I have to admit that it may be because of being busy, but I have less excitement about this opening day compared to any in a long time. Usually there is excitement with a young player you want to see or a huge signing or just a team ready to compete at the highest level (usual for us). However, this team is banged up at a pretty unprecedented level and there are no exciting signings or young guys stepping up.
That being said, this team is not as bad as everyone makes us out to be. I saw some predictions of the Yankees being below .500 and I just don’t see that…even with all the injuries we are starting out with.
My main reason for optimism is that Rivera will be back for his last year! We should treasure every single moment of this final tour of the Genius Maker and I hope he performs well. I don’t expect the same performance as his last year, but I do feel he will be a solid/decent closer in his final year. Soriano really did well, but I think he was fortunate and honestly lucky. His overall performance was extremely effective, not blowing games, but you might be surprised to know his WHIP was the highest of his career since his rookie year (as long as he pitched at least 10 innings) and his OPS against was almost identical to his first year with the Yanks when he was setting up Mo (.645 in 2011 and .639 in 2012). He put guys on and was able to wiggle out of a lot of jams. The Yankees were very fortunate value wise that he left…even if his final product was a really good one.
The other reason for optimism is because of the entire pitching staff. They should be very solid and while our older guys could fall off some, there are a lot of guys who could step up. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Joba get better along with Nova and Phelps.
While staying positive on the moves we have made…I think Youkilis is a wild card and while the coin was high, I am hoping he was banged up last year. With the self imposed cap of 189 mil for 2014, he will not be on the books unless we want him to be and with the injury to Tex, Youk becomes a big cog in our offense. He is a better defender than people think and hopefully the fall off was because of injuries. I was not pleased that in his final 100 AB’s with the WS he didn’t hit well, but usually guys don’t fall off so much??? Because of the injuries, it ended up being an important signing, although I probably would have gone a different direction spending for the studs and bringing in more younger guys…but I will discuss more of that in a little bit.
I already discussed the poor choice in Ichiro; and one of my fears seems to be rearing its head in spring play and that is a guy with a terrible OBP being at the top of the lineup because he has some speed. My philosophy is to get your OBP guys up in front of your better hitters and let her rip. I hope Ichiro proves me wrong, but my money would have been saved and I would have let Chris Dickerson take his spot and used that money elsewhere. Last year I wrote about us letting Maxwell go and he ended up with an excellent OPS against lefties…which is what we need now (he is better than we have now). Then, we let Dickerson go so we can sign guys worse than him most likely? This is my main issue with what we have been doing. As I have said numerous times over the years; we have a payroll advantage, we should have a lot of stars, but we should have mostly stars, then you have rookies that you are grooming into one or 2 spots in the lineup and then you have specialists to fill out the roster. These specialists are defensive wizards, speed demons or guys who crush lefties or righties. This way when you make a move there is an advantage in doing so. The issue I raised before is that we simply have not developed anyone and instead of seeing if a guy like Dickerson or Maxwell can develop into a specialist role (or even better) we eschew that choice with a guy with no upside as he is on the downside of his career and we are hoping to roll snake eyes just to give us about the same production as the younger guy could have done…and we do so at a higher cost.
For example, we have Ben Francisco who is supposed to be our right handed platoon against lefties, even though he is actually better against rigthties the last two years and for his career??? What is the point of that…even if he is cheap? Why not try and develop someone?
Thankfully, we releases Juan Rivera as he didn’t make sense either and I actually like the Overbay signing, mostly because he is cheap but he is a specialist as he can field and be adequate against righties.
I also am OK with the Brennan Boesch move because he is 27, however, he doesn’t fill my role as a specialist because he is a left handed hitter who has been better against lefties? At least he is 27 and has some upside.
Vernon Wells. He has been very poor the last two years and while the cap number is OK for the 2014 hit as there won’t be one; we have put out a lot of money for a guy who by all predictions should be poor again. So here we go trying to roll snake eyes once again and paying a lot of money for it. Add up Ichiro, the Ben Francisco’s, the Wells and I won’t even count the heavy burden on Youkilis, along with I believe that we had to pay Juan Rivera 1 mil (not confirmed), we have roughly 15 million to spend on a real player that should be very productive! Shoot, if you threw in Youk, then we could have enough to sign Josh Hamilton is dollars this year. Is there anyone who wouldn’t rather Josh Hamilton over all those guys combined and filling the needs with rookies or guys we cut? This is what I am talking about regarding poor decisions with money.
We could win 90+ games if things fall well for us, but for us to not get to .500 we would need the injuries we have already sustained to not come back as the team as constructed now could compete for .500. The staff is very good (although I was shocked to read that our pitching coach dismissed the advantage of two lefties and said he was more focused on the arms that the side of the arm. While that makes sense form a logical standpoint, from a game standpoint it dismisses the large advantage of matching up and making the moves of opposing managers much easier. It is very poor thinking to not have two lefties in the pen and last year should have showed that. I am hoping Rapada is going to be OK because last year he was golden against lefties, striking out 33 of the 102 AB’s against him and limiting them to a .186 average and a .518 OPS against! He also had to face the tough lefties a lot of times. We need a 2nd lefty in the pen!!!
Some stats…Here is one I read…20% of the Yankees opening day roster will be made up of players that were not with the Yankees when spring training started! We traded for Kelley (they must see something in him) and we added Francisco, Overbay, Boesch and Vernon Wells in the last 3 weeks. One more stat…the Yankees lineup on Opening day is expected to have only TWO players who were in the opening lineup last year…Brett Gardner (who missed a lot of the year) and Robbie Cano!
No matter what, I am a die hard fan and am looking forward to cheering for the Genius Maker…BRING ON THE GAMES!