As a Yankee fan born and raised in the heart of the land that sports the pinstripes, the last thing I and many other dedicated fans want to see is a slump in the 2010 season, especially after nine seasons of lacking a championship win.
Fellow fans of Bronx Bomber nation, it’s possible that we may be facing some hard times this season.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues that can derail the Yankees this season.
First up—Alex Rodriguez’s injury.
Last year, the 34-year-old third baseman underwent surgery on his right hip. With a recovery period of six to nine weeks for the procedure, Rodriguez missed spring training and the first month of the season.
Though Yankee fans and management alike were worried for the future of the team without A-Rod in the lineup, Rodriguez did not fail to deliver once back in the game.
Rodriguez returned on May 8 and blasted a three-run home run on the first pitch. Having stumbled to a 13-15 record during A-Rod’s absence, the club acquired the first place position in the AL East by early June.
The Yankees three-hole hitter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, was a known slow starter (BA .198). He didn’t gain a respectable batting average (.324) until Rodriguez’s return to his fourth slot in the lineup. A-Rod continued to shine, hitting home runs left and right as Tex caught up and finally got into the game.
This back-to-back team of Teixeira and A-Rod quickly became a feared hitting duo by many pitchers in the league.
But let’s not forget, fans, that the first procedure was only a temporary solution to his injury meaning A-Rod’s hip is not fully healed. No. 13 was supposed to undergo a second, more extensive surgery in the offseason. This surgery has yet to take place.
Could the fact that Rodriguez never went for this second surgery affect his playing abilities this season?
Or will A-Rod continue to perform positively for New York like he did after the first procedure?
Next—will Yankees nation miss Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon?
Do we feel that new recruits, Curtis Granderson (CF) and Nick Johnson (DH/1B), can live up to these two?
What exactly were the Yankees thinking about during the offseason when they made these moves to better the team?
Look closely at the obvious—difference in age.
Former Yankees Damon and Matsui are already in their mid-30s. Granderson will be turning 29 by the start of the season and Johnson, 31. The Yankees want a younger team.
Although they did, however, want Damon back, the team was not about to re-sign the former left fielder for the price and length of contract that he demanded. This money saved could be spent on a pitcher to solidify the rotation or next offseason when some outfielders will be available (i.e. Carl Crawford).
I’ll admit to being a little upset over the loss of Damon’s bat, but I’m not too quick to forget the former Red Sox center fielder that brought hell upon the Bronx.
The Yanks will lose some power behind the plate, but what Johnson lacks at the bat is made up with patience. Johnson has a .433 career OBP. Pitchers will feed him plenty of fastballs that will result in a rise in batting average. With the powerful bats of Teixeira and A-Rod on deck, pitchers won’t want to walk Johnson.
I say keep those fastballs coming!
Though he has limited ability to play first base, Johnson can still fill in for Tex when he’s not DH-ing.
Granderson hit 30 home runs last year and will continue to hit as many if not more in the 2010 season. He will also bring speed to the Yankees offense. Though I’m not impressed that Granderson only attempted to steal a base 26 times last season, I feel that he has the pure speed to gamble and make more attempts with the Yanks.
Give him the green light Girardi!
“Johnson and Granderson have a three-year BA/OBP/SLG/OPS of 0.279, 0.379, 0.485, 0.864 while Matsui and Damon have 0.284, 0.365, 0.463, 0.828. The five-year averages are slightly better for Matsui and Damon but batting average is still the only category where the older duo is better.”
The way I see it, these new, young additions to the team will call for positive results this season. We’ll see if Brian Cashman did Yankees nation right by signing these two. While waiting on this, Yankee fans everywhere please embrace the change!
Next up—will the Yankees have too much complacency this season?
I ask you this Yankee fans: Do you feel as though the team may play in a more laid back/reserved manner since they’re the 2009 World Champions?
Will players such as C.C. Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Alex Rodriguez lose their edge now that they’ve finally gotten their rings?
There is no sense beating around the bush—the result of this argument can either be really great for the team or it can get gruesome.
I have faith that a true Yankee who wears his pinstripes proudly will stop at nothing to continue on the tradition of this family and work hard to acquire as many wins as possible for the franchise and the fans.
I can’t say for sure that Sabathia, Burnett, and Rodriguez are true Yankees such as the team captain, Derek Jeter. Then again, Jeter has earned his five World Series’ rings.
It wouldn’t be fair to be rash toward Sabathia and Burnett as this would only be their second season as Yankees, but I still have mixed feelings toward A-Rod and question whether or not he will perform well this coming season due to 1) his injury which was discussed before, and 2) the monkey on his shoulder that may allow him to get a big head.
Having Sabathia and Burnett as the top two pitchers for the team, they need to be focused now more than ever, since unfortunately for the Yankees, pitching is not one of the stronger suits (but it will get there in time).
I hope for the sake of the team and Yankees nation that these guys don’t get chips on their shoulders and play just as hard, if not harder, in this upcoming season.
I bring us to the final point, which is fitting for this very special Yankee since he normally closes the game, so let’s put this to bed—Mariano Rivera.
Indeed there is something very special about Rivera, but I must say that this can only go on for so much longer and here’s why:
Think about it—Mo has never had a serious injury in the game since being signed by the Yankees 20 years ago, debuting in 1995 as a starting pitcher. In 1997, he became the Yankees’ closer and has maintained that role ever since without so much as spraining his wrist or even hurting his shoulder.
Sure he’s rested and stayed out a couple of games here and there over the course of the last 13 years as the closer, but never for a significant amount of time.
The man is now 40 years old. I still think he’s got a couple of years left in him before hanging up the pinstripes, but I can’t help but think—what if he was to injure himself?
What would the Yankees do to close out the game? He can’t be an immortal being forever.
The answer here sounds simple and it very well may be, but I’m no Joe Girardi to make such a call. To prepare for such a situation, I believe it’d be smart for management to start training another pitcher to take over the closer spot if they haven’t started doing so yet. It’s going to have to be done sooner or later.
Phil Hughes looks to be the favorite to win the starting job as the fifth starter in the rotation (Girardi could announce the decision as early as this afternoon), so if this deems true, it looks like Joba Chamberlain would be the best man for the closer position.
Take a look at last year’s season stats when Joba was a starter. A lot of the time, he couldn’t get the job done and was dismissed early from the game. This may prove that No. 62 can only throw those nasty fastballs (topping out at 99 mph) for a short period of time.
Like I mentioned before, Mo’s days aren’t numbered just yet. We’ll all be seeing more from the Sandman on the mound this season.
I hope these points I’ve brought up will benefit rather than hurt the Yankees. It’d be nice to have another championship. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens this season.
It’s up to you New York, New York…