New York Yankees: 5 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the 2014 Season
Any season in which the New York Yankees don't win the World Series is considered a failure.
If they don't even make the playoffs, as happened last season, it's considered a disaster.
The best news for the Yankees is that what happened in 2013 has no bearing on the 2014 season. It is a new year, which brings new hope and excitement.
A lot has changed in one offseason, and it won't be easy for the Yankees to return to the playoffs with the defending champs in their division. Then again, no one would have predicted the Boston Red Sox to go from last to first a season ago.
With the regular season now officially underway, here are five reasons why Yankees fans should feel optimistic about 2014.
1. A Lot of New Faces
The New York Yankees did what they had to do this offseason and gave their team a complete makeover. Missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years will have that sort of effect.
What occurred was a $471 million spending spree that helped bring in several superstars.
Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran were brought in to boost a failing offense. Masahiro Tanaka was flown in to complete an already competent rotation.
And the spending didn’t stop at just big-ticket names. Guys like Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Matt Thornton were brought in to replace departing veterans.
The Yankees have at least 10 new faces on the team that were not here when they opened the 2013 season.
The Yankees do not rebuild but simply retool. The reason to be optimistic here is that the last time they did this in 2009, the Yankees would go on to win the World Series.
2. Starting Pitching Is a Strength
The Yankees have always believed that starting pitching is what wins in October. If they can get there this season, there is reason to believe they have the staff to win.
Three of the five starters are the same from a season ago. The biggest concern of the three is their “ace,” CC Sabathia.
Sabathia was hit around on Opening Day by the lowly Houston Astros, and concerns of his decreased velocity have been circulating all spring. Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com believes the Yankees' hopes for the season rely on CC’s success.
Sabathia is a professional in the truest sense and is learning how to pitch with less velocity. He had an excellent spring, pitching to a 1.29 ERA.
Following Sabathia in the rotation is Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.
If it was possible to combine Kuroda’s first half with Nova’s second half last season, that pitcher probably could have won the Cy Young Award—that’s how good those stretches were. That's unfortunately impossible, though, so each will need to put together a full season of success.
Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda round out this rotation and are the biggest reasons for hope this season.
Tanaka will get all the attention due to the contract he signed this offseason, but it is Pineda who can make the biggest impact pitching out of the fifth spot.
Pineda had a dazzling spring, and anticipation is high for his first start in two years since being acquired.
Without a doubt, the Yankees have a rotation in which every starter could finish the season with at least 15 wins.
3. The Team Is Healthy
Injuries were a major detriment to the Yankees last season. Regulars either missed the whole season or bounced back and forth from the disabled list all year.
As mentioned earlier, Pineda is healthy and looking sharp. Brian Roberts is currently healthy and hitting well.
Health is obviously a crucial element to a team's overall success, and one guy who could make the biggest impact for the Yankees this season if healthy is Mark Teixeira.
The Yankees finished next-to-last in home runs last season in the American League. When healthy, Teixeira is good for 30-plus home runs.
The team was lacking that pop in the middle of the lineup last season, and even if Teixeira can’t stop his declining batting average, that home run threat can be enough of a difference.
4. Unknowns Ready to Step Up
It is very early in the season, but another reason to be optimistic is the play of the last two guys to make the Yankees’ roster this spring.
Relief pitcher Dellin Betances turned out to be the one bright spot in the Yankees' Opening Day loss to the Astros.
With the game still not completely out of reach, Betances started the seventh inning against the top of the order. He then proceeded to do what no starter has been able to do in the first inning so far: He dominated them.
The overpowering right-hander struck out the first two batters he faced and then got the Astros’ best player, Jose Altuve, to ground out.
It was just one inning, but it displayed the kind of stuff Betances has.
Expect him to continue with that success, eventually move back an inning and take over the setup role for David Robertson.
The other bright spot for the Yankees is utility player Yangervis Solarte.
Solarte was the spring darling and eventually beat out Eduardo Nunez for the final spot on the team.
Giving a player a chance over a veteran is not typically a move the Yankees make, but the decision has paid huge dividends already, as Solarte was instrumental in the Yankees' first win of the season.
He went 3-for-3 in the game, scoring twice and driving in another run.
Solarte is a true spark plug who can play several positions on the field. If he continues to play well he will see plenty of game action and give guys a rest at multiple positions.
The final reason to be optimistic has nothing to do with any sort of tangible quality seen on the field.
If you believe in reasons to be optimistic, then you believe in hope.
If you believe in hope, then you might believe in destiny.
If you believe in destiny, then you believe that Derek Jeter’s career will end exactly as it started.
In 1996, Jeter’s rookie season, the Yankees would go on to win their first World Series in 18 years.
Four more World Series wins would follow, along with countless All-Star games and records.
With Jeter playing in his final season, his Hall of Fame career can and should conclude with one more October moment.
If there's any player who could have a bookend career, it is Derek Jeter.
That alone is reason to be optimistic.