By their standards, luck has not existed this century for the Yankees. A lot of teams dream of making the post-season as much as they do. 2009 has a whole new look and feel to it, placing a big "?" on it. What will the 2009 New York Yankees be this year?
The Yankees coming into 2009 have shuffled their roster, including the loss of Bobby Abreu, Ivan Rodriguez, Carl Povano, Wilson Betemit, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, oh, and their home—The Cathedral is officially retired.
The Yankees did add big names to the roster: Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and a new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium. Plus Andy Pettitte, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady are back; and Chien-Ming Wang and Jorge Posada return from an injury plagued 2008.
Key questions remain the Yankees must answer, or avoid, to overtake the Rays and Red Sox to get back to the playoffs.
1. How will the Yankees fare in the new stadium?
Babe Ruth left a huge legacy with how he opened the ol' Cathedral. That place was loaded with great tradition, history, and magic that the Yankees hope to carry to their new home. The Yankees must not pressure themselves to re-create that lure.
2. How will the new members mesh on and off the field?
A new cast of stars arrive, bringing a lot of change to the Bronx.
Sabathia must take control of the rotation just as he did when he arrived in Milwaukee. The Yankees lacked that knockout pitcher the past few years. With Pettitte declining and Moose gone, Burnett needs to be that strong No. 2 he was with the Blue Jays.
Teixeira chose the biggest stage of them all. He must continue to improve at the plate as he has the past few years, and provide consistent defense the Yankees lacked at 1st base.
The first key addition this off-season, Nick Swisher, may prove to be most crucial. Swisher must maintain his intensity while accepting a bench role and covering multiple positions.
3. Will Posada and Wang return to their old forms after an injury plagued 2008?
Posada is the man behind the plate. He must prove he is healthy and re-assume his leadership role. If he doesn't, this could be his final season in the Bronx.
Wang had a serious injury last year. With the pitching additions, Wang can come in as the No. 3 starter and not have the pressure to be the staff’s ace. However, a strong return is pivotal to the Yankees success in 2009.
4. Are Cano and Cabrera going to bring their bats this year?
Patience is gone for Melky Cabrera. He must capitalize on his opportunities at the plate or he is trade bait. With the loss of Abreu, and Damon and Matsui aging, Melky needs to bring his bat.
If he doesn’t, the Yanks will count on Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, or even hot prospects such as Austin Jackson.
Cano’s bat is needed. He is still a great, young player with many years ahead. The Yankees offensive numbers dipped last year, and his bat was one reason why. If he remembers his bat, Cano can still be mentioned in the same breathe as Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera.
5. What personality will the bullpen take the shape of for 2009?
Joba Rules or not, Joba is a starter. The bullpen can't rely on him. The Yankees expect another great, lights-out season from Mariano Rivera.
Last year' pitching staff became an Abbott and Costello joke. Who was on the mound at any given time? Marte needs to step it up the most. He was a huge addition mid-season last year. The staff needs to stay healthy and hold the game for Rivera.
Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Dan Griese, Brian Bruney, Alfredo Aceves, Jonathan Albaladejo, Humberto Sanchez, who wants the ball?
6. Will the bench be strong this year?
Swisher fills a big role this season. The Yankees need a strong season behind the plate from Jose Molina, or they will call up young prospect Francisco Cervelli, who missed 2008 with an injury.
With Betemit gone, Cody Ransom will need to fill the go-to role he covered so well. Melky, already under the gun, must provide a spark off the bench.
Juan Miranda, who had a great season in the Arizona Fall League, will be a key young player rounding out the bench.
From the mound, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, and Ian Kennedy will need to be ready when the big arms need a rest or get injured.
Hughes and Kennedy were busts last year and will be trade bait if they don't produce on the mound.
7. Could the Yankees make any more moves before April?
Rumors are swirling that Swisher or Nady could be traded before April. Melky could be on the block, and the Yankees now have a bit of a surplus at pitching. The Yankees could make one or two more moves before the season starts.
Manny is still out there, as is Adam Dunn and former Yankee Bobby Abreu. Manny especially would help solidify the outfield.
The Yankees are rumored to be in pursuit of defensive standout, 2B Orlando Hudson, who had an injury filled 2008. His signing could diminish Cano’s time, especially if he doesn't perform at the plate. Regardless, he would be a great defensive addition.
8. They built it, now will the bats come?
Melky, Cano, and Posada must bounce back at the plate. The Yanks need bigger bats and more clutch hits. The Yankees traditionally are a power hitting team with a lot of plate patience. They must show up and open this park with a bang, which brings me back to the first question. They can't fall to the pressure of the new stadium.
9. Once they read it, how will Torre's book impact the Yankees?
Hopefully no impact at all, except to a certain player not mentioned yet, who needs to be more clutch. The only major uproar came from none other than former Yankee big mouth, David Wells.
It’s a small issue right now, but I guarantee you at the start of spring training, the media will bombard the Yankees with questions regarding the book. Ignore those questions and let’s play baseball!
10. Lion or Lamb? Will the real A-Rod please stand up!
Finally, lets talk about Alex Rodriguez. After signing many top free agents the leagues’ highest paid player still has the biggest questions.
A-Rod is always counted on to put up his gaudy, garbage numbers every year. The problem is he never produces at clutch times, especially come playoff time. Torre has called him out for it.
He wants to be paid as the games greatest. To do that, and be mentioned in the same breathe as the greatest Yankees like DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig, Ruth, and Jeter, you need to bring home something that has eluded the Yanks since your arrival, and that is a World Series Championship.
Yankees 2009 Season Outlook
The Yankees improved their playoff chances with their moves. The bad side is the Rays return a young, World Series caliber team nearly intact (minus Rocco Baldelli, plus Pat Burrell).
The Red Sox didn't slouch either, bringing in Baldelli, Brad Wilkerson, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz and have a logjam in their starting rotation.
It will be very close. The Rays will drop off this season, a sophomore slump per say after their fairytale last year. The Sox take the East unless their bats cool in a Manny-less lineup, especially if Big Papi isn't healthy.
The Yankees will bounce back and grab the wild card spot this year. A trip to the World Series will once again come down to the winner of the ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox. The winner will square off in the Fall Classic against the Los Angeles Dodgers.