Shanoff's W.U.C.: Yankees, Red Sox or Rays?

Today's Calls: Yankees vs. Red Sox vs. Rays, John Calipari vs. Expectations, Jay Cutler vs. Jason Campbell, KG vs. Ray Allen, Car & Driver vs. NASCAR and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Baseball is back. But are the Yankees? ↵

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↵You can make all the division predictions you want, but only one has that "win or else" pressure: The A.L. East. ↵

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↵With the unexpectedly glorious rise of the Rays last season, it is a three-team scrum ... for two spots. Something's gotta give. ↵

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↵The Red Sox are the best team in the division. ↵The Rays are the defending A.L. champs — and got better. The Yankees are ... well, what ARE the Yankees? ↵

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↵Will the quarter-billion "What recession?" offseason spending binge for C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira pay off? Again: Anything less than making the playoffs is a failure — and expectations are such that anything less than a World Series championship is almost as unacceptable. ↵

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↵That's why we track things like liners that ricochet off CC's glove (he's OK) or Burnett's historically shaky health or Jeter's place in the lineup or — perhaps more than anything else — A-Rod's rehab, because in the end, A-Rod is the team's most valuable bat. ↵

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↵What makes the A.L. East so compelling is that there necessarily HAS to be a humongous loser. If it is the Yankees, it makes it all the more entertaining. ↵

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↵Prediction: Red Sox win the division; Yankees win the Wild Card; Rays learn a lamentable lesson about economics. ↵

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↵More MLB Predictions: ↵

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↵ ↵A.L. -- East: Red Sox; Central: Indians; West: Angels ↵

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↵A.L. Wild Card: Yankees; Champ: Red Sox ↵

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↵N.L. East: Mets; Central: Brewers; West: Dodgers ↵

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↵N.L. Wild Card: Phillies; Champ: Phillies ↵

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↵Calipari joins Kentucky: He will be the highest-paid coach in the country, even if he protests (perhaps too much) "I'm a regular guy, folks. I do not walk on water." But he knows why he is there: "They don't put banners up here for anything else but national champions." (It beats: "Hey, no NCAA violations this time, honest!") ↵

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↵Final Four Lead-Up: If you have no organic rooting interest in this Final Four (and your busted bracket no longer depends on a certain result), how can you not be rooting for Villanova? I will also accept "Root for Michigan State to win in its home state, rocked by the recession." Unacceptable answers: Rooting for UNC and/or UConn. That's no fun. ↵

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↵Coaching Carousel: Tim Floyd to Arizona? ‘Zona never struck me as a "nouveau riche" type of college hoops program, like Floyd has run at USC. Don't get me wrong: Arizona aggressively recruits one-and-done players as much as the next team, but can you imagine Lute Olsen having O.J. Mayo's rep walk into his office and say, "O.J. will play here," and having him say "Yesyesyesyesyes." ↵

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↵Cutler Watch: Are the Redskins willing to trade Jason Campbell to make room for Jay Cutler? One thing I wouldn't expect is for Campbell to "pull a Cutler" and utterly freak out over that rumor. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, Cutler is insisting he DIDN'T want to be traded and saying he was "shocked" — SHOCKED — that the Broncos would move so quickly to move him. There is spin, and then there is you-must-think-we-are-so-stupid. I qualify this as the latter.) ↵

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↵Donte Stallworth charged with DUI manslaughter: He could go to prison for up to 15 years, if he is convicted. ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Can the Celtics repeat without a 100 percent healty KG? Doc Rivers thinks so (you expect him to admit otherwise?), and the key is KG's D. (Meanwhile, the C's beat the Bobcats on Ray Allen's 3 in double OT.) ↵

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↵Playoff jockeying: If the Magic want to advance past the East semis, they MUST have home-court advantage over the Celtics. But after losing to the Raptors — combined with the Celtics’ win — Orlando slipped to third. It's a huge difference. ↵

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↵Prep Hoops: Georgia Tech recruit Derrick Favors stole the show, but the real action was hearing Memphis recruits (or ex-recruits ... or Calipari recruits, regardless of where Cal was coaching ...) Xavier Henry and DeMarcus Cousins (who each had 14 points) backtrack on their Memphis commitments, as expected. ↵

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↵Closure on Ryan Moats Situation: Dallas Police Officer Robert Powell has resigned. ↵

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↵April Fool's Hangover: I personally find the “Car and Driver” hoax that President Obama was yanking Dodge and Chevy out of NASCAR to be pretty great. I mean, it wasn't even that sly, people! The lunacy was that anyone didn't recognize it as a joke. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Baseball Book Club! Here are a couple of new baseball books I recommend: ↵

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↵"As They See 'Em" (Bruce Weber) ↵

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↵"Heart of the Game" (S.L. Price) ↵

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↵"Rocket That Fell To Earth" (Jeff Pearlman) ↵

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↵"Faith and Fear in Flushing" (Greg Prince) ↵

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↵"Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee" (Allen Barra) ↵

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↵Alyssa Milano's ode to her baseball fandom? Your choice, depending on your level of childhood crush on Samantha Micelli. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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