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Monday, May 16, 2011
Sunshine State > Big Apple?

By Mark Simon

If you had a choice right now, which current major league teams would you take? The ones based in New York or the ones based in Florida?

The Marlins are coming to New York to face the Mets on Monday. The Rays host the Yankees at Tropicana Field. A couple of recent losses notwithstanding, the Florida teams are currently outperforming their New York counterparts.

Both the Marlins and Rays are on pace to win 90 games and both are enjoying success on a limited budget.

Meanwhile, both New York teams are currently struggling with on and off field issues (the Mets with the sale of the team and the potential trades of their stars; the Yankees with Jorge Posada).

The two New York teams are a combined 39-39 despite Opening Day payrolls that totaled nearly $322 million (the Yankees ranked first, the Mets seventh). The two Florida teams had Opening Day payrolls totaling $98.8 million, with neither ranking higher than 24th in the majors. The two are 46-33, with each ahead of their New York counterpart in the standings.

The primary reason for the success of the 2 Florida teams— their pitching. Both teams have had their top two returning starting pitchers from last season excel. The Mets and Yankees both have had injury issues at the top of their rotations, between Johan Santana and Phil Hughes.

And both have gotten great work from their bullpens, which are anchored by names of far lesser significance than Mariano Rivera and Francisco Rodriguez. The Rays bullpen is headed by former Yankee Kyle Farnsworth. We dare all but the most hard-core baseball fans to identify any other relievers on that team, or the Marlins.

But their bullpens have combined for a 2.91 ERA and allowed just 13 home runs in 219 1/3 innings pitched. The Mets and Yankees are a bit behind them (3.19 ERA, 20 home runs in 243 innings).

Lastly, if you look at the core players on each of these teams, though the Marlins and Rays may have fewer, they have two advantages-- their core players (Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson; Evan Longoria and David Price) are young and are under their control for an extended period of time. Both the Mets and Yankees are in periods of transition, with players who are either aging, closing in on free agency, or both (see Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes among them).

Longoria and Price are each 25. Johnson and Ramirez are each 27. They are entering what should be the best years of their career. The Mets best players are close to departure. The Yankees best players will soon be retiring.

So we again pose the question: Which teams would you rather be? The ones in New York or the ones in Florida?