10 Things We Want to See from the New York Yankees in 2014

Stephen SkinnerContributor IIDecember 31, 2013

10 Things We Want to See from the New York Yankees in 2014

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    Will beloved captain Derek Jeter finally return and lead the team back to the playoffs?
    Will beloved captain Derek Jeter finally return and lead the team back to the playoffs?Harry How/Getty Images

    As we officially turn the page from 2013 and plunge head-first into 2014, every team in MLB begins the new year with expectations and dreams of glory. 

    The New York Yankees as an organization have created a history of success, and after a season that saw them miss the playoffs for only the second time in the past 18 years, the team certainly hasn't rested on its laurels in trying to return to October play.

    With new additions like Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees have put the rest of the division on notice that they have no intentions of finishing third in the AL East again.

    In the spirit of New Year's resolutions, this article takes a look at what we want to see from the Yankees in 2014.

10. A Michael Pineda Start

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    Pineda has yet to make a start with the Yankees
    Pineda has yet to make a start with the YankeesNick Laham/Getty Images

    In January of 2012, the Yankees traded highly touted prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for their star young hurler Michael Pineda.

    The deal was a source of much debate at the time and remains a topic of discussion to this day.

    Before Pineda could throw a single pitch off the mound in Yankee Stadium, he suffered a serious shoulder injury that resulted in surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation that wiped out the entire 2012 season and limited him at the minor league level in 2013.

    Prior to coming to the Yankees, Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA as a 22-year-old in his first big league season with the Mariners.  Clearly, the young right-handed pitcher was going to be a star.

    While Montero has had his own issues following the trade, the Yankees and their fans certainly would love to start seeing some return on the investment when it comes to Pineda.

    A step in the right direction would be for him to win a spot in the rotation and finally make a start in pinstripes.

9. Twenty-Game Winner

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    CC Sabathia was the last pitcher to win 20 games for the Yankees
    CC Sabathia was the last pitcher to win 20 games for the YankeesElsa/Getty Images

    Twenty wins in a season is something every pitcher hopes to accomplish as they start each new year.  Not only is it an indication of a hurler's talent, but it usually equates to success for his team.  In 2013, Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers was MLB's only pitcher to reach that lofty mark.

    The last time a New York Yankee won 20 games was in 2010, when CC Sabathia went 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA.  That team won 95 games and went to the American League Championship (where they lost to the Texas Rangers).

    Since 1996, the Bombers have had five pitchers reach 20 wins.  In four of the five instances (the exception being Mike Mussina in 2008), the team either reached the World Series (winning twice) or the AL Championship.

    Will the team have a 20-game winner this season?  

    It would appear that Sabathia's best years are behind him, and neither Hiroki Kuroda nor Ivan Nova has ever won more than 16 games.

    Should the team land prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, perhaps that increases the possibility?

    As it typically equates to the Yankees going deep into October, fans can only hope one of their starters rises above the others and puts a "20" into the win column.

8. Lead the League in Home Runs

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    The return of Mark Teixeira will give the Yankees a much needed power boost
    The return of Mark Teixeira will give the Yankees a much needed power boostEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    One of the marked differences about the 2013 New York Yankees from previous versions of the club was the complete lack of power.

    In 2013, the Yankees ranked 22nd in MLB in home runs.  The table below shows the Yankees home run totals since 2009.

    YEARHRMLB RANK
    20092441
    20102013
    20112221
    20122451
    201314422

    Statistics are courtesy of MLB.COM

    In 2009, the Bombers won the World Series.  In 2010, they lost the ALCS to the Texas Rangers.  In 2011, they lost in the American League Division Series to the Detroit Tigers, and in 2012, they again lost to the Tigers—this time in the ALCS.

    It is no coincidence that the Yankees' success correlates directly to their power.  After all, Yankee Stadium is a hitter's park with a short right-field porch that invites the long ball.  The only season in the past five years where they did not finish in the top three in home runs happens to be the only time they didn't reach the postseason. 

    To return to the playoffs, the Yankees have to return to the top of MLB's power-laden teams. The additions of McCann and Beltran, along with the return of Mark Teixeira, should help the team reach that goal.

     

     

7. David Robertson Has Success as a Closer

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    Robertson has the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of Mariano Rivera
    Robertson has the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of Mariano RiveraAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Of all the changes that the New York Yankees will have in 2014, none may be felt more than that of the closer role.

    With the exception of 2012, since 1997, the Yankees have known but one man whose presence on the field signified near certain victory. 

    Mariano Rivera retired at the end of 2013 as MLB's greatest relief pitcher.  In 15 of 19 big league seasons, "Mo" had 30 or more saves.  Even more impressive was his postseason performances.  Over 16 Octobers and Novembers, Rivera had 42 saves and a microscopic 0.70 ERA.

    Since 2009, David Robertson has been the eighth inning setup to Rivera's success.  Over that time, Robertson has been nearly as sure a thing as Rivera.  Last season, he had a stellar 2.04 ERA and 1.040 WHIP. 

    Now, the mantle has been passed, and "D-Rob" will be asked to seal victories.

    No one may ever duplicate the consistent success that Rivera had, and it would be unrealistic to ask a pitcher to do so.  Even so, the Yankees will expect Robertson to translate his eighth inning holds into ninth inning saves. 

    General Manager Brian Cashman isn't sure that the 28-year-old Robertson can handle a closer role, and it has been rumored that the Yankees are scouring the free-agent market for other stoppers.

    Robertson, for his part, believes he can follow Rivera with success (as he should).

    As a favorite among the Yankees fans, he'll have a lot of people hoping he can.

