Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
You know, there are two professional sports teams in North America that inspire, concurrently, both the fiercest loyalty from their fans AND the greatest and most vehement abhorrence by, well, everyone else.

I have had the "privilege" to live in the media epicenter of both these teams; I live in North Texas -- moved here from New York 12 years ago -- where you can see the new Dallas Cowboys stadium being built from a window down the hall from my office. But where love/hate is concerned, Tony Romo is no Derek Jeter. Where controversial Hall of Fame talents are concerned, even recent 'Boy departure Terrell Owens is no Alex Rodriguez. Where Jerry Jones is secretly relieved that, as a meddlesome, loudmouthed owner, he is now being compared to Hank, not George Steinbrenner.

That's right, welcome to New York Yankees v.2009, where an entire borough is seeking an answer to the question, "What the hell is going on? Why haven't we won a World Series this entire century?"

Yes, kids, the Yankees' most recent title came in the year 2000, the final year of the 20th century. Oh, the Bombers have played in two Series since then, compiling a 5-8 game record and two series losses to the legendary baseball powerhouses that are the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Florida Marlins in 2003. Since then, though? Nothing remotely Fall Classic-ish in the Bronx.

The Phillies won their first title since around 1776 last year. Geewhilikers, the Red Sox -- the Red Sox! -- have won TWO titles in the 21st century. It's Baseball Weirdness on a Twilight Zone scale for the Yankee faithful around North America -- and yes, they are still all around North America, living amongst you, interspersed among their Yankee-hating neighbors and "friends."

The Yankees have now gone eight consecutive seasons without winning a title, halfway to matching the 16-year drought from 1979-94, which in itself eclipsed the 14-year title-free string from 1963-76. To put that in perspective, the Yankee franchise had never before that gone more than three years without a title since winning its first ring in 1922.

So anyway, it's about *&^%$#@! time for the pinstriped baseballin' machine to salt away its 40th pennant and 27th World title. They've committed more than $200 million in payroll to that goal in 2009, and more than half a billion dollars in guaranteed contract dollars going forward overall. That's not to mention the cost of a new new Yankee Stadium, so now Joe and Jane Bronxresident can opt between buying tickets for a family night at the ballgame some summer's eve or paying to send Joe Jr. to Princeton for a year.

If the Yankees have the year they're paying to have -- and are, frankly, expecting -- then Joe Jr. can pack his bags for SUNY-Albany or SUNY-Binghamton; heck, if the answers to, say, two-thirds of the questions listed below go the Yankee way, J.J. might be headed to SUNY-Plattsburgh or even Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh.

Loyal Bauxites, you are hereby invited to share your thoughts on the answers to the below questions. Fair warning: given that most readers of this fine publication are in the "vehement abhorrence" category of Yankee follower mentioned earlier ... play nice!

New stadium, new managing partner. Does any of that matter?
The new Yankee Stadium, by all accounts, is awesome, and despite the insane price range for the tickets, will probably turn out to be a cash cow for the Yankees. "The House that George Built," though, will be inhabited most noticeably by Hank Steinbrenner, stepping into his father's shoes in ways that might not thrill many a player, while potentially making the careers of any number of Gotham media shills.

To say that Hank is trying to demonstrate he is like his father in bringing the Yankees championships might stir fond memories in pinstriped followers of the halcyon days of 1996-98-99; but if the Yankees fail to make the playoffs again, Hank might could call to mind another championship era, the 1977-78 Yankees of "straw who stirs the drink" and "one's a born liar, the other's convicted." If the back pages of the Post and the Daily News are plastered with photos of a blustering Hank in 2009, that's bad news for the Yankees.

We can't have a Yankee preview without obsessing about A-Rod, now can we?

Listen -- the guy's the best player in baseball. Yes, he's self-centered and a seemingly willing controversy magnet. Yes, he handled the steroids situation poorly. Yes, he's injured and will miss up to two months of the season (probably a little less than that). But he's one of the few players who can miss that amount of time and still be considered a reasonable MVP candidate. He might come back and hit 40 homers in 120 games, lead the Yanks to the post-season and earn those MVP votes. Certainly, it's also possible he comes back for 105 games, hits .240 with moderate power and lives every day hearing variations on the same steroid questions.

Regardless, what the game's highest-paid player really needs to do is focus on NOT being in Madonna's hotel room or with a high-priced call girl in Canada. (P.S. "Not being" is different from "Not being caught," Alex!) If he comes back from injury and is simply the best third baseman in baseball for four and a half months -- as he should be -- then the Yankees probably go to the post-season. Which raises a whole different set of A-Rod questions which we will not delve into at this time. New York media and bloggers alike are carefully tagging their season preview questions as "non-A-Rod questions" -- go ahead, Google it -- there are nearly 100 returns on that exact phrase.

