2011 Yankees Preview From a Lady Who Loves Pinstripes

From messy negotiations with the Captain; to ace Cliff Lee choosing brotherly love over the big apple; to waving goodbye to one of the Core Four; the New York Yankees off-season seemed to be in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The only legit move was signing reliever Rafael Soriano, but even that became a soap opera, as the Yankees GM Brian Cashman publicly disagreed with ownership.

Oh, let’s not forget what we learned about Alex Rodriguez, he is a want-a-be jet setter, who cannot feed himself; he picks and flicks, but don’t worry he still likes blonde actresses. Let’s all hope A-rod can deal with playing baseball again.

The off-season ended on a sad note, as Andy Pettitte hung-up his gloves on February 4th at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte is still a top of the rotation ace, was loved in the clubhouse and was a fan favorite. Yankee fans can only wish Pettitte all the best.
Now with the Yankees officially in Spring Training, it’s time to get to work. With the moves implemented by Boston’s GM Theo Epstein, the Red Sox are heavily favored to not only win the AL East, but also a shoe-inn to be playing in 2011 World Series.

The Positives:
Though Yankee Universe got a reality check this off-season, it is not as if the team as it is now can’t play baseball. Most teams would be happy to have the same ‘problems’ as the Yankees, as the team is still one of the best.

Just look at whose returning to the Yankees line-up from 2010, Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-rod, Cano, Posada, Swisher, and Gardner. It includes four All-Stars, three Gold Glovers and one Silver Slugger recipient.

In 2010, with chiefly the same group, the Yankees posted a 97-67 record. The bats led the majors in RBIs with 832, On Base Percentage with .350 and had the most runs with 859. Add that to coming in third with 802 home-runs, they came in second in walks with 662 and ranked fourth in baseball for total bases and slugging percentage.

To have those numbers in a season where the Captain was off, Granderson was on the DL for almost two months and our best hitter, A-rod still wasn’t fully cleared from hip surgery, is pretty darn good.

Last season, Gardner and Swisher proved their worth by stepping it up when the team struggled and look for both to continue.

The glue of the line-up was Robinson Cano, who finally broke out and showed everyone that he is as good as scouts predicted. Cano should win his second Silver Slugger in 2011, and after coming in second for MVP in 2010, look for him to win it in 2011.

Jeter and Granderson finished the season like themselves, and A-rod finally got cleared this past June to be able to workout without any hesitations.

So, with virtually the same line-up, and an upgrade of what fans hope will be touted prospect Jesus Montero taking the empty spot in the line-up. Andruw Jones will fill in as part-time DH, which adds up to a Bombers line-up that is going to be better than last season.

The clubs clear other strength came against GM Cashman’s better judgment, as Hal and Hank Steinbrenner overrode him to sign the best closer from 2010, Rafael Soriano. Soriano is more than happy to move from closer to set-up for, as he knows what an honor setting up for the great-one, Mariano Rivera will be.

Rivera’s signature cutter still mystifies batters after 16 seasons. Rivera is 41-years-old but showed no reason for concern at all. Still, having Soriano ready just in case was a brilliant call that would make the Boss very proud of his sons.

Add in Pedro Feliciano from the Mets and the returns of David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and Sergio Mitre and this is easily the best bullpen on paper in the division. A solid bullpen is a team’s icing on the cake. The importance of relief pitchers cannot be overstated because fact is they are game changers.

The rotation is steered by ace CC Sabathia, who has been practically perfect since arriving in the Bronx in 2009. Sabathia has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for all 10-seasons of his career, named to four All-Star teams, winning the 2007 Cy Young, while finishing second in 2008 and last season.

Sabathia is an innings eater, goes deep into games and posted 197 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons. He dropped 25+ pounds during the off-season, which should only make the 6’7” Sabathia even better.

Following CC is Phil Hughes who defied odds during his first season as a starter. Hughes won 18 games, with 146 strikeouts over 177 innings pitched. It earned Hughes his first of many All-Star appearances.

Look for Hughes to incorporate his change-up more in 2011 and should be excellent in the two spot, especially with the experience of a full season in the rotation behind him.

The Yankees defense has always been elite and heading into 2011 this fact still remains.

The Negatives:
The Yankees have more holes to fill than fans would like. No Lee, no Pettitte and after the season AJ Burnett put together last year he is still unreliable until proven otherwise.

What is so concerning about Burnett is that even before 2010, he was never steady on the mound. His pitches are dominant, but what used to just happen every third or fourth start became regular last season. Without Pettitte, the pressure is on and the team needs Burnett to be productive.

There are two empty spots, the fourth and fifth in the rotation. This is bad because neither spot has even a front-runner heading into camp. Yankee haters love this, while the fans are counting on a big time trade by the end of June.

The beloved Yankees Captain had the worst season of his career, followed by a very ‘messy’ and public contract negotiations. Hopefully Jeter, as in the past, is already over it. Still, there is no doubt blood was shed off-the-field and that is a place that Jeter has kept sacred, which is why it remains in the minds of Yankee fans. It is dormant for now, but it will reappear or disappear after seeing Jeter’s first few at-bats.

Another grey area is the list of players Cashman invited to camp. It turned into what seems more like a self-fulfilling pilgrimage to look like a hero-GM, than actually being productive additions to win. Quantity over quality has never been the Yankee way, so my concern is not unwarranted.

As the great Lou Holtz once said: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
So, understand the concern when the name Bartolo Colon is on this list. Colon shouldn’t pitch for a major league team again after the crap he has pulled.

Followed by the name Mark Prior, whom Cashman thinks is going to turn into Kerry Wood. Why Cashman didn’t pay to keep Wood is beyond me, because Wood took pennies to play at home with his Cubs after the Yankees didn’t pick up his option.

Then there is reliever Luis Ayala, who is almost 34 and posted a 1-5 record with a 5.63 ERA back in 2009, the last time he pitched in the majors.

You get the point?

Imagine if the baby Steins hadn’t pulled rank on Cashman about Soriano, this is what Cashman thinks is better? Cashman is a great GM and not getting Lee was ultimately the fans fault, but this off-season his moves were questionable and that has made fans uncomfortable.

Players To Watch:
Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild will have his hands full in his first season with the Yankees.

If Rothschild can right AJ Burnett his status will be instant hero in New York. He visited Burnett during the off-season at his home, where Burnett had a barn turned into a pitching facility after 2010. Not only Burnett, but also Rothschild will play a major role in choosing the fourth and fifth starters and then guiding them.

3B Alex Rodriguez has spent the off-season jet setting around the world, living more of a Hollywood life than one of an athlete. Rodriguez better have saved some energy for baseball because the fact is, when he hits the line-up responds and it’s about time he starts to earn his paycheck once again. Hopefully feeding himself again will not be too much of a distraction.

2011 AL East Prediction:
While the Red Sox’s off-season forces them to be the favorites to win the AL East, don’t count out the Yankees because they will be the Wild Card at the very least. Look for this old-school rivalry to be back to awesome again.

Being labeled, as the underdogs will work in the Yankees favor, Cano will win MVP and Jeter will come in second again.

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One Comment

  1. Deirdre

    March 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Great read…love this writer!!

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