It is another standard offseason in the Bronx this year. A few Brinks trucks backed up to some new additions’ homes. Another Yankee admits to performance-enhancing drugs.
And the fans have no titles to brag about.
You think the people in Chicago are getting anxious after 100 years? Try being a New Yorker after eight seasons and no ring. The recession is hitting New York baseball in titles not cash flow.
Here is what New York Yankees fans have to look forward to and what they should be concerned about in 2009.
Everything is Bigger in New York?
Two big, and I do mean big, additions to the Yankees' roster this winter have fans excited about both the lineup and the pitching staff.
The ever-widening CC Sabathia and “Big Tex” Mark Teixeira will be there to cut the red tape when New Yankee Stadium opens this year. Both players are young, budding superstars that will be pressured to perform well.
Sabathia had one of the best post-All-Star Break runs that any pitcher in the last century has seen. He went 9-2 with six complete games and four shutouts while leading the Milwaukee Brewers to their first postseason appearance in 26 years.
Sabathia also logged more innings than Cy Young and threw a mind-blowing amount of pitches doing it. His $189 million left arm could very well end up in those $40,000 front row seats at the new yard.
Teixeira has bounced from Texas to Atlanta and finally rested with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America, Planet Earth last season.
At every stop, he provided stellar defense, the ability to hit for average or power, and clutch performances (.308 w/ RISP, 8 HRs and 82 RBIs in ‘08). He will be joining a New York lineup where he will not have to be “the guy”.
His switch-hitting bat will likely be placed in the three-hole behind Alex Rodriguez and in front of Derek Jeter. Not a bad spot if you want to drive in and score 100 runs. There is no pressure, Tex.
Catch and Release
The Yankees freed themselves from some very cumbersome contracts after the 2008 season. A combined $178 million was jettisoned from their payroll.
The salary relief is not best part of these moves. It is the lack of production that those contracts carried.
Carl Pavano pitched a total of 145.2 IP while gathering nine wins during his four-year stint in the Bronx. That is $4.44 million a win and a little over $275,000 per inning. That is A-Rod money for a fourth pitcher!
Jason Giambi, while providing a slump-breaking pink thong, only batted .260 with 209 HRs and 604 RBIs while wearing the pinstripes. His power numbers were there but he also spent extended periods of time on the DL. He also provided off-the-field distractions.
Mike Mussina, while winning 20 games with the Bombers last year, never brought a title to the Yankees during his tenure. He turns 41 this year and is well past his prime. While the veteran leadership will be missed on the young staff, Andy Pettitte’s wisdom will have to suffice in ’09.
These aging players are finally off the Yankee ledger, which will give promising young players a chance to play. The Yankee dynasty of the 1990s was homegrown, and the Yankees are revisiting that formula again.
Ready and Able
The Yanks were riddled with injuries last season, even to their normally healthy superstars.
Jorge Posada spent the majority of last season on the disabled list with a shoulder problem. His presence with both his bat and his taped fingers throwing down signs behind the dish will have the greatest impact on the Yankees this year.
Posada knows the Yankee staff very well and knows the AL East hitters better than anyone. Yes, he is even better than Jason Varitek.
Actually, Posada and Varitek are quite similar. They are both outstanding game callers and can mature a young pitching staff quickly. Do not forget that Posada had his best season ever at the plate just two years ago in 2007.
Mariano Rivera will also be back to 100 percent after offseason surgery to repair an injured shoulder. Trevor Hoffman can have his 500 saves, and Jonathan Papelbon’s splitter was not splitting last year. Rivera is still the best closer in baseball.
Rivera still managed to save 39 games last year while only being at about 85 percent. It is also about time for Rivera to start mentoring the Yankees' young relievers.
Nothing to Play For
A.J. Burnett has some of the nastiest stuff in baseball. He also has some of the nastiest non-contract years in baseball.
Burnett has pitched in low-pressure environments like Florida and Toronto his entire career. Neither of those teams is expected to win a World Series every year. The Marlins only win after a fire sale, and the Blue Jays brought back Cito Gaston for a renaissance tour.
Under the bright lights of New York, Burnett’s expectations are going to be high. In years coming off a contract, Burnett has gone 14-12 (three seasons) with an ERA over five. He also spent a combined 200 games on the disabled list.
The Yankees may have rid themselves of Carl Pavano, but Burnett could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
If the Yankees do not go at least 18-8 in April, the sky will fall in New York. The media capital of the world will be writing Chicken Little stories all season long.
Joba threw six and a third innings; what is Girardi thinking? Did you hear C.C. closed down the all-you-can-eat buffet on 22nd Street? Cashman needs to trade for that new guy that has a ten-game hitting streak. A-Rod tested positive for B12!
The sports radio lines will be buzzing with fans gushing after wins and panicking after losses. Yankees fans are eternal windsocks.
Sadly, the new Steinbrenner regime has done nothing to help this cause. Hank and Hal are attempting to be George but failing miserably. At least with George’s words, they were backed up with five to six Billy Martin firings.
Every time Hank opens his mouth, there is a microphone in front of it. At least George had gusto, pizzazz, fire, and brimstone. His sons have arrogance, poor timing, and lame duck hoopla.
The headlines will be big and blaring. The content of the stories will be lacking. Sensationalism reigns supreme in New York.
Evil Empire No More
The Yankees are no longer the juggernaut that everyone is afraid to face. They missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years last season.
The Tampa Bay Rays won the AL East, people.
In years past, the Red Sox and other opponents would assume that playing the Yankees in the postseason was the end of their season. Now, it’s just a stepping stone to the World Series.
As the great Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental—the other half is physical.” That 45 percent advantage that the Yankees started every series with is gone. While teams do not expect to beat the Yankees, they do not expect to lose either.
2009 will be a critical season in New York. The old guard is starting to fade in talent, and the 2011 expiration of Derek Jeter’s contract is just around the corner. The “26” that hangs below the press box at old Yankee Stadium is getting very stale.
It would be nice to christen the new stadium with a 27th World Championship.
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