By, Graham Kates
Bronx News Network Sports
Hello, BNN readers! This season, I'll be covering the Yankees as they settle into their new home and prepare to demolish their old facilities. Throughout the season, the Bronx News Network will have regular updates on the Yankees, both as a team and as an organizational member of the Bronx community.
Being a Yankee fan can be the easiest thing in sports. Your team has seemingly unlimited resources and an absolutely unfettered desire to win. However, rooting for the Yanks can also be pretty embarrassing. Outrageous ownership, exorbitant salaries, a billion dollars in non-taxable public bonds, and that whole "steroid" thing, are all part of what make the Yankees so detestable to so many.
This year, as the Yankees move across the street (more on their new digs later), their team has a significantly different look from all others this decade. While this offseason was similar to previous ones in that money seemed to flow down 161st into players' pockets, the new additions to the Bronx are of a different ilk. For the first time in years, the Yankees are thinking about defense.
Many of the most disheartening defeats of the last few years were due to timely hits that fell just out of reach. Balls hit down the line that most first basemen could swat, but Giambi never could, or floaters that would be just out of Matsui's reach, are now in-play. Brett Gardner and Xavier Nady headline the best looking outfield that the Yankees have had in years and Mark Texeira (with his two gold gloves) provides the Bronx with its first legitimate corner-presence since Tino.
Then there's pitching. While the Yankees probably spent far more than they should have on C.C. Sabathia and (especially) A. J. Burnett, at ages 28 and 32, respectively, Sabathia and Burnett represent a complete 180 from the days of Randy Johnson-as-big-addition. Of the Yankees' five starters, the only age-related concern is Andy Pettitte, who at 36, has probably seen his best days.
Even with their new-look pitching and fielding this year, perhaps the most important harbinger of success for the Yanks is Alex Rodriguez's hip injury. Every year, gallons of ink are spent musing on the fact that A-Rod has never won a World Series. Between phrases like "clubhouse cancer" and anatomies of his many post-season slumps, the real reason A-Rod led teams don't win is often missed. It is specifically because they are A-Rod led. Rodriguez is such an overpowering regular season force, especially against the kind of weak pitchers that don't show up in the playoffs, that his teams often become semi-reliant on his offense.
This month without Rodriguez should be fortuitous for the Yankees. If, sans A-Rod, the Yankees are lackluster offensively, this season will end with yet another early exit. However, if new offensive leaders emerge (like Texeira, Jeter, Cano or even the speedy Gardner), we can expect to see a brilliant inaugural season at the new Stadium.
The annual American League East arms race went through a dramatic paradigm shift last year when the Tampa Bay Rays showed up in the World Series. While Tampa and the Yankees both beefed up their teams, Boston, whose only flashy addition was an inconsistent Brad Penny, remained mostly dormant this off-season. While no team should run away with the AL East, Boston may fall behind the Yankees and the (no longer upstart) Rays this summer, who both have the pitching and hitting that can produce 94-100 wins.
Friday, April 3, 2009
By, Graham Kates