The Pitchers and Catchers Have Seen Their Shadow: Seven More Weeks Of Spring!
- Updated: February 23, 2010
This past week the light of spring peeked through the tunnel of winter. Pitchers and Catchers reported to Major League Baseball teams around the country. The soreness of unused muscles began to set in, not of those players reporting, but of those fans anxiously awaiting a new baseball season.
There are many interesting story lines, not the least of which is whether the Yankees have retooled themselves, without breaking down a World Series team that eliminated the Phillies this past November. Other interesting story lines include, will cities outside of St. Louis welcome Mark McGwire back on the field as hitting instructor for the St. Louise Cardinals? How will the Hot Stove moves affect the balance of power in Major League Baseball? What new stars will emerge this year in Major League Baseball?
Pitchers and catchers showing up is always the highlight of my baseball interest. As a baseball and football fan, the end of the football season naturally leads to an emptiness in sports that is quickly replaced by the start up of Major League Baseball Spring training. This past week we noticed Joe Girardi sporting his new number 28, in the hopes of leading a Yankee team to it’s 28th World Series title. How my Yankee hater friends detest hearing this over and over again!
In addition, the old and new faces were brought together in what could be a pitching staff that exceeds last year’s production. It could also be a pitching staff that falls flat on its face. The expectation is that at the top of the order, C.C. Sabathia and AJ Burnett should return to their 2009 form. Sabathia was truly the pitcher the Yankees expected when he was signed. While Burnett had an up and down season at times, he was part of the emotional fabric that brought this team together. Will Andy Pettite continue the consistency that made him so productive in last year’s playoffs? Though Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui led the run to the World Series title, my MVP was Andy Pettite. His position in the number three spot of the rotation was the key to New York’s success during the playoffs.
The two big question mark’s for the pitching staff is whether Javier Vazquez can be as productive as AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia, and be the workhorse pitcher he has been in the National League. The other question is what happens with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. The big battle will be for the fifth pitching spot in the Yankees lineup. Joba struggled for a good part of last year as a starter, then seemed to find his niche in the playoffs. Phil Hughes was a setup man, quite successfully in the second part of the season, but seemed to struggle with his confidence in the playoffs. Yankee management will need to make a decision, and stick with it for both the sake of Joba and Phil. My expectation is to see Joba move to the bullpen, and Phil make the move as the fifth starter. Long term, Joba’s future is a setup man and future replacement for Mariano. Joba’s mentality is one more closely aligned with that of a closer, and he seemed to show that during the playoffs.
Lastly, the news that Johnny Damon signed with the Tigers brings his Yankee career officially to a close. The Yankee moves during the Winter clearly pointed in this direction. Though Johnny kept signaling his desire to return to NY, I believe Scott Boras really dropped the ball on this. Signing Curtis Granderson put some added pressure on the Yankees in the Damon negotiations, but it became increasingly clear that Damon was not going to be a Yankee.
I am very anxious to see how this team evolves, hopefully into a team that could potentially repeat. There will be many obstacles to doing so, both the known and unknown. Injuries could certainly play a part in the end result.
Spring training is here, Opening Day in Fenway Park is not far behind!