The Major League Baseball season is incredibly just one week away. Before the action begins, it is worth looking at several franchises who have been in the thick of the World Series discussion in recent years but will struggle in 2013.
Whether it's declining marquee players, intense direct competition from their division or their own fatal flaws, the following three squads will be hard-pressed to make the postseason this time around.
Here is a breakdown of baseball's biggest powerhouse and two other prominent clubs that will endure difficult campaigns.
New York Yankees
Superstar Alex Rodriguez certainly hasn't played up to his capabilities over the past several years, and he is not even expected back until after the All-Star break. Combine that with new PED allegations, and it's a lose-lose situation to still have A-Rod associated with the pinstripes.
Star slugger Mark Teixeira may also miss the entire season after injuring himself during batting practice for the U.S. at the World Baseball Classic.
Derek Jeter has missed time this spring and will likely start the year on the disabled list, along with Curtis Granderson, who has a fractured forearm. With all those factors bunched together, it's difficult to envision the Yanks getting off to a strong start in 2013.
Without a powerful lineup to drive the high-octane offense, the onus will be on the pitching staff to thrive. However, it remains to be seen how everyone in the rotation other than C.C. Sabathia will respond to getting lackluster run support.
It won't matter if Mariano Rivera is on track to return and is still somewhere near his typically dominant, closing self. If the Yanks can't put runs on the board, it's a problem.
With all the additions the Toronto Blue Jays made to their pitching, the surprising resurgence of the Baltimore Orioles and a likely bounce-back campaign in store for the Boston Red Sox under new manager John Farrell, New York may be in trouble.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay is having a very difficult spring. In a recent minor league start, the 35-year-old retired just seven of 18 hitters, and threw first-pitch strikes to just eight, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.
His ERA ballooned to 4.49 in 2012—his highest ever since becoming a full-time starter back in 2002. Although Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are still around, Lee isn't quite the dominant pitcher he was
Jimmy Rollins continues to struggle at the dish, which doesn't get the top of the order off to a strong start for Charlie Manuel's club.
A lot will be asked of 24-year-old Ben Revere, and with slugger Ryan Howard struggling through injuries recently and Chase Utley's knee issues, it remains to be seen just how effective the meat of the Philadelphia lineup will be.
The National League East division figures to be difficult once again due to the ascendance of the Washington Nationals and the toughness of the Atlanta Braves. It may be too much for the Phillies to overcome in a bid for a wild-card spot.
The big flaw that the Rangers have had is pitching, and they still have not adequately addressed that area enough to make a true run at the World Series.
Derek Holland had an underwhelming 2012 campaign, posting a 4.67 earned run average. That has led to Matt Harrison being named the Opening Day starter—even over Yu Darvish, who is talented but has control issues, walking 83 batters as opposed to just 39 in his previous season in Japan.
Now that Josh Hamilton has departed, it will be interesting to see how the new bats in Arlington mesh. Hamilton alone was such a productive player, and it's impossible to replace what he brought to the table with one individual.
Proficient contact hitter Michael Young and the powerful Mike Napoli are also gone. That definitely deflates Ron Washington's run production to an extent.
There is also the possibility that Nelson Cruz will be suspended for 50 games due to performance-enhancing drugs allegations. The sheer threat of that may be an extreme distraction, even if he is allowed to play the whole year.
Given the way this team collapsed down the stretch to blow the AL West title last season and the lack of improvements made to absorb losses and improve weaknesses, the makings of an arduous year are in the works for the Rangers.