Spring At Last.
I know the official start of Spring in 2012 was yesterday, March 20, at 1:14am. But for me spring began when pitchers and catchers reported last month to Tampa, the home of the Yankees spring training complex. The Yankees are playing baseball again, albeit exhibition games. I am a happy boy. That’s the start of spring as far as I am concerned. More importantly, next month they will be playing real games, starting the regular season against the Rays at the Trop on Friday April 6.
Looking at the Yankees 2012 edition, I’ve heard the knock—they are old. In some positions they are old. Others not. But even Yankee haters should give them some credit: They are strategically moving away from older players in the last few seasons. Andy and Jorge have retired (sob), Damon and Matsui were not resigned after the 2009 Championship. Yes, several of their bench/role players– Ibanez, Chavez and Jones–are on the back nine. But that’s OK. They all have modest, one-year deals and I suspect the Yankees will continue to get good value in modest roles from these veterans in 2012.
Of their front line players, Mariano is 42 and Jeter and A Rod will be 38 and 37, respectively, mid-way through the season. And now with Andy, who will be 40 in June, returning to the staff the Yankees are older on the mound as well (but I am thrilled!) Injuries always play a role with older players. But players age differently. Given his age, Mo should have broken down long ago, but still is the best reliever in baseball. Though not official, he will retire at the end of 2012. Many people, (including me) have been mourning his departure for years, see Exit Sandman from 2009. Jeter was indeed “looking old” in 2010 and in the first half of 2011, but came back mid season after a 2-week stint on the DL and played the second half at Jeterian levels even the young Jeter didn’t always achieve. Let’s hope for continued greatness in 2012.
A Rod is the biggest question mark with the longest contract. Although he will turn 27 in July, he is signed for 6 more years, a potential dilemma. Is this the beginning of the end, or was last season merely a hiccup in his previous 13 year run of 30+ HRs, 100+ RBIs, a feat no one in baseball had ever accomplished? A Rod went abroad and received the experimental Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (RPR). Time will tell whether he once again maintain his level of excellence or fade into a more modest version of his former self. Fans and critics forget too quickly what a monster he was, and still may be. We’ll see.
What makes me encouraged about the Yankees is a stronger, deeper starting staff, a kick ass bullpen beyond Mo, and the best starting eight players in baseball. On the mound with the arrival of Pineda, the emergence of Nova, a possible comeback from Phil Hughes and the forthcoming arrivals of Banuellos and Betances in 2013, the staff will be led by CC and a bunch of 26 and under arms. Bodes well for the coming years.
All the Hot Stove chatter quickly fades as the season approaches. Analysis is nice, but enough already. I enjoy watching a spring training game but after the fifth inning there are a bunch of guys wearing numbers in the 70s and 80s. Last I looked there were no Yankee numbers retired that high.
Real baseball is ahead. No team wins like the Yankees. Year after year. Decade after decade. 27-time Champions. Is #28 in the horizon? Ask me in October. Let’s play the games. I’m excited.
More Yankees Strumings