With the Royals’ AL West competition covered (except for the expansion Seattle Mariners, who we’ll get to later this week), let’s move over to the AL East. First up, the New York Yankees, who bested the Royals in the 1976 ALCS before getting swept by Cincinnati in the World Series.
As you might expect, the Yankees were really good in 1976, leading the AL in runs scored per game (technically, they tied with the Twins). They were second in home runs, third in stolen bases…yeah, a good all-around team on offense. And their pitching staff had the league’s best ERA at 3.19.
And then this loaded team went out and added Don Gullett and Topeka native Mike Torrez to bolster the rotation, and made the biggest splash in free agency by bringing in Reggie Jackson. Sure, an outspoken guy like Jackson might be a volatile addition to a clubhouse that already featured fiery veterans like Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, and Lou Piniella, but at least they would have the steady hand of *checks notes* manager Billy Martin to keep things calm. Yeah.
About the only hole in the lineup was at shortstop, where incumbent Fred Stanley hit .238/.329/.273 in 1976. The Yankees’ other problem entering spring training was finding enough at-bats for their outfielders, with Jackson’s bat added to the mix. New York would solve both problems by trading Oscar Gamble to the White Sox for Bucky Dent shortly before Opening Day.
Not surprisingly, this all meant New York was a heavy favorite to repeat as AL East champs, and a popular pick to return to the World Series and win it all.
Today’s birthday: Brian Barber (1973)