While we wait for A-Rod to get healthified, your Yankee starting third baseman is one Cody Ransom. A .251 hitter in parts of six seasons, mostly with the Giants, Ransom is no Graig Nettles -- not even Mike Pagliarulo, really -- and the Yankees better hope his .302 showing with four homers in 43 at-bats in a brief Bronx fling last season is the real thing. But prior to that little run, he was a career .236 hitter with three homers in 140 at-bats, so caveat emptor, Bronxites.

Mark Teixeira?
Okay, everybody knew free agent Tex was going to end up in the AL East -- either in the money-falling-from-the-sky wonderlands of Boston or New York, or in his hometown of Baltimore. Did he make the right choice?

Well, he has a career batting average of .232 at Fenway Park, so that probably made Boston seem a little less favorable -- but think about it, do you really want to play for the Yankees with a reputation as a guy who can't hit in Boston? New York's bloggers and some mainstream media have started referring to the new Yankee first baseman by the obvious yet painful shortcut nickname "M-Tex" -- is this a nod to the big-money, big-offense, Texas-Ranger-roots commonalities he shares with the similarly-nicknamed A-Rod? Nah. Write it down -- Tex is a .280/35/110 guy who can do that anywhere he plays, and he will be the kind of first baseman the Yankees have lacked -- offensively and defensively , Mr. Giambi -- since Donnie Baseball retired at the age of 34. (Tex turns 29 in two weeks.) He may not reproduce the .301/43/144 line he put up for the 2005 Rangers, but this free agent signing is one nobody in the Bronx will regret.

Is the Yankee rotation really all that?
You have to admit, a five-man front of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain, on paper, could work out to be the best rotation in the major leagues. (Given the questions about the lineup, it had better be close.) But each and every one of those five starters carries at least one Huge, Looming Question. To wit:

  • Sabathia: Can he adjust from the moderate media markets of Cleveland and Milwuakee to the glare of the Big Apple? Or will he go all Ed Whitson on the Yankees?
  • Burnett: Can he stay healthy? (Jay fans should know this tune by now.) Or will he remind the Yankee faithful of another ex-Marlin post-season hero they once knew in Carl Pavano?
  • Wang: Is he back and healthy? Can the two-time (2006-07) 19-game winner bounce back from an injury-shortened 8-2 campaign last season to further build on his Guidry-esque 54-20 career mark?
  • Pettitte: Is he reaching "over the hill" status? Entering his age-37 season, Pettitte was extraordinarily average last year, finishing 14-14 with an ERA+ of 98 (first time under 100, career mark is 117). Still, he did that over more than 200 innings -- the 10th time he has eclipsed that plateau -- and the Yankees would probably take that from the wily lefty in 2009.
  • Chamberlain: Doesn't he belong in the bullpen? Well, the big kid made 12 starts last season -- and 30 relief outings -- in compiling a 4-3 mark in a snoodge over 100 innings. Some Yankee faithful look at his build and repertoire and see Roger Clemens (pre-AllTheStuffGoingOnNow) and others see the Next One to eventually replace Mariano Rivera. Mo's still around, so WWJD? (What will Joba do?) Well, he'll start out as a starter. If that doesn't go well or if Rivera suddenly realizes he's almost 40, there could be a quick shuffle back to the bullpen -- remember, the Sandman himself began his career in the starting rotation for the Yankees back in '95, so there is some precedent for that. That said, Rivera's ERA+ in 2008 was a career-best 317 and that's saying something for the guy who is MLB's all-time leader in that category.
Of course, Joba's place also depends on the rest of the rotation staying healthy and there being a reasonable replacement ready to step in for him ... Phil Hughes, are you ready to leave Scranton-Wilkes Barre  in your rearview mirror?

Combs, DiMaggio, Mantle, Murcer, Rivers, Henderson, Williams -- the Yankees always seem to be well beyond good, ranging from near-great to Hall-worthy, in center field. Presumably that trend continues with ...
Um, well, ladies and gentlemen of the Bronx, meet Brett Gardner, slated to be your 2009 Opening Day center fielder. The young man -- this is his age-26 season -- hit .228 last year as a rookie with no home runs and just seven extra base hits in 127 at-bats. He did steal 13 bases in 14 attempts, so he might be a nice addition to your fantasy team if you're looking for steals, but last time the Yankees went straight-speed in CF was the not-so-memorable Omar Moreno era.

