Monday, March 3, 2008
30 Teams in 30 Days: New York Yankees
A look back: The Bronx Bombers managed to find their way back into the playoffs last year, but Cleveland’s pocket aces made it a short stay, New York’s third straight loss in the ALDS. On top of that, Boston took the division and the Yankees had to watch the Red Sox celebrate their second title in four years. For those scoring at home, that makes two Boston titles to zero New York titles in this millennium. That’s something the Yankees have to change, fast.
Positives on the field: For once, the Yankees are getting pitching the old-fashioned way: developing it through their minor league system. Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain all could be in the rotation at some point this year. It’s very likely that all three will leave Tampa as part of the big league club. Mariano Rivera still anchors the bullpen, leaving that as a strength.
As for the hitting, the Yankees will continue to have great hitters. Any lineup with Robinson Cano at the eighth spot will mash the ball. This is always a New York strength, and 2008 is no exception. Alex Rodriguez will anchor an outstanding Yankee lineup that is strong throughout.
Positives off the field: Yankee Stadium will host the 2008 All-Star Game. Perfect sendoff to a historic park.
Negatives off the field: Yankee Stadium will close. Any time history goes, it’s not a good thing. But credit the Yankees for refusing to give the new Yankee Stadium a corporate name. Are you listening, Sam Zell?
Negatives on the field: It’s the rotation. What does Mike Mussina have left? Will Andy Pettite be distracted? Can the young arms hold up? Has Carl Pavano entered the witness protection program? OK, that last one was a joke, but those are big questions. The Yankees will only go as far as their rotation can carry them. If New York’s arms can’t hold up, it won’t matter how well the Yankees can hit. Without good to great pitching, New York can’t catch Boston, and could easily slip behind Toronto.
The only real question with the position players is first base and who will play there. Right now, it looks like Jason Giambi’s territory. But that could easily change. Speaking of change, Joe Girardi is the new Yankee skipper this year, replacing Joe Torre. Girardi is a fine manager, but will his style that worked so well in Florida and complete obscurity transfer to New York, baseball’s hottest spotlight?
Outlook: The Yankees will find it tough to make it back to the playoffs, even if they finish second. With Cleveland strong but looking up at Detroit in the Central and Los Angeheim or Seattle doing the same in the West, plus Toronto in its own division, there is plenty of competition for the wild card. It all depends on the Yankees’ pitching, which is the area where they don’t own the edge.
Projected finish: 2nd in AL East, no playoffs. Yankees opener is March 31 at Yankee Stadium against Toronto.
Spring base: Legends Field in downtown Tampa, Fla. The team plays the majority of its games in the Tampa Bay area, and does venture to Central Florida and the Gulf Coast.
Fan of the team?: Check out Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees blog.
Come back tomorrow: From one end of a rivalry to the other, the road trip visits Red Sox Nation, the defending world champions.
My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Over It.