NEW YORK YANKEES (AL EAST)
2013 record: 85-77 (T-third, 12 GB)
Projected 2014: 86.5
World Series odds: 12/1
Key additions: Brian MCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury
X factor: Brian Roberts
Projected starting lineup: Infield: C – B. McCann; 1B – M. Teixeira; 2B – B. Roberts; 3B K. Johnson; SS – D. Jeter. Outfield: LF – B. Gardner; CF – J. Ellsbury; RF C. Beltran.
Designated hitter: A. Soriano
Starting rotation: CC Sabathia, H. Kiroda, M. Tanaka, I. Nova, D. Phelps.
Closer: D. Robinson
The New York Yankees have as many sidebars as roster spots. Jeter’s last year, replacing Rivera, Teixeira’s health, signing Tanaka, the addition of McCann and Beltran. On and on and on.
But first and foremost has to be finding a way to offset losing second baseman Robinson Cano, don’t you know. Cano, who figured to be the cornerstone of the franchise for the next five years at least, took the big bucks and long term contract to Seattle. That meant replacing the man who led the Yankees in every statistical offensive category that mattered a year ago.
Still, the Yanks only finished tied for third with Baltimore and 12 games away from Boston. That’s a lot of ground to makeup. But it’s the Yankees and you know the Steinbrenner empire just will not accept losing.
So they make moves, lots of them. Masahiro Tanaka, hailed as Japan’s best pitcher ever, is now in pinstripes joining countryman Hiroki Kuroda. David Robertson (33 holds) steps in to replace the great Mariano Rivera (44 saves).
Brian Roberts comes over from Baltimore to fill Cano’s spot at second. Brian McCann leaves Atlanta to handle the catching. Carlos Beltran has his second stint in New York, having first been with the Mets.
And Jacoby Ellsbury becomes the latest Boston Red Sox player to join the Evil Empire. Now Boston Strong can throw darts at Ellsbury much the way they did Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon.
Mark Teixeira is still playing first base in spring training which is a story in itself. And last but certainly not least is the swan song season of shortstop Derek Jeter, arguably the most significant Yankee player since Joe DiMaggio. Yes, that includes the Mick.
As great as Mantle was, it was Joe D and Jeter who took captaincy to another level. Jeter is no longer the player he was, but he’ll be first ballot Hall of Famer for sure and anything his battered body can produce will help the Yanks.
Manager Joe Girardi will again steer the ship, which if the New York media has its way, will have high tides to deal with all season.
On paper the Yanks have plenty of pitching and should be close if not the top home run producer in the majors. They could win the world championship like Boston did a year ago, or fall into the cellar as an aging past their peak group like the Red Sox did two years ago.
But that’s what makes the Yankees, well, the Yankees. They try to stay one step ahead of the Mets in the tabloids and find ways to jerk Boston around in their famed rivalry. Ellsbury’s return to Boston should be epic.
Bottom line: One thing you can count on from the Yankees – it will not be boring. LVH has the Bronx Bombers 12/1 to win the World Series. Those are excellent odds and will no doubt have Vegas sweating out every $100 or more futures bet.
Imagine if the AL pennant came down to Yanks-Mariners and we see Cano “don’t you know” back in Yankee Stadium. Or in the World Series with Beltran back in St. Louis. There sure is a good reality TV series here.
On deck: Oakland A’s
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].