The New York Yankees were taken out of their comfort zone last year, experiencing a new manager along with something unheard of in the Bronx this millennium: no postseason play.
For 2009, the newness storm continues to rain on the Yankee franchise. This year's newness comes in the form of a $1.3 billion ball park and a host of high-priced free agent acquisitions to stretch out in the new facility.
Joe Girardi's first season as skipper of the greatest baseball franchise in history included a monumental feat. The feat, unfortunately for Girardi, was the ending of a historic streak of 13 consecutive playoff berths.
On the left coast, former Yankee manager Joe Torre's Dodgers did nothing to help Girardi's case. The Dodgers, in Torre's first season at the helm, were successful playoff entrants.
In 2009, first it was the Alex Rodriguez steroid scandal placing unneeded stress on Girardi. Now Rodriguez is injured and will miss the start of the season, and so the pressure continues to build. The media in New York, and the fans of the Yankees, will certainly have little patience for any lack of success for Girardi this season.
The pressure will mount from game one, and should New York not maintain at least a reasonable distance from first place in the American League East, Girardi's pristine new seat in the dugout at the new Yankee Stadium will begin to ascend in temperature.
The heat burning Girardi's chair will grow as the summer progresses, culminating in an ultimatum in the dog days of August.
The biggest question will be, if New York is not remotely close to first place in the AL East, does Girardi adorn a Yankees uniform after the All-Star break in 2009?
A case could be made that the impatient Steinbrenner family, having opened their collective wallet in epic and unheard of proportions this recession-affected offseason, will have zero tolerance for anything but a first place reign for the duration of the season.
The Steinbrenners sent a clear and concise message to the Yankees team, the league, and Joe Girardi this off season. We want to win, and we want to win now.
The playoffs are not a choice for the 2009 Yankees. The playoffs are an absolute must have. August 2009 will present the ability to analyze make-or-break for this Yankees team. It is with this knowledge that it would seem improbable that Girardi lasts the entire season as Yankees manager.