God forbid we actually try to talk some baseball when it comes to the New York Yankees. But, pitchers and catchers report to George M. Steinbrenner Field Friday, so let’s try.
Not counting the Alex Rodriguez saga, since it has been covered to death, what concerns you most about this team as we near the opening of camp, Yankees fans?
Here are five things that concern me. Feel free to discuss, or add your own.
- The health of Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Both are recovering from shoulder surgery, and the Yankees are counting heavily on them. There are, realistically, no contingency plans if either of them does not make a full recovery. Posada is reportedly throwing well as he rehabs, but nobody knows if he can withstand catching 120 games. I have heard little about Rivera, but it seems everyone expects him to be fine. If he’s not, would the Yanks have Joba Chamberlain close?
- Joe Girardi. The Yankee manager is an excellent in-game tactician, but it is the rest of what goes along with being Yankee manager that I worry about. Handling the egos in the clubhouse, the distractions that come along with the circus atmosphere that forever seems to follow the Yankees, and dealing with the media. Girardi did not do well in these areas last season, and the Rodriguez mess, the Joe Torre book, the big free-agent signings and the fact that he is — probably — managing for his job won’t make any of that easier in 2009. If the Yanks miss the playoffs again, Girardi is probably gone.
- Center field. Will it be Brett Gardner? Melky Cabrera? Nick Swisher? Johnny Damon? Some combination of all four? No matter who it is, will the Yankees get some production from this position? The Yankees seem to hope first and foremost that Cabrera rebounds from his awful 2008 and plays more like he did in 2007 (.273, 8 home runs, 73 RBI). If either he or Gardner can hit adequately, that would be enough. Both are excellent center fielders, and that is what this team needs most.
- The bench. Specifically here, I am talking about the backup infield situation. Is Brian Cashman serious about entering Spring Training with Cody Ransom and Angel Berroa as his only utility infielder options? Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, Orlando Hudson and Mark Grudzielanek are among the guys still available. One of them might be willing to take a cheap one-year deal — most likely Garciaparra.
- Starting pitching health. How many starts will the Yankees get from Chamberlain and A.J. Burnett? Is Chien-Ming Wang fully recovered? Will Andy Pettitte’s elbow hold up for another season? When he is called on will Phil Hughes finally pitch like The Franchise, or will he contine to look like The Failure? The Yankees could have a dominant starting rotation — if everyone is healthy and it lives up to expectations. That is still a huge question, though.
Your thoughts, Yankee fans?