     

6. Production from Catcher

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    The Yankees begin a new era behind the plate with Brian McCann in 2014
    The Yankees begin a new era behind the plate with Brian McCann in 2014Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Last season, the Yankees' catchers were last in production at the plate in MLB, as Chris Stewart, Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli and J.R. Murphy combined to hit a paltry .213 with just eight home runs and 43 RBI. 

    In addition, Stewart had the second most passed balls in baseball. 

    To say that improvement from the catching position was a priority for the Yankees this offseason would be an understatement.

    The team announced the signing of former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann to a five-year contract on December 3. 

    McCann has six consecutive seasons of at least 20 home runs and holds a .277 career batting average.  Behind the plate, he's had a total of nine passed balls in the last two seasons.

    With the short right-field porch, the left-handed hitter will represent a genuine threat in the Yankees lineup—something the team didn't have last season.

    Look for McCann to be warmly welcomed by Yankees fans starving for a productive catcher.

5. Beat the Red Sox

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    Ellsbury will now experience the other side to sports' greatest rivalry
    Ellsbury will now experience the other side to sports' greatest rivalryMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Since one former Boston Red Sox George Herman "Babe" Ruth donned pinstripes for the first time and subsequently led the New York Yankees to glory, the rivalry between the two teams has been arguably the greatest in all of sports.

    The teams' histories are littered with epic contests.  From Bucky Dent's home run in 1978 to the great ALCS comeback of 2004, the teams have traded blow after blow in trying to top each other.

    In 2013, the Sox went from last in the division to World Champions, while the Yankees slid from an ALCS appearance to missing the playoffs altogether.

    Not coincidentally, the Yankees went 6-13 against their hated rivals last season after going 13-5 in 2012.

    As if to draw first blood for 2014, on December 8, the Yankees signed Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract. 

    Ellsbury is consistently at the top of the AL in stolen bases and, when healthy, flashes good power.  He is part of the team's effort to re-tool for the new season.

    Yankees fans hope he brings with him some of the magic that helped the Red Sox reach the pinnacle of the sport in 2013.  Nothing would be sweeter to them than to have one of their rival's former stars lead their team back to the October Classic.

     

     

     

4. A Healthy Season

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    Having stars like Derek Jeter return, and stay healthy, is a priority to the Yankees and their fans
    Having stars like Derek Jeter return, and stay healthy, is a priority to the Yankees and their fansTom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The most frustrating aspect of the 2013 season for the Yankees and their fans was the seemingly endless stream of injuries to their stars.

    Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson are all key stars who missed significant time last year due to injury.  Jeter and Teixeira combined to play a total of 32 games in 2013.

    As if to place the blame somewhere for the incredible rash of misfortune, the Yankees fired strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea in October.

    Will the change bring about a different fortune for the team in 2014? 

    Only time will answer that question, but Yankees fans will be rewarded if their team can navigate through the season with minimal damage.

     

3. Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position

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    Beltran brings with him the ability to hit with RISP
    Beltran brings with him the ability to hit with RISPMike Stobe/Getty Images

    Over the past two seasons, an Achilles' heel of the New York Yankees has been their ability to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). 

    Nothing is more frustrating to a fan than to see his or her favorite team get men on base only to squander the opportunity. 

    In 2012, the team hit .256 with RISP, ranking 17th in MLB.  Last year, they hit .255, which put them 13th in baseball, but they ranked 19th in slugging percentage with RISP.

    Two of the newest Yankees should bolster the team's numbers with RISP. 

    Carlos Beltran hit .374 with a .972 OPS with runners in scoring position last season, and Jacoby Ellsbury hit .304 in that situation. 

    Should both stay healthy, the runs they produce will translate to more wins for the Yankees.

2. Derek Jeter

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    The Yankees need their captain
    The Yankees need their captainJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Perhaps, no other player is as important to the Yankees' hopes in 2014 than their captain, Derek Jeter.

    Numbers alone don't quantify the impact he has on the team and its success.

    Last season's squad lacked the on-field leadership that the 19-year veteran brings with him each time he takes his spot at shortstop.  It was a contributing factor to the team missing the playoffs.

    One could argue that at age 39, Jeter is on the decline, and for the most part, that argument is true.  He is wrapping up a certain Hall of Fame career and coming off a devastating ankle injury suffered in the 2012 ALCS.  It derailed the entire 2013 season for him and enabled the doubters to pile on.

    One only needs to look at Jeter's 2012 season to know that he isn't quite dead yet (to borrow from Monty Python).  That year, he hit .316 and led MLB in hits with 216.

    With the better part of a year to recover, Jeter will be ready to assume his spot in the Yankees lineup. 

    For Yankees fans, nothing is a more welcome sight than to see No. 2 trot out to shortstop on Opening Day.

1. World Series Champions

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    For the Yankees, there is always just one goal.
    For the Yankees, there is always just one goal.Donald Bowers/Getty Images

    They have won the World Series more than any other team (27 times), and for the New York Yankees, it is more than just a goal, it is an expectation.

    There are plenty of teams that would look at 85 wins as a step in the right direction.  The Yankees aren't one of those teams.

    In 2012, the Bombers won the most games in the American League (95) and went to the ALCS, where they lost to the Detroit Tigers.  For anyone else, that is considered to be a successful season.  For the Yankees, it was a disappointment.

    Perhaps, the disappointment is justified, given that the team leads MLB in total payroll year after year.  Or perhaps, it is the result of the level of success the team has established since the 1920's.

    Whatever the case, the New York Yankees and their fans have come to expect the season to go late into October and end in triumph.

    2014 will be no different.  With the flurry of activity the team has already generated this offseason (more to come), expectations will be high on Opening Day.

    Only a hoisting of the World Series trophy will bring satisfaction and justification to the team and its fans.