MLB Team-By-Team Previews 2009: Can The Yankees Return To Glory?
1. A massively upgraded rotation
With the additions of C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to their starting rotation, and the return of a healthy Chien-Ming Wang the Yankees finally have that solid rotation that they have been searching for since 2003 when they foolishly let Andy Pettitte go, and Roger Clemens "retired". Whoever they decide to use in the 5th spot behind Sabathia, Wang, Pettitte and Burnett, this certainly has to be considered as one of, if not the, best rotations in baseball.
2. Mark Teixeira
The acquisition of Teixeira by the Yankees is widely considered by just about anyone with a brain to be the biggest off-season pick up this year.Finally after years of botched platoons, and a carousel of 1B, the Yankees have a consistent presence up the right side of the infield that can hit AND field. A career .290 hitter, Teixeira should excel in a lineup as potent as the Yankees, as he showed with the equally (If not more) potent Angels last season. His .995 career fielding percentage and impressive range should serve as a massive improvement over Jason Giambi, who held that spot for most of last year.
3. Joba Chamberlain
No matter whether he fills the 5th starter position, or stays in the bullpen where he belongs, this rising star will have a huge impact on the Yankees season. His nearly unhittable slider has been dominating hitters for the better part of the last two seasons, and the sky is the limit for this youngster. Let's not forget that he has 3 other pitches that he can toss out here, including a fastball that can surpass 100 MPH on the radar gun. So long as he stays healthy, expect to hear his name a lot.
While it's not the "10th man" it was on the great Yankees teams of the late 90's, the bench on this team is pretty formidable. Joe Girardi has several options at almost every position, and expect him to shake things up if they aren't going to his liking. Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher can fill in just about anywhere in the outfield, which makes the relegation of Hideki Matsui to DH all the more less painful. Jose Molina has a ton to offer as the back up catcher, and with the questionable ability of Jorge Posada at this point, his presence is vital to this team. The bullpen will feature stalwarts Brian Bruney, Jose Veras and Damaso Marte along with a heavy sprinkling of middle aged talent in the likes of Edwar Ramirez, Phil Coke and Johnathon Albaladejo. O and don't forget that familiar tune that you hear when the 9th inning comes around at Yankees Stadium. The Sandman will patrol his new domain in his customary role. Crushing other teams dreams.
With all this positive the average person is probably wondering, "How can this team NOT win it all?". Not so fast there slick. There is plenty for the Yankees to worry about as well. The health of some of their key players has to be a top concern. If Jorge Posada can't perform to at least a mediocre standard, there could be trouble in paradise. The same goes for Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain, all of which have been injury prone at times. Another major problem for the Yankees is their recent trend of burying themselves early on in the season and trying to dig out with a late run. This will be compounded with the absence of Alex Rodriguez at 3B for the first 30 games or so. Cody Ransom is no A-Rod, and if they fall behind early on, it could be trouble.
The last and final piece that could end Mayor Bloomberg's plans for a pinstripe ticker-tape in October is, yup you guessed it. Derek Jeter. The Captain has been there for his team, year in and year out giving 150% of himself at all times. However the erosion of his skills due to time and age is becoming more and more apparent each year. Is it finally time to start looking for Derek Jeter's replacement? Or can he quiet his critics with a monster year that will be remembered forever? Only time will tell.