So Teixeira is 29. But the Yankees overall are really old, aren't they? How are they stacked up depth-wise?
Well, that rotation is 29-32-29-37-24, so it's not young, but it's not oppressively old. either, especially with Hughes and Ian Kennedy around, ready and hoping to poach a spot. Behind the plate, though, could be a problem -- Jorge Posada is in his age-37 season, and his backup, Jose Molina, is in his own age-34 year. Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui are all in their age-35 campaigns, with A-Rod at 33/34. Other than Texeira and Robby Cano (26/27), nobody is really even arguably on the "uphill" part of their careers as Yankees. Even the "new kids," Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, are in their age-28 and age-30 seasons, respectively. Non-roster invitees like Brett Tomko (35), Kevin Cash (31) and Shelley Duncan (29) may play a role if there are injuries. But honestly, if there is a significant injury, that probably means Hank deals Hughes and/or Kennedy for immediate help, which means Joba has to stay in the rotation, which means Rivera has to stay healthy and effective which means ...

... which means, no, the Yankees aren't very deep, especially for a team with a $200M payroll.

Is the AL East too strong for the Yankees to win?
The 2008 AL MVP, Dustin Pedroia, is in Boston. The stolen base lader, Jacoby Ellsbury, is also in Boston. The top RBI totals in the 2008 AL East were in Boston (Youkilis) and Baltimore (Huff, Mora). The best pitcher in the American League, Roy Halladay, is in Toronto. Halladay was one of only two AL East pitchers to win 20 games last year; the other, Mike Mussina, did it for the Yankees. He's retired now. The AL East saves leader last year was Boston's Jon Papelbon. The major league saves leader is in New York now, but Francisco Rodriguez is a Met. The '08 AL champs are in Tampa Bay.

Who's missing from that list of leaders? With the retirement of Mussina, there are no Yankees to be found. Still, with Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira on board, this team that won 89 games last season (though Pythoagoras had them just at 87), should be good for 92-95 wins this season. That might get them into the playoffs.

Joe Girardi -- is he on the path to be a Fall Classic Guy or inevitably an overmatched, soon-to-be-fired fall guy?
The answer to this question is completely wrapped up in the answer to the previous question. If the Yankees win, get into the playoffs and nail down that pesky 27th title, then Girardi draws Hank Steinbrenner's praise and comparisons to another Joe, Torre. If the Yankees start slow, struggle at .500 or so, and fall to an early fourth-place rut, then Hank-n-Stein's monster rises to axe Girardi before Memorial Day.

Welcome to the new stadium, same as the old stadium.

So what's the final word?
Rivera stays healthy. Teixeira wins the MVP. There are other health issues and A-Rod isn't quite the MVP candidate he can be. Stir, mix, shake, and that's 93 wins, good for a third-place tie -- with your Toronto Blue Jays -- in the AL East, one gutwrenching game behind the Wild Card winning Boston Red Sox.

But then, I'm always wrong with these projections.
Who Dare Pose Questions About the Yankees? | 14 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 12:01 PM EDT (#197593) #
So, what's the final word?

L'chaim.  With great clubs led by Epstein, Friedman and Cashman,  may the most righteous win!

Seriously, the most puzzling thing about the Yankees is the projections that they might score 950-1000 runs.  I suppose they could, if Gardner and Cano exceed expectations. Gardner will help shore up the defence, but they've got Derek Jeter still out there at shortstop, playing the Bernie Williams' role out there (the formerly great player killing the club with inadequate defence). 

Finally, it is pretty hard to argue that A-Rod is better than Pujols among established players.

Matthew E - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#197595) #

the question, "What the hell is going on? Why haven't we won a World Series this entire century?"

What do you  mean, this entire century?

The Yankees haven't won a World Series this entire millennium.

kinguy - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 01:17 PM EDT (#197597) #
Small correction, but Columbus is an Indians farm team now.  The Yanks are in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, a better city to be viewed from one's rearview mirror.
Matthew E - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 01:34 PM EDT (#197598) #
It can't be that bad a place if it needs three names.
92-93 - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 01:52 PM EDT (#197600) #
"Seriously, the most puzzling thing about the Yankees is the projections that they might score 950-1000 runs."

It's madness, as is the Yankees Over/Under figure. The Yanks were 7th in the AL in runs last year, and have effectively replaced Giambi and Abreu with Teixeira and Gardner. When you consider ARod is going to miss 1-2 months and that Damon, Jeter, Matsui, and Posada are all a year older and making their way closer to 40, I just don't see this perceived massive improvement by the Yankees this offseason. Sure, the rotation improved (and only marginally so because Sabathia can't be that much better than the 2008 Moose), but pitching wasn't their problem last year, scoring runs was, so I'm not sure how that changes.
Mick Doherty - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 03:05 PM EDT (#197605) #
Why Kinguy, whatever do you mean? That's what it says, and as far as I am concerned -- and this can't be proven otherwise -- that's what it has always said. So there.
John Northey - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 03:09 PM EDT (#197606) #
Worth noting for the Yanks last year...

