Fiammetta:In the interest of full disclosure for this sacred space that is Herald Sports’ Point-Counterpoint, I need to be honest – I am a Yankees fan. Not a bandwagon fan, and not one of those “baseball sucks so I’ll just go with a team that wins” fans. Nope, I’m from New York, and I’ve been attending games in the Bronx since 1995. But – and I promise you this is the truth – when I say the Yankees will win their 17th AL East title later this month, I honestly believe it.Now it’s not like it’s exactly a bold prediction – the Yanks hold a 2.5-game lead over the Rays after last night’s victory over them.So why am I sticking with them to hold onto their lead and take home the division crown? Well, to be honest, I always like to point out the Yankees’ veteran experience and familiarity with October…but that argument’s not exactly the most popular here in the Midwest. Fair enough…even though you know you would want Jeter, Mo, Pettitte and Posada in your World Series lineup.Even though they’re not playing their best ball of late, the Yanks might be on the brink of hitting their stride. In his first start after coming off the DL, Pettitte pitched six great innings of three-hit, one-run ball. Between ace C.C. Sabathia and newcomer Ivan Nova, – don’t laugh, the Yankees are 5-1 in games he has started, and he has the vibe of a pitcher that can handle New York in October – Pettitte forms a strong three-man rotation.It’s been a funky season for the Yanks on offense for sure, but you can’t tell me that you still won’t trust Jeter to produce in October. Robinson Cano’s been the team MVP, Curtis Granderson’s been on fire (eight-game hitting streak, four homers and 12 RBIs in his last six games) and Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner are finally healthy. So while it hasn’t been that pretty for the Yanks in September, enough is coming together where I’m confident that the team – the defending champions, at that – will keep it together for another two weeks.Holt:Oh Mike, I hate to say it, but while the Yankees will have bought their way to another postseason, they won’t take the divisional crown.The Rays could easily claim the division title for a number of reasons, but let’s begin with the schedule. Tampa Bay finishes the “competitive” part of the stretch run once the series with New York ends. From there, the Rays face the likes of Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City. For those who are unaware, that translates to the worst offense since the DH rule was instated and the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of the American League.The Yankees, on the other hand, have to deal with hated rivals. Boston, a Toronto team that hits enough home runs and strikes out enough batters to hang with anyone (despite the .500 record), and finishes, once again with the Red Sox. The Sox might have been ravaged by injuries this season, but in a rivalry series like that, anything can happen.As for the actual players, Tampa’s core of sprinter Carl Crawford, the mercurial B.J. Upton and slugger Evan Longoria are still in their prime. Tampa Bay’s youth means the Rays can run. Stretching out singles into doubles and going from first to third are their specialty – and an advantage many of the Yankees don’t have.Derek Jeter is on pace for his worst batting average since… well, since ever. A-Rod is still A-Rod, but unless you’re a Minnesota Twins pitcher, there’s no real reason to fear him this season. How un-Alex Rodriguez is Alex Rodriguez this year? Nick Swisher has a higher OPS and batting average than the former MVP. Andy Pettitte might be back, but he’s one re-tweaked groin from dooming New York’s repeat hopes.New York will be the October mainstay it always is, but this year, on the road to face my Twins. The Rays are just too good at finding ways to win, and with their favorable schedule, should coast to their second ever AL East title.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed an emergency disaster proclamation to allow state resources to be used to respond to flooding in portions of the state, including here in north-central Iowa.Reynolds also on Thursday activated the state emergency operations center to coordinate the response to flooding and help monitor rapidly-evolving conditions.The local counties include Cerro Gordo, Butler, Hancock, Kossuth, Winnebago, Worth and Wright.The governor’s action allows individuals in 21 counties in northern and western Iowa to qualify for grants for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food and temporary housing.The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says it has closed all or part of nine state parks due to rising flood water.