Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Preview A Day Keeps the Winter Away #YANKEES

Here we go. Last one.


Once upon a time, eight years ago, the New York Yankees finished the season with 87 wins. Though this number was significantly less than either of the last two years, the Yankees still found a way not just to win their division and advance to the World Series, but they beat the New York Mets in five games.

In 2008 87 wins could maybe buy a postseason berth in the weak NL Central, but it won’t even get the AL Wild Card. To win the AL East, the toughest (even if not the most wide-open) division in baseball, 95 wins is often cited as the minimum needed to even have a reasonable shot at it.

There’s an easy explanation for the 95 win mark: in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees, there’s also Baltimore and Tampa Bay. When a legitimate playoff team plays Baltimore and Tampa, it’s newsworthy if the O’s or the Rays win. When you get to beat up on Baltimore and Tampa 19 times a year each, well, that’s 38 games, 38 wins right there. Of course, it never works out quite that way—Tampa likes to give Boston fits and Baltimore was a thorn in the Yankees’ side all the way until September.

Still, while some may say that 95 wins is because of a lack of competitiveness from many AL teams—the O’s, Rays, White Sox, Royals and Rangers will probably be written off from playoff contention at the beginning of May—you still have to find a way to beat the Red Sox (or Yankees), Indians, Tigers, Angels and Mariners.

Can the 2008 Yankees do it? Yes.

Will they? That’s another question, entirely.

At first glance, if you just look at 1-9 in the batting order and 1-5 in the rotation, the roster doesn’t look much different than 2007. In fact, with the exception of the manager (which I’ll get to in a second), the biggest off-season moves were Re-signing players (A-Rod, Posada, Rivera) and a trade they didn’t make. You know what I mean.

However, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that there are some noticeable differences.

The most obvious difference is that there’s a new Joe at the helm. Instead of the man sitting at 2nd place all-time on the managerial wins roster, there is a guy younger than my parents who has exactly one managerial season behind him. A guy that I remember as a (very solid) player, and I’m only 21. Okay, so I turn 22 in two weeks, but that’s not the point.

With a new manager, there’s a new coaching staff, as well. The most satisfying name to hear on the list is probably that of Dave Eiland as pitching coach. Eiland worked with Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in the minors and knows them best, and whatever you call them—the Big Three, the Three Amigos, the Holy Trinity, the Three Musketeers, Menage a—their performance will likely be a crucial pivot to the Yankees’ season. If they’re successful, the Yankees’ 08 season could be one for the ages. If not…it could be a long summer. Eiland’s been successful with the youngsters, and you know what they say about if it’s not broke and whether or not you should fix it.

The bench this year is different, too. Instead of Miguel Cairo and Wil Nieves, we have Jose Molina and Shelley Duncan. While Cairo and Nieves are good guys and we certainly wish the best for them, which pair would you rather have hitting in a tight spot?

The biggest difference, however, has nothing to do with who is on the team, but everything to do with the health of the team. This season, it exists.

This season, not only is Carl Pavano not our Opening Day starter; he’s not even in the rotation. Same can be said of Kei Igawa in the two spot. Bobby Abreu doesn’t have a strained oblique. Jason Giambi doesn’t have a weird foot problem.

Right now the Yankees very strongly resemble the team that played from July-September in 07, a team that had to play near a .700 clip just to make the playoffs.

That said, there are some large, looming questions that need to be answered. Just a few of them here:
+ Can Mike Mussina have a bounce-back year?
+ Can the youngsters—including Melky, Shelley and Robbie as well as the pitchers—play to their full potential?
+ Can A-Rod and Posada come close to repeating their monster years?
+ Can the middle relief hack it?
+ Can Joe Girardi survive a New York baseball season?

(first guess: yes, yes, no, not since 1999, yes)

Opinions you read on the Yankees will vary everywhere. Pete Abraham says the Yankees will miss the playoffs. Tom Verducci has them out in the ALCS. The Sporting News doesn’t have them in October. Lindy’s has them at Wild Card.

However hard it is to predict what the Yankees will do this season, there is one thing the Optimism Campaign cannot deny: for a team that thrives on the historic, and legends of October ghosts, 2008 is not just any other baseball season.


Buy: Robinson Canò, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain
Sleepers: Ian Kennedy, Shelley Duncan


Team MVP: Robinson Canò
Team RoY: Ian Kennedy
Team Comeback Player of the Year: Jason Giambi
Team Gold Glove: Melky Cabrera
All Stars: A-Rod, Jeter, Canò
Team we love to play: Kansas City Royals
Team we can’t stand: Toronto Blue Jays
Best months: July, September
Worst months: April, August

AMERICAN LEAGUE—How they’ll finish

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Baltimore Orioles

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers*
Kansas City Royals
Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox

Seattle Mariners
LA Angels
Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers

Yankees over Tigers
Indians over Mariners

Yankees over Indians

(Do you honestly think I’d pick different?)


  1. Not bad picks. I think the Yankees win the East, Indians win the Central, Mariners take the West but the Red Sox get the wild card.

    It may take less than 95 wins to win the AL East this year. The Jays are always a threat and the Rays are better. If they win some games, the number could come down to 92 or 93 for the division.

    Either way, I'm ready to root on our 2008 Yankees!

  2. I'd pick differently, but only that I'm not sure I'd give the Tigers the wild card. I'm not sure who I'd give it to though.

    They have too many pitching injuries.

  3. I still think that the Yanks and Sox will finish one/two in the AL East with the second place team getting the wild card.

    I am not sure about Detroit. They can hit but their pitching staff is suspect. They have a lot of injuries to their bullpen. And I don't think that Willis will cut it in the AL.

    I think it is going to be an exciting year and I look forward to Yankees baseball.

  4. Nice preview, Rebecca! Certainly nothing far fetched here.

    In fact, would any of the following be far-fetched All Star predictions?

    (3 top-25 MVP placements in the last 4 years)

    (6 top-25 MVP placements in the last 11 years)

    (7 MVP placements in last 10 years inc. 2 of last 3)

    (All Star 5 of last 8 years, #6 in MVP last year)

    (this one is my bold prediction)

    (top winner last 2 years)

    (3 AS last 4 years, etc.)

    3 Amigos?

    I'm thinking you're being conservative ;)