For the third consecutive season, we are proud to introduce the Deadspin Baseball Season Previews. Yes, baseball is awfully close now; it's spring training, after all.
Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The New York Yankees. Your author is Amy Blair.
My parents divorced in the early 1980s, and my father, seemingly having no idea what else to do with me when he had me for weekends, carted me off to the Bronx in a Ford Pinto with no air conditioning every other Saturday for a ballgame. The custody agreement granted me the Yankees and all the hot dogs I could eat, which seemed like a perfectly fair trade-off for, you know, domestic tranquility and what-not.
Back then the upper deck was vacant save for a spattering of old drunks and Yankee traditionalists. You could buy a ticket for $1.50, yet it was frequently so empty that I would be sent halfway around the stadium to fetch foul balls hit into sections where no one was sitting. This is difficult to imagine now. Of course, all I could think about was catching a homer off Dave Winfield. I don't mean to veer off too far into sentimentality; I am after all, the same person who punched a Red Sox fan outside of Yankees Stadium once, but this being the last year in the Stadium and all, well, it's getting me a little ... misty. (Isn't that precious; a sad Yankees fan!)
Not only is this the last season in Yankee Stadium, but it's looking to be a pretty big transition year for the Yanks all around. A lot hinges on Joe Girardi, since for the first time in eleven years someone other than Joe Torre will be managing the team. This is scary shit for Yankees fans, especially because I am still not entirely convinced that letting Torre walk away was the right decision (I know, I know, but we did, after all, see the postseason every year while he was coaching, along with that neat little prize of four World Series titles). But, like everybody else, I am completely over that debate (been there, done that). Not to mention the fact that I actually LIKE Girardi and think that New York is a great town for him as a manager. And anyway, if he shits the bed, we can always rely on the fact that the Steinbrenners will just buy us somebody better (ha haaa).
Our pitching staff is also in a major transition this season. Part of me is really excited about the possibilities, and part of me weeps when I think about the uncertainty. We are starting off a year in which, in a nutshell, half of our pitchers are too young and half of them are too old. Among the young ones, Philip Hughes looks like he should be flipping burgers at the Amarillo Checkers, Joba Chamberlain once weighed 290 pounds and looks suspiciously like he might decide to eat Latroy Hawkins (I have no idea who that is either), and Ian Kennedy is described as having all the tools of a — woohoo — #3 or #4 starter. The rest of the pitching staff is seemingly made up of a bunch of sixty-five year old retirees whom the Yankees scouted during a Bocce Ball tournament in Boca Raton. (Strangely, they're fan favorites). All that being said, it's the most promising and exciting (and yes, unpredictable) pitching staff we have seen in years.
As for the rest of the roster, nobody is really certain what the hell Robinson Cano is saying when he speaks, so who knows what's going on with him. And as we have all been told over and over again, there are a hundred other guys out there just as good as Melky Cabrera (lies, blasphemous lies!). Bobby Abreu, despite a slow start, still finished with his usual strong stats last year, and was deceptively solid and consistent over the second half of the season, providing every reason for the Yankees to exercise an option in his contract to bring him back. Jorge Posada had a career year, consistent from April through September, and shows no signs yet of slowing down, an amazing feat for a thirty-six year old everyday catcher. Johnny Damon showed up last year out of shape and was a mess for most of the first half. But he regained his place as one of the league's most effective leadoff men the second half of the season, and even reasserted his running abilities. Hell, even Shelly Duncan put on an electrifying display of power, and became a solid pinch-hitting option during the course of the year. And of course Jeter and A-Rod who are, and remain, Jeter and A-Rod. Everything should be fine and dandy, as long as Girardi doesn't let Giambi anywhere near first base.
But seriously, there is a youthful energy this spring that I have not felt since 1994 when Jeter, Williams, and Rivera were virtual unknowns. A large dose of uncertainty? Yes. But even so, it is undoubtedly nice to hang our hats again on homegrown young guys, and not the Kevin Browns and 'Roid Rockets of the world. Sure, the pitching issues, the new manager and the preseason brawl in Tampa Bay (didn't I mention that?) would probably equal very bad news for another team, but come on, this is the Yankees we're talking about. And wouldn't it just be so...Yankees-ish for us to win the World Series in our last year in our glorious old stadium? (Cue the booing, I can take it).
And if you aren't a Yankees fan, you can at least sleep well at night knowing that it wasn't your team that played a preseason game this year with Billy fucking Crystal. I'm still hurting from that one.