After 13 straight seasons that ended in trips to the playoffs, the greatest team in baseball history, the New York Yankees, failed to make it to the playoffs in 2008, forcing many to wonder how will the Yankees get back to the playoffs in 2009?
I have comprised a list of five of the biggest questions, which need to be answered if the Yankees are going to make it to October.
5) Who is going to play center field?
What was once regarded as the most prolific job in all of baseball, with names like DiMaggio, Mantle, Murcer, and Williams, the center field job for the Yankees seems to be wide open. It looks to be a platoon system of Melky Cabrera, and Brett Gardner with Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher also in the mix.
However, all signs are pointing to the first two for the starting job.
Cabrera is a fan favorite with his ear-to-ear smile and cannon arm. Gardner was called up late last year and contributed two walk-off hits (one of which was against Jonathon Papelbon and the Red Sox).
Either way, they are batting ninth behind eight all- stars, but I think it will put everyone at ease knowing who is playing where everyday.
4) Who is the Bridge to Mo?
This has been the biggest question for the Yankees since the turn of the century.
Personally, for the eighth I would like to see Joba Chamberlain back here, but I think it is really doubtful, until maybe the playoffs. Last year, it was set up by committee between Edwar Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth, and a slew of others. All of which showed to be capable at times last season, however they were also very hittable.
With Rivera, I expect a lot of tutoring going on inside the bullpen and the younger guys stepping up. One constant last year was Brian Bruney, and I expect a bulk of the work will be his if he remains to be.
3) Are we going to see A-Rod or A- Fraud?
Alex Rodriguez is the only player in baseball who can hit 36 home runs, and drive in over 100 and still have a bad year. There is no logical explanation for it, and honestly it makes me feel bad for the guy.
However, the Yankees need that A-Rod from 2007 who just looked like he was going to hit a home run every time he came up to bat. Not the 2008 A- Rod who looked lost and was almost an automatic out.
If he is able to do this, then it will make Mark Teixeira’s transition to New York smooth and less hectic for him, as pitchers give him pitches to hit.
2) Don’t they still play Boston and Tampa Bay?
Most 89 win teams do not need much leap to first; however, the Yanks do.
Boston is going to be tough, most of their players have one or two rings on their fingers and they still have a great mix of young guys which means age won’t catch up to them next year. The Yankees best hope is that David Ortiz is David Ortiz, not Big Papi like last season. Otherwise it will probably be another fight down to the end.
Unfortunately, for Tampa fans I think they are going to fall into that Cinderella curse that hits young unexpected teams the following year. If you think I am making this up what happened to the Tigers in 2007? Or Colorado last year?
However, the Yankees can not sit back and hope for this to happen and they need to be aggressive from the gates with Tampa Bay.
1) How is the Starting Five Going to Hold Up?
Honestly, this whole countdown could have been each starting pitcher. From top to bottom, they all have question marks on their backs. Let’s start at the top with C.C. Sabathia.
He is obviously concerned about the media and pressure that the fans put on its players in New York. How is he going to hold up? A.J. Burnett is constantly injured and has only thrown 200+ innings three times.
Chien- Ming Wang, hurt himself running the bases, how is he going to come back from that? Joba was hurt last year and although he came back he was stricken to the bullpen, and what about “Joba Rules”?
That leaves Andy Pettitte has shown no sign of breaking down, throwing over 200 innings in each of the last four seasons, can you rely on a 37 year old?
How these questions, plus many more are answered will affect the outcome of the Yankees' season.