Posted By Chasing Records on March 31, 2011
Questions Surrounding the Yankees’ Quest for 28
Every off-season, there is hope. The New York Yankees typically pull off a big signing, or a big trade, and they are the heavy favorites to win the American League Pennant, if not the World Series. This year, things were different. Sure, they reloaded their bench and solidified the bullpen, but the big name did not come. Cliff Lee chose to return to his old team, the Philadelphia Phillies, forcing Yankee fans to call for a trade for Felix Hernandez. That did not happen. General Manager Brian Cashman preached patience, bringing in old veterans like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Kevin Millwood to fill the gap and give the team some innings. There were no big additions to a line-up that didn’t hit in the ALCS, while the Boston Red Sox added two perennial All Stars and many solid relievers.
The Yankees go into 2011 as underdogs for a change, and maybe that’s exactly where they need to be. This author promises not to get negative, and not to call for anyone’s firing, at least not yet. The Boston Red Sox will win the American League East in 2011. They have two of the best starting pitchers in baseball — Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. They also have two seasoned veterans who struggled last year, but have a reputation for being big gamers — Josh Beckett and John Lackey. The Yankees just don’t have as much depth in the rotation. CC Sabathia is the ace, and the horse. He could easily win 20 games again, especially with a lock-down bullpen. After that, there’s questions, and a lot of them. Will Larry Rothschild and the Yankee brass get AJ Burnett right again? Can he really be a number two starter in the A.L. East? Is Phil Hughes going to rebound after his slow second half and poor performance in the ALCS? Is Ivan Nova ready? Who will be the fifth starter by Memorial Day?
Before you jump down my throat, listen to this: the Yankees will repeat as American League Wild Card winners in 2011. After that, anything can happen. The 2010 Yankees limped into the playoffs, and then won four in a row before hitting a wall against Texas. This is a team that missed the World Series by only two games, and I still think they’re a little bit better than last year. Here’s why:
- Alex Rodriguez is going to have a monster year. He’s healthy, lighter, and has been hitting the ball all over the state of Florida this Spring. There’s no more controversy surrounding A-Rod, he’s not the main story going into this season. Alex Rodriguez will re-assert himself as one of the best players in baseball, despite his age. If he stays healthy, there’s no telling what kind of numbers he will put up.
- Mark Teixeira will get off to a better start this season. The Yankees took a new approach with Tex, leaving him in Spring Training games longer and getting him more swings. His pre-season stats were excellent, and it’s time that he casts away the talk of his slow starts year in and year out. Despite acquisitions by other teams, the Yankees still have one of the best 3-4 combinations in the game today.
- I really, really hope that Derek Jeter will have an improved season in 2011. The contract talk is over, but the discussion over his position in the line-up is not. Brett Gardner had the highest on base percentage on the team in 2010, and was the top base-stealer. He should hit lead-off, and Jeter should move down to seventh. Derek remains an icon and will pick up his 3,000th hit this year, which will be incredible, but it’s time for him to move down.
- One more player will have an incredible 2011 season: Curtis Granderson. The Yankees have received good news about his health, and his performance at the end of the year shows that he is ready for a breakout campaign. It’s his second year in New York, and he knows he does not have to be the man in this line-up.
I sound like a broken record. Any sportswriter you’ve heard from this off-season says the Yankees’ pitching is the problem. Cliff Lee said no, Andy Pettitte said goodbye, and AJ Burnett needs a shrink. We know, we know. Despite questionable starting pitching, the team has the best bullpen in baseball. That’s right, the best. Rafael Soriano is the best eighth inning man in the game, and Mariano is still Mariano. Joba Chamberlain is throwing gas, David Robertson is one of the most underrated arms in the league, and Boone Logan performed exceptionally well against lefties. Guys like Nova, Garcia, and even Millwood will be asked for five innings before the pen takes over. If the hitters put up the statistics we expect to see, and the front of the rotation starters do not implode, I believe the Yankees can expect to see baseball in October once again. However, one important sentiment remains, as the great John Sterling says, “You can’t predict baseball!”
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