John McDonald club (OPS+ under 70) and AB's
Molina: 51 in 268
Cabrera: 68 in 414
Gardner: 53 in 127
I-Rod: 51 in 96
Moeller: 69 in 91
Ensburg: 34 in 74 (ouch)
Duncan: 43 in 57
Gonzalez: 18 in 52
Christian: 65 in 40

So a total of 1219 AB's wasted on guys hitting in the John McDonald area.  Imagine two of him in the lineup everyday.  That is what the Yanks did last year.  Now _THAT_ is a drag on offense.  The Jays, by comparison, wasted 658 AB's on hitters with a sub 70 OPS+ (led by Wilkerson at 208 AB's with his 68 OPS+).  Not counting pitchers in either case of course.
Mick Doherty - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 03:11 PM EDT (#197607) #

And incidentally, Matthew ... Baseball's Hall of Names is pleased to hereby recognize Scranton-Wilkes Barre as not at all bad after all, at least from a pronunciation perspective, precisely for the three-name troika.


#2JBrumfield - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 03:27 PM EDT (#197608) #

The Yanks are in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, a better city to be viewed from one's rearview mirror.

At least their ballpark is pretty decent.  Thankfully, the missus and I went when Scranton was a Phillies affiliate.

Dave Till - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 07:47 PM EDT (#197623) #
The Yankees are on a treadmill. Their business model, for the last few years, has been to acquire expensive free agents and aging superstars that other teams don't want, squeeze the last couple of years of value out of them, then go out and acquire some more. Oh, and spend oodles of money on free-agent starting pitchers. That's why their payroll is in the stratosphere.

But the drawback of this strategy is about to become apparent: you can only acquire pitchers and sluggers this way. It's hard to find top-drawer middle infielders and catchers on the open market; once they get to be Yankee age, they're not top-drawer any more. The Yankees' core is old, old, old; injuries like A-Rod's are more typical than not for people of his age group, and he's one of the young Yankees.

Sure, their new acquisitions will help them, but Teixiera isn't that much of an upgrade on Giambi, and Sabathia basically replaces Mussina. I don't see how the Yankees are going to make the playoffs this year.

(And a brief moment to whimper at what could be: what if my beloved Jays were able to sign two free-agent pitchers and a slugging first baseman in the offseason? I can but weep.)

(And another sobering thought: if the Yankees need a center fielder, will the Jays want to cut costs and trade Wells to them? Sigh.)

Gerry - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 08:01 PM EDT (#197624) #

Thanks Mick.

Most projection systems have the Yanks winning the division.  I think it comes down to health.  First can all the pitchers stay healthy?  Mick identified it as an issue but if the starters miss more than expected time I am not sure the Yanks have the depth to cover for it.  Second Jeter, Damon, Posada and Matsui are old and other than the captain have had injury problems before. 

If Posada, Chamberlain, Wang, Damon and say CC miss several months each it could sink the good ship Yankee.  Otherwise that pitching rotation will be har to beat.

Magpie - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 08:13 PM EDT (#197628) #
Question: will the Yankees do as well in games started by C.C. Sabathia in 2009 as they did in games started by Mike Mussina in 2008?

This has nothing to do with who was a better pitcher in 2008. And Sabathia's obviously a better pitcher in 2009, because... well, you know. But will the Yankees go 23-11 (or better) in Sabathia's games?

92-93 - Monday, March 30 2009 @ 08:29 PM EDT (#197629) #
"But will the Yankees go 23-11 (or better) in Sabathia's games?"

It's doubtful. Have they done that with any pitcher since Roger in 2001?
Mylegacy - Tuesday, March 31 2009 @ 01:20 AM EDT (#197631) #
The game is pitching.

Unless god is a Red Sox fan bent on mischief - the Yankees pitching looks ever so good. The only problem they have is that Boston's starters plus Masterson and Buchholz with Paps closing is ALSO superb. Offensively - both teams are very good but not spectacular.

I see Boston, NY, TB or Jays, Jays or TB and then Zaunnie and the O's. looks like the "New" Spanky Splendadome is going to start the same way the "Old" Babedome died - just one spit short of a bucket full. I PREDICT that Boston - NY - TB and the Jays will split wins between themselves enough to let another Division's second place team sneak into the "Wildcard."

Sorry NY - life can be a real b*tch - don't believe me? Just ask my first wife.

Who Dare Pose Questions About the Yankees? | 14 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.