It’s here, Yankee fans. Spring Training is wrapped up and the roster is set. Joe Girardi has pretty much set his line-up, the rotation is in order, and the mystery bullpen has finally been pieced together. Opening day is just a few short days away.
Does that mean everything is perfect, that the Yankees are going to walk through the AL East and to the pennant without any difficulty? Of course not. There are some issues the Yankees will have to work out early in the season. The biggest weakness this Yankee team has is going to be it’s infield play. Mark Teixeira is the only solid defensive threat they have, and with a questionable wrist, he too becomes shaky. It is a very old and injury-prone infield and could lead to some big question marks throughout the season. The bullpen, for the first time in nearly two decades, will be a work in progress. Newly anointed closer David Robertson struggled a few years ago when he filled in for Mariano Rivera, so he is no sure thing. Robertson was also arguably the best set-up man in baseball the last several seasons, so who will replace him? CC Sabathia has drawn many critics this spring with his declining velocity and his evolution to a veteran, effective pitcher as opposed to a young, flame-thrower. He appeared to be getting it towards the end of the spring, but we will see how that translates into the regular season.
These are just minor concerns the Yankees will have to open the season. They are concerns many teams struggle with and can be worked out as the season progresses. There are five reasons though that Yankee fans should have hope that the 2014 team can make a run for 28.
1. The 2013 Yankees offense was dreadful. They finished dead last in the AL East in every major offensive category. They were in the bottom half of the entire AL in almost every category as well. Brian Cashman opened the Yankee bank again this off-season and added some pieces that will turn around this line-up very quickly. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann will lead a remarkable turn around.
2. Yankee fans have endured some hits and misses when they have signed on players from the Japanese leagues. Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa were rather forgettable while Hideki Matsui won a World Series MVP in 2009. There is reason to believe in Masahiro Tanaka and he showed it this spring. He went 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 21 innings while allowing just three walks. Tanaka, who many scouts originally believed would be nothing more than a middle of the rotation pitcher, definitely turned some heads and changed opinions this spring. Several scouts now feel he can be a solid number two very soon.
3. Brain McCann. I’ve written about how huge this signing was a few weeks ago here at Yanks Go Yard. The Atlanta Braves continually put out elite pitching staffs while McCann was behind the plate. Never mind that he is going to most likely see an increase in his homers playing at Yankee Stadium. It is his toughness and leadership behind the plate that make him a game changer.
4. The AL East is pretty evenly matched. There is no one team that you look at in this division and feel that they are the clear cut leader of the pack. The Red Sox have issues with personnel losses. The Blue Jays have constant injury woes. The Orioles have a powerful line-up but lack a solid rotation. The Rays have the pitching but that line-up is certainly suspect. This should allow the Yankees enough time to work out the kinks and get ready for a late season run to their 28th championship.
5. #FarewellCaptain. Let’s be real. Do you think there is anyway that this Yankees’ team doesn’t dig down deep and get Derek Jeter to the playoffs one last time as he goes off into the sunset? Sometimes underachieving or less talented teams soar to great heights when they have sentimental reasons to achieve greatness. Jeter at the very least deserves that.
The Yankees learned last season that there are many factors that can change the entire season. Sometimes it is injuries, other times suspensions, and occasionally some older players are simply on the decline and don’t perform up to expectations. This Yankee team has the tools, on paper, to be the best in the AL. If everything clicks, we can be optimistic that a magical season is in the cards.
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