Sean McAdam's Yankees-Rangers ALCS preview

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Sean McAdam's Yankees-Rangers ALCS preview

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When it comes to pedigree, the American League Championship Series is no contest: The New York Yankees have won an astounding 40 American League pennants while the Texas Rangers are fresh off their only postseason series victory in franchise history.

Still, past accomplishments aside, this figures to be a compelling series. During the regular season, the two teams split eight games.

The Rangers will have home-field advantage, though the exact edge gained there is questionable. In their respective Division Series, the Rangers lost both home games and won all three road games while the Yankees won their two road games.

A look at the keys for both teams:

THREE KEYS FOR THE YANKEES:

1) Have CC Sabathia dominate.
Sabathia was the unquestioned MVP for the Yankees last October, when he continually took the ball on short rest and pitched the Yanks to a title.

The Yankees won't be asking as much from him this year, but his starts are still must-wins for the defending champs because of the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the rotation.

Andy Pettitte seemed to answer any remaining questions about his effectiveness with his start in the first round, but Phil Hughes is a relative unknown on this stage and who knows what -- if anything -- the Yankees will get from the enigmatic A.J. Burnett.

That means Sabathia's starts are virtual must-wins if the Yanks are to return to the World Series.

2) Continue to hit left-handed pitching.
If the ALCS goes the seven-game disance, the Rangers could start four of the seven games with lefty pitchers.

Even though their lineup features righty bats (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) and switch-hitters (Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher),the Yankees had difficulty against lefty pitching during the regular season. Even MVP candidate Robinson Cano hit 50 points lower against lefties than righties during the season.

Things got better in the ALDS, as the Yankees posted wins against Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing of the Minnesota Twins.

It helps that Curtis Granderson has come around against lefties, showing a much better approach in the final month of the season.

3) Limit the exposure of all relievers not named Rivera.
The Yankees need innings from their starters. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are proven postseason horses, which is a good thing for the Yanks. They'll want their starting pitchers to take them at least through the seventh, so they don't have to rely much on the set-up crew, which is largely unreliable.

If the Yanks can shorten the bridge from their starters to Mariano Rivera, their chances to win the series will grow expontentially.

THREE KEYS FOR THE RANGERS:

1) Get Cliff Lee the ball twice.

This will be, of course, easier said than done.

Thanks to his start Tuesday night in the Game Five clincher in the ALDS, Lee won't start until Game Three in New York, meaning he probably wouldn't start again -- at least not on full rest -- until a Game Seven.

Lee has been huge in the postseason (6-0, 1.44 ERA in seven career starts) and certainly won't melt at Yankee Stadium. (Remember Game One of
the 2009 World Series?)

The trick will be getting at least two more good starts from the rest of the Texas rotation to get him the ball a second time -- potentially, a winner-take-all Game Seven, in Arlington.

2) Run on Jorge Posada.
Remember the final series of the season between the Red Sox and Yankees? The Sox ran unchecked on Posada, tying a club record at one point for most stolen bases in an inning.

Under Ron Washington, the Rangers have turned into an ultra-aggressive team. The first three runs in their 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday night were the result of taking the extra base.

If the Rangers continue to put pressure on in this series, it will likely pay dividends. Pettitte, who has an outstanding move to first, will make it tough to run on him, but the other starters are vulnerable and the Yankees' bullpen has allowed 51 stolen bases in 54 attempts.

3) Have Josh Hamilton rebound.
Hamilton is the Rangers' best player, but thanks to a rib injury, missed most of September and didn't return to the lineup until the final weekend of the regular season.

He looked rusty in the Division Series against Tampa, collecting just one RBI in the five games.

There are others in the Texas lineup who can do damage -- Elvis Andrus at the top, and Vladimir Guerrero in the middle. But for the Rangers offense to click, they need more sock from Hamilton, who is likely going to be named the American League MVP next month.

THE PICK

Yankees in six games.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.