Tag:NY Yankees
Posted on: April 6, 2008 9:22 pm

First Impressions

After about a week of baseball, here are my first impressions of the 2008 NY Yankees

Pitching:  After Chien Ming Wang and Phil Hughes, the starters have been beatable, especially Ian KennedyMike Mussina's start wasn't as horrible as people seem to think.  Besides the homerun he gave up to Vernon Wells, he was actually ok.  He just doesn't have the ability to get people out as easily as he used to, so he requires more pitches.  This is going to force the bullpen in early during his starts which won't be a problem if the other starters give them length.  My concern with Moose is the effort he's expending coupled with his age may cut his season short.  This also may not be a problem if Alan Horne's ready after the all-star break. 

I'm also not too concerned about Andy Pettitte since he was injured, and he's still getting his legs back under him.  He really only got roughed up for that one inning, and I think he'll be fine.  Of greater concern is Ian Kennedy.  It is only 1 start though, so let's wait and see. 

Chien Ming Wang looked good in his first start, and great in his second start.  It seems the new pitches he's worked into his repertoire are quite effective as is evident in the uncharacteristic 6 strikeouts.  Phil Hughes' successful first start was of no surprise to this Yankee fan. 

As I suspected, the bullpen hasn't been worrisome like people expected.  LaTroy Hawkins is the only reliever that's caused any problems.  Brian Bruney has been outstanding so far and seems pumped up with something to prove.  I really like the attitude I see from him.  Ross Ohlendorf and Billy Traber have also been getting the job done.  Even Kyle Farnsworth has been pulling his weight.  Even better is the unbeatable team of Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera.  I've been a huge proponent of getting Joba into the rotation, but I don't know how they're going to mess with that combination.  It's formidable.  I thought Mo's slight decline would continue this year, but he's looked better than ever.  He seems to be ageless. 

Defense:  There have been some great, good, awkward and not so good plays.  I think the biggest defensive concern for everyone going into the season was Jason Giambi, of course.  He actually looked limber in his first game snagging that line drive.  I was in shock.  Then, he reverted to true form by taking out that cameraman in the next game.  He actually probably should've caught that popup foul ball, but it was a tough play.   The fact is, Giambi will never be graceful out there and will always look awkward.   He's never going to come up with a ball hit to him smoothly like Robinson Cano.  What he has been doing well is knocking that ball down, staying with it and making the out.  He's also saved a couple of errant throws while still staying on the bag.  I believe Girardi's show of confidence in him by not taking him out for a defensive replacement has gone a long way.  Also, after Shelley Duncan's disastrous play, there really isn't any question in my mind that he isn't the best option there. 

Everyone else has been fine on defense except for the few errant throws by the infield.  They all need to make sure they're set.  Melky made a few great catches, but he needs to work on consistently tracking the ball better. 

Offense:  Once again they're off to a slow start.  It should be noted that they faced some of the better starters during this week.  Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Dustin McGowan and James Shields are no pushovers.  There's no cause for worry quite yet.  We haven't entered May with the slumping bats like last year.  It doesn't even appear as if anyone is in trouble of continuing into a prolonged slump.  Everyone's taking good at bats with good swings.  I like the team's approach.

Coaching:  If there was any wonder about this season, it was the transition from Joe Torre to Joe Girardi.  It has been made immediately obvious how different they are.  I have the utmost respect for Joe Torre, but I am loving Joe Girardi, especially the confidence he shows in his players.  They are professional athletes and grown men who should be treated as such by allowing them a say in their own destinies.  Most notable is his handling of the pitching staff.  Game 1, he went out to the mound to talk to Wang instead of automatically pulling him when he got into a little trouble.  He was rewarded with a strikeout and avoiding the bullpen.  Based on what I've seen so far, I see the bullpen performing much better in August and September than previous years.  This is hugely important. 

All in all, I like the look of the team and am excited to see the rest of the season.  I predict an AL East title back in the Bronx. 

Category: MLB
Tags: NY Yankees
Posted on: March 16, 2008 7:08 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2008 11:05 pm

A Chick's Take on the 2008 NY Yankees

For the first time in 10 years, the Yankees enter the season as the underdog in the AL East. Yes, Boston won the World Series in '04, but NY still won the division that year. It isn't a bad thing to be the underdog as it provides more motivation, in my opinion. This hasn't been the case in the last 7 years during which time the Yankees have failed to bring a championship home to NY. They've been beaten in the World Series twice, lost the ALCS once and gone down in the first round for 4 years including the last 3 in a row.   In the last 4 years, the humiliation has increased starting with probably the greatest collapse in the history of sports in '04. I won't say anymore because I know all Yankee fans either tear up, become nauseated or both at the mere mention of it.

I believe the team as a whole will be more motivated this year because of it's makeup of players. On one end of the spectrum, you have the new members who are primed to prove they belong in the big leagues. On the other end, you have the veterans, some of which only have one more chance in this year to prove they still have the skills left to get it done. On an individual basis, it's been a long time since there were actual competitions for more than one spot in the Bronx. For all of Joe Torre's strengths as a manager, he favored his veterans because of their previous production even if it didn't exist anymore. He also favored what produced results including specific relief pitchers and lineups even after they no longer inspired that confidence. It seems as if this is not the case with Joe Girardi who is giving everyone the chance to prove themselves in Spring training. Why not? If someone is assured of a job, human nature dictates they won't strive harder to keep it. This specifically effects Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina and Kyle Farnworth who may be assured of that job, but not a starting one. All in contract years, they have everything to lose and plenty to gain. Imagine the team with the likes of a healthy, 2002 like productive Giambi, a flame throwing, pinpoint control setup guy in Farnsworth and a crafty, 2006 like Mike Mussina. It certainly creates a more potent team.

