 .458 .729
Down .171 .244 .241 .324 .360 .560

Kinsler doesn't leave pitchers many options because, even though they try to attack his weak spot (down and in), he recognizes it as a weakness and lays off the pitch, swinging only 36.7 percent of the time on those pitches. Although, overall, he swings at 45.7 percent of the pitches he sees.

-- ESPN Stats and Information

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