Bomber Bites: Can The Yankees Be Expected To Compete?
Have you gotten used to it yet? That empty feeling the past two Octobers watching teams other than the New York Yankees make a run at the World Series crown? It wasn’t all that surprising in 2013, as the Bronx Bombers had become a bunch of ragtag cast-offs that wouldn’t or couldn’t crack most big league lineups. But there they were, the likes of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds, taking everyday hacks for the Yankees. Mariano Rivera‘s career ended without as much as a whimper or a sniff of the postseason.
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The Yankees ownership had seen enough. They spent close to a half billion dollars on talent, including the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka. Of course one glaring name is missing from that group, as Ellsbury was the answer that Robinson Cano and Jay-Z weren’t hoping for. Along with the talent, some cast-offs were once again brought in, hoping against hope and injuries to get Derek Jeter to one last October. The likes of Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew, Chris Capuano and Brandon McCarthy helped the Yankees go SPLAT by season’s end. Another October without baseball in the Bronx.
Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.
So why should Yankees’ fans feel any different about the team heading in 2015? I’m honestly not sure they should. You’ve got yourself a starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, and Beltran–all identical from a season ago. An upgrade at third base in Chase Headley, a replacement for the Captain in Didi Gregorius, a pair of rookies who will battle it out in Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela–neither of whom are still Robinson Cano, and an aging and shell of his former self at first base in Mark Teixeira. Don’t forget, Brian McCann is still behind the plate. Excited yet? Me neither.
The starting rotation probably has more questions than answers. Not in terms of ability, but in terms of how long can they stay healthy before the first, second, and third options go down for an extended period of time? Sure, Masahiro Tanaka, when healthy is the answer at the top of damn near any rotation in baseball, but you’re a fool if you believe that right elbow isn’t a ticking time bomb. Michael Pineda? Cy Young stuff WHEN he’s healthy. That’s a big when. No guarantee he even gets the Yankees 20 starts. C.C. Sabathia? Ha! I won’t even waste your time going into his worthlessness. The one bright spot might be the young power arm, the raw Nathan Eovaldi, acquired from the Miami Marlins along with Garrett Jones and Domingo German for Martin Prado and David Phelps. And who in the #5 hole? Capuano? Bryan Mitchell? Someone else. Tweet me when you have a definitive answer @Billy_Brost.
The one bright spot of this Yankees’ team heading into 2015 might be the lockdown bullpen. How can you NOT get excited about a team that could sport a power trio of lefties in Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson AND rookie Jacob Lindgren? That’s all before you even get to the flame-thrower, Dellin Betances as the closer. Add in Adam Warren, and perhaps Shawn Kelley, maybe a recovered Andrew Bailey, and you might have one of the best bullpens in the last decade. Forget David Robertson, he’s gone. Forget Hiroki Kuroda, he’s over the hill. A group of stiffs in the starting rotation, if they can pitch to league average, and hand it off to the bullpen every night, might just be good enough to compete for a Wild Card spot. Then again, the wheels could come completely off for the entire team, injuries decimate the starting nine, the rotation AND the bullpen, in which case, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi will be updating their respective resumes in what month? All together now…OCTOBER!