Yankees Spring Training Camp Opens – Moon’s Valentine
What a Valentine! New York Yankees pitchers and catcher report to spring training in Florida today. Palm trees, gulf breezes, sunshine and the sound of bats hitting balls and fists hitting gloves. The casual, light-hearted ways the men-boys play on the silken green grass and tamped sod of the Steinbrenner park, just reinvigorates me here in the middle of February. Pitchers and Catchers report. Three words and an article that mean spring is near.Now, it will be nightmarish for the New York Yankees unless players have banner years.
IN 2009,the Bronx Bombers went all the way to their 27th World Series Championship. They were loaded with baseball's best at every position and in each rotation.
This year? Not so much. Let's go around the horn.
First Base: Mark Teixeira
Mark usually doesn't get hot until May. Coming off a season ending wrist injury, Mark's typically slow start could drag the Yankees into third place right out of the chute. The other starting infielders have their own show of woe and may not be able to take up the slack.
Second base: Brian Roberts
At one time, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, he was one of the best second basemen in the American League, perhaps second only to the now Yankee-departed Robinson Cano, who signed with the Seattle Mariners during the winter. Roberts has been so riddled with injury one wonders if he can stay on the field long enough to produce.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
His last season to play is a huge question mark. At 39 and 40 in June can he bounce back from an ankle injury in suffered in the 2012 playoffs and be even 80% of what he has been in the past -- a 13-time All-Star.
Third base: Kelly Johnson, et al
Who? Yanks' 3B Alex Rodriguez - who could have helped the Yankees immensely -- instead stays at home or wherever all year long due to a suspension for being associated with performance enhancing material. Kelly played for the Tampa Bay Rays and I recall seeing him being just one of the slew not one of the few. But, who knows? He may shine at 3B even though he has played that position only 20 times!
So you see, we have trouble in NYC. On the other hand, the outfield is stupendous.
Left Field:Brett Gardner
Gardner returns, this time in left field, and as the second fastest player on the team. If Gardner would start bunting for hits and not being so timid on the basepaths he could be a phenomenal star and his impetus for doing just that lies in the Center field.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury
Brought over from the Taliban (Boston Red Sox) during the off season he is faster than Gardner and has more power. Gardner and Ellsbury's speed can make up for a lot of the lack of production from the four infielders.
Right Field: Carlos Beltran
Finally playing where he should have all his career, for the New York Yankees, the powerful Beltran (which must mean "clutch" in Spanish) is the emblematic Yankee. Switch-hitter, power, speed and the history of a man who when he comes to the plate in post-season games ALWAYS comes through.
On the Mound: Studs or Duds?
Last year he looked like an old bear struggling to keep stronger, younger bears away from his mate and brood. Sweating, stumbling, losing... his 2013 mantra. Now, I hear he is reporting today much trimmer and in better shape than ever for the 2014 campaign. When is right, the lefty is a giant. He is the only left handed started in the Yankees rotation.
Just in from Japan -- where he had an exalted 24-0 record in his last season of his Nippon career -- one hopes he brings his rising sun form to the states and not a sinking flash in the jay-Pan.
Another Japanese import, this wily old veteran can teach Tanaka some tricks of the trade. Learn from the master. The master, however, could barely make it through the season last year with an arm in September that looked like it was going to come off with the pitch to the plate. Maybe we won't need him in September. We could be out of it by then.
I love this young man. He can really pitch. However, he is still young and very sensitive. When things go wrong, he mind goes bonkers. Flubbed plays, giving up a homer, some speedster stealing a base can cause him to blow up like an old Corvair, not a Nova.
Everyone else on the pitching staff is Mr. Unknown.
Closer: David Robertson
Replacing the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera, is not easy. Particularly when you are a soft-spoken, easy going tosser from Alabama. David Robertson, who, if he could have in skill what he possess in heart, would be unbeatable. He has been at times. And, other times I have seen looking like a scared rabbit. The Yankees will need the iron door, not the leaky shutter.
I so want the Yankees to win another championship. I mean, do it for Jeet!
If they don't, there'll be lots of this over the winter.