The offense of the Yankees sparks fear in the minds of opposing pitching as it will score runs upon runs from top to bottom like last year. They all have the ability to hit homeruns, some more than others, but Girardi’s game is small ball. He won’t wait for that homerun, he’ll manufacture runs, and subsequently, the homers will take care of themselves. The order I see with unobvious positions noted is Damon in left, Jeter, Abreu, Arod, Giambi at first, Posada, Matsui at DH, Cano and Melky in center. Damon may not be the player he once was, but he still makes a good tablesetter and is certainly the most viable option of the alternatives. A major key to this lineup is the protection of Arod in the hopes he will duplicate or surpass the incredible season he had last year. Abreu proved to be more than competent in that role in front of him last year. The 5 hole couldn't be filled properly for the length of the season. Giambi started out there before he got hurt, and then it was predominantly Matsui who was too streaky. Posada was tried at one point which seemed to work, but it's doubtful he has the same kind of season he did last year. Plus, it's preferable to split up your lefties and righties in a lineup, and batting him there would leave 3 lefties in a row. Giambi belongs in the 5 hole, at least until he proves otherwise, because he's primed to have a big year. He has stated more than once that he wants to keep playing next year, and he’s not not going to have many offers after another subpar season. I know Shelley Duncan is a fan favorite and has great energy, but I find it hard to believe he won’t revert to his minor league ways of being a power threat only. I could be wrong, but his defense is lacking anyway. I think his talents best serve the team off the bench, but he should start one day a week to keep him fresh. Wilson Betemit should be for defensive purposes only as his bat lacks any specialty different from anyone else’s. With Matsui and Duncan being able to play the outfield, I don’t think you need more than them, Betemit and Molina on the bench. I think the roster spot # 25 should go to another relief pitcher.

That’s been an exciting race this Spring. It appears as if Billy Traber has won the lefty spot in the bullpen since he was added to the roster. I realize he’s been impressive, but I’m not so sure about that choice since he doesn’t have a good track record to back it up. I know he’s had injuries, but that makes him even more worrisome. The beauty of having so many arms vying for a spot is you can always replace him with a callup though. Everyone seems to think the bullpen is a subject for concern, but I disagree. If someone isn’t cutting it, there are options in the minors like never before, and not just let’s cross our fingers options. At this point, after Mo, Joba, Farnsworth and Hawkins, I see Ohlendorf and Albalajedo making the team along with Traber. I had originally thought Karstens for the longman, but Ohlendorf’s having a better Spring, and he really has the better stuff out of the two. If the Yankees choose to go with an 8 relievers rather than a position player, I’d have to go with Britton as the last choice. I know there’s a lot of money invested in Igawa, and he has pitched well this Spring, but he doesn’t offer anything special to set him apart from the others.

The concern to me is the rotation because it’s highly improbable that 3 rookies all have good to great seasons. That’s what the team is going to need in order to make it to the playoffs this year. It’s not impossible, just improbable. I truly feel that Hughes and Kennedy will rise to the occasion, and the innings limit on Hughes doesn’t really worry me. My thought is they’ll move him into the bullpen once they move Joba to the rotation after the all-star break. He did just fine there in the playoffs. I’m also not worried about Moose who’s talent and pride won’t allow him to not prove himself still worthy of a spot in the rotation. To me, Wang and Pettitte are givens, so that leaves Joba. He concerns me because I can’t imagine him having enough gas to last 6 innings a game after pitching in the bullpen for a year. I like the plan to send him to the minors for a few weeks in order to stretch out his arm before he’s placed in the rotation. Hopefully, it works. Of no concern to me is replacing him as the setup man in the bullpen. There’s plenty of talent available who are capable of getting that job done, and one of them will. The most important thing is making it clear to all pitchers, starters and reliever alike, but especially relievers, what the plans are for them and what their roles will be. I don’t think it’s beneficial to a pitcher’s mindset for him to not know when and where he’s going to pitch. Leave Spring training with a plan. Choose a pitcher for innings 6, 7 & 8 each and stick to that plan until you’re sure it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t, change the plan, don’t wait for it to change. Keep trying until you get it right. Then, if it’s gone right for awhile, but then suddenly goes wrong, don’t wait until it gets so bad your pitchers are ready to jump off a bridge. Come up with new ideas making sure to communicate your new plan.

This is something I feel Girardi will excel at. He will explain his thinking to his players. He won’t wait for his bullpen and lineup to implode before he makes changes. He’s also shown he leads by example where workouts are concerned and will keep his team in excellent shape. He’s in no way complacent about the job he’s taken or the talented team he has. He’ll get the most out of his players in a way that exudes energy and creativity, characteristics that’ll serve them all well. It’s an exciting time in the Bronx, one full of change and uncertainty. It’s time to embrace it.

Category: MLB
Tags: NY Yankees
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com