Column: A new hope for the Yanks
Last October was awful.
Not only did the Yankees miss the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years, but I also had to witness the Red Sox hoist the World Series trophy, something so awful to watch that only "Fever Pitch" can give it a run for its money.
But with every spring comes new opportunities, chances for redemption and write new chapters. After spending nearly half a billion dollars this offseason, the Bronx Bombers look to be ready to return to the fold again.
A lot has changed. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte said their tearful goodbyes while Robinson Cano took $240 million from the Mariners and decided to attend things like the Grammys with Jay-Z and BeyoncÃ©.
Why? Who knows. Maybe he just likes to go to places where he can't win a thing.
Meanwhile, let's all take a moment and be thankful for an A-Rod-less baseball season. I don't know about the others, but I hope that when he struck out looking against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25, 2013 would turn out to be the last time we see him step foot inside an MLB batter's box.
But enough with the departed, let's talk about the new toys Brian Cashman brought, or rather bought in, in the forms of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Masahiro Tanaka.
Excessive?Maybe. Necessary? Yes.
For years, Hal Steinbrenner - the team's principle owner - has planned for the Yankees to cut their payroll under $189 million in order to avoid paying luxury tax, but after watching your archrival win the title, this is the only way to answer if you are the New York Yankees.
McCann was a must-sign and the best move Cashman made all winter. Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli would not cut it for any team with championship aspirations, and the 29-year-old catcher was the best player available at that position, the Yanks could not have afforded to let him slip by.
New York could have gone without Ellsbury or Beltran though, with Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano and Brett Gardner already on the roster, but bringing in players of their calibers do not hurt the their chances one bit, and the option to move around these chess pieces is a luxury I'm sure manager Joe Girardi would love to have on the field.
Cano-jabs aside, replacing the best player at his position is a tall order for anyone to follow. Roberts is in line to fill that void, but he hasn't played a full season in over two years and that's a cause for concern for anyone.
However, the Yankees will have captain Derek Jeter - for one last year - and first baseman Mark Teixeira back to compensate that loss somewhat, after the two dealt with injuries for much of last season. What kind of numbers New York can get out of them remains to be seen, considering the ages and health, but having them beats throwing out the likes of Lyle Overbay and Brendan Ryan any day.
Third base could be a carousel this season. While Girardi has mentioned Johnson as the prime candidate for the position, the 31-year-old (to be 32 on Saturday) has played just 16 games at the hot corner last season. With some substandard options in the likes of Ryan, Eduardo Nunez and several minor leaguers in the mix, it'd be foolish to expect any solid offensive production from that position.
Pitching, meanwhile, would be like opening a box of chocolate from Forrest Gump.
A slimmer CC Sabathia is coming off the worst season of his career, while the age of Hiroki Kuroda and the consistency of Ivan Nova could be in question as well. How Tanaka will perform in the MLB is as good as anyone's guess and the last spot in the rotation is still open for anyone's taking.
Michael Pineda, the rookie sensation from the Seattle Mariners who was brought over to the Bronx in the Jesus Montero trade in 2011, is one of the candidates, though he has yet to throw a single pitch in pinstripes due to a torn labrum that kept out for two full years.
Now claiming to be "100 percent," Pineda will need to earn his spot against the likes of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno and others. If the Yankees can get the Pineda who made the American League All-Star team in his first season after going 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA in the first half, questions surrounding their rotation will slowly diminish.
The Yankees will also join the rest the league to experience something they haven't been for the past 17 seasons: uncertainty in the ninth inning.
With the greatest closer in the history of the game gone, David Robertson can only try and do his best to follow what is an irreplaceable role that Rivera left behind. Robertson has the stuff to do the job, but the composure to hang on to a close lead in the final frame is something that he can only develop once he's on the mound.
The rest of the bullpen remains a working progress for Cashman as well, but from what he has done with the entire squad so far, it's probably safe to say that putting fans back into the seats of Yankee Stadium should not be a problem this season.
The AL East will continue to be the toughest division in all of baseball, but instead of an expectation of doom like the one that was casted upon the Yankees last season, this should make a very interesting campaign.
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