New York Yankees: 2009 Preseason Analysis and Predictions
February 4, 2009 Leave a comment
Written for the BleacherReport.com.
This century has not provided much luck for the Yankees, that is by their standards. A lot of teams would dream of making the post-season as much as they have. 2009 has a whole new look and feel to it, and that puts a big “?” on it. What will the 2009 New York Yankees be this year?
The Yankees coming into 2009 have shuffled their roster, which includes the losses of Bobby Abreu, Ivan Rodriguez, Carl Povano, Wilson Betemit, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, oh, and their home—The Cathedral is officially retired.
The Yankees did add some big names to the roster: Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and a new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium. Plus Andy Pettitte, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady are back; and Chien-Ming Wang and Jorge Posada return from an injury plagued 2008.
Here are a few key questions the Yankees need to answer or look past to overtake the Rays and Red Sox to get back to the playoffs and contend for a ring.
1. How will the Yankees fare in the new stadium?
Babe Ruth left a huge legacy with how he opened the ol’ Cathedral. That place was loaded with so much tradition and history and the Yankees will look to carry that magic to their new home. The Yankees must not pressure themselves to re-create that lure.
2. How will the new members mesh on and off the field?
A new cast of stars arrive bringing a lot of change to the Bronx. Sabathia must take control of the rotation just as he did when he arrived in Milwaukee.
The Yankees lacked that knockout pitcher the past few years. With Pettitte falling off a bit and Moose gone, Burnett will need to be that strong No. 2 he was with the Blue Jays.
Teixeira chose the biggest stage of them all. He must continue to steadily improve at the plate as he has the past few years, and provide consistent defense the Yankees lacked at 1st base.
The first key addition this off-season, Nick Swisher, may prove to be most crucial. Swisher must maintain his intensity while accepting a bench role and covering multiple positions this season.
3. Will Posada and Wang return to their old forms after an injury plagued 2008?
Posada is the man behind the plate. He must prove he is healthy and re-assume his leadership role. If he doesn’t, this could be his final season in the Bronx.
Wang had a serious injury last year. With the pitching additions, Wang can come in as the No. 3 starter and not have the pressure to be the staff’s ace. However, a strong return is pivotal to the Yankees success in 2009.
4. Cano and Cabrera, are you going to bring your bats this year?
Patience is gone for Melky Cabrera. He must capitalize on his opportunities at the plate or he is trade bait. With the loss of Abreu, and Damon and Matsui aging, Melky needs to bring his bat.
If he doesn’t, the Yanks will count on Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, or even hot prospects such as Austin Jackson.
Cano’s bat is needed. He is still a great, young player with a lot of years left. The Yankees offensive numbers dipped last year, and his bat was one reason why. If he remembers his bat, Cano can still be mentioned in the same breathe as Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera.
5. What personality will the bullpen take the shape of for 2009?
Joba and his Joba Rules are a starter so the bullpen can’t rely on him. Like 2008, the Yankees expect another great, lights-out season from Rivera.
Last year the pitching staff became an Abbott and Costello joke. Who was on the mound at any given time? Marte needs to step it up the most. He was a huge addition mid-season last year. The staff needs to stay healthy and hold the game for Rivera.
Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Dan Griese, Brian Bruney, Alfredo Aceves, Jonathan Albaladejo, Humberto Sanchez, who wants the ball?
6. Will the bench be strong this year?
Swisher will fill a big role this season. The Yankees also need a strong season behind the plate from Jose Molina, or they will call up young prospect Francisco Cervelli, who missed 2008 with an injury.
With Betemit gone, Cody Ransom will need to fill the go-to role he covered so well. Melky, already under the gun, must provide a spark off the bench.
Juan Miranda, who had a great season in the Arizona Fall League, will be a key young player rounding out the bench.
From the mound, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, and Ian Kennedy will need to be ready this year when the big arms need a rest or get injured.
Hughes and Kennedy were busts last year and will be mid-season trade bait if they don’t produce when they get the ball.
7. Could the Yankees make any more moves before April?
Rumors are swirling that Swisher or Nady could be traded before April. Melky could be on the block, and the Yankees now have a bit of a surplus at pitching. The Yankees could make one or two more moves before the season starts.
Manny is still out there, as is Adam Dunn and former Yankee Bobby Abreu. Manny especially, would help solidify the outfield.
The Yankees are rumored to be in pursuit of defensive phenom, 2B Orlando Hudson, who is coming off of an injury filled 2008. His signing could diminish Cano’s time, especially if he doesn’t perform at the plate. Regardless, he would be a great defensive addition.
8. They built it, now will the bats come?
Melky, Cano, and Posada must bounce back at the plate. The Yanks need bigger bats and more clutch hits. The Yankees traditionally are a power hitting team with a lot of patience at the plate. The Yankees need to show up and open this park with a bang, which brings me back to the first question. They can’t fall to the pressure of the new park.
9. Once they read it, how will Torre’s book impact the Yankees?
Hopefully no impact at all, except to a certain player not mentioned yet, who needs to be more clutch. The only major uproar came from none other than former Yankee big mouth, David Wells.
It’s a small issue right now, but I guarantee you at the start of spring training, the media will bombard the Yankees with questions regarding the book. Ignore those questions and let’s play baseball!
10. Lion or Lamb? Will the real A-Rod please stand up!
The final question can be about none other than Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees signed many top free agents this year, yet the leagues’ highest paid player still has the biggest questions.
You can always count on A-Rod to put up his gaudy, garbage numbers year after year. The problem if those numbers are never at clutch times to win crucial games, and the big hits never seem to come in the playoffs. A-Rod has been a sheep in the postseason for the Yankees and Torre has called you out.
He wants to be paid as the games greatest. Well to do that, and to be mentioned in the same breathe as the greatest Yankees like DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig, Bernie, Yogi, Reggie, Maris, Posada, Mattingly, Ruth, and Jeter, you need to bring home the Yankees something that has eluded them since your arrival, and that is a World Series Championship.
Yankees 2009 Season Outlook
The Yankees made a lot of good moves and greatly improved their playoff chances. The bad side is the Rays, who made very few moves, return a young, World Series caliber team nearly intact (minus Rocco Baldelli, plus Pat Burrell).
The Red Sox didn’t slouch too much either. They brought in Baldelli, Brad Wilkerson, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz and have a logjam in their starting rotation.
It is going to be very close. I think the Rays will drop off this season, a sophomore slump per say after their fairytale year last year. The Red Sox will take the East unless their bats fail in a Manny-less lineup, especially if Big Papi isn’t healthy.
The Yankees will bounce back and grab the wild card spot this year.A trip to the World Series will once again come down to the winner of the ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox. The winner will square off in the Fall Classic against the Los Angeles Dodgers.