With a healthy dose of Bruce Springsteen and minor dash of optimism, Hidden Track presents you with a preview of the 2008 New York Yankees:
Prove it All Night: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada & Mariano Rivera
Since 1996, the unquestionable backbone of the Yankees, both physically and emotionally, has been Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada & Mariano Rivera. In 2007, Jeter notched his third straight year of 200+ hits, Rivera started slow but still managed at least 30 saves for the tenth time in eleven years and Posada had arguably his best season at the age of 36. With a slightly frightening combination of youth & uncertainty on the mound this season, these three pillars will be counted on to replicate 2007’s leadership and on-field production.
Jungleland: The New York media & the Steinbrenners
The Yankees brass was allegedly divided throughout the Johan Santana sweepstakes. Part of the Steinbrenner family was in favor of bringing the lefty ace to the Bronx while the other half, and possibly most importantly, General Manager Brian Cashman, were steadfastly against parting with the young guns desired by the Twins. The latter group won out as Yankees retained their young pitching and Santana went on to sign with the Mets. As if an All-Star final season at Yankee Stadium while chasing the Red Sox isn’t enough, the decision to trade or not to trade will undoubtedly be scrutinized ad nauseam throughout the year.
Few players in MLB history have had an offensive season like A-Rod had in 2007. He carried the Yankees throughout the season and into the playoffs, in route to winning his third MVP award. Unfortunately, he was a lightning rod of controversy in the off-season as well, confusing recently won-over Yankees fans with the absurd drama surrounding his contract and apparent decision to opt out of it. With all of this nonsense a thing of the past, A-Rod is once again a Yankee and expected to come up big all season long.
Darkness on the Edge of Town: The closing of Yankee Stadium
For the majority of Yankees fans, the majestic structure at 161st Street & River Avenue is all we know. The miles of pedestrian ramps leading from street level to the upper tier, cheesy scoreboard graphics and one-tower speaker system in center field are just a few of the outdated, yet memorable characteristics that come to mind when thinking about “The House that Ruth Built”. And to this day, there is not a better walk than the one that leads from the dark, narrow concourse to the sight of green grass and white façade inside the stadium. It will be difficult to say goodbye to a venue filled with such wonderful memories, but I have a hunch the building going up next door will help ease the pain.
The Rising: Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain & Ian Kennedy
Quite simply, the 2008 season will only be as successful as this young trio of pitchers. Yankees fans got a taste of their potential brilliance last season, led by Joba Chamberlain’s mesmerizing two-months of nearly perfect pitching. Kennedy pitched well in only 19 innings of work, as did Hughes, whose final appearance of the season was an impressive 3 2/3 scoreless innings vs. the Indians in Game 3 of the Division Series. It might be unfair to expect so much from three pitchers who have such little major league experience, but the Yankees don’t have much of a choice. Hopefully the best is yet to come from these three youngsters.
It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City: The managerial change
Few baseball managers impacted their team like the beloved Joe Torre did from 1996-2007. Often overshadowed by wins, losses and playoff results, his calmness and management of clubhouse egos was just as important to the Yankees’ 1173 wins under his watch. After the devastating post-season loss to the Indians, the Yankees brass decided a change had to be made, in the form of a low-ball contract offer. As a result, Torre is in Dodger blue and Joe Girardi takes over as the Yankees skipper with a fresh attitude and strategy of play. It remains to be seen if the change will lead to better results, but it had to be made.
Spirit in the Night: Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano & Shelley Duncan
Anchored with the professionalism & leadership of Jeter, Posada and Rivera, the Yankees have found Cabrera, Cano and Duncan to be a perfect compliment of youthful energy. This season however, much more is expected. Cabrera is entrenched as the Yanks’ every day centerfielder and needs to build upon his 2007 campaign. Cano has made everyone well aware of his offensive capabilities, but still needs to refine his discipline and work ethic – something Girardi will certainly help with. And should Jason Giambi falter as the full-time first baseman, Shelley Duncan will need to step up and hit more massive home runs while sliding spikes-first into fewer players.
The Land of Hopes and Dreams: The 2008 Season
Yankee fans have a lot to look forward to in 2008. The reality of the situation is that only one thing truly matters – a World Series title. Obviously, it will be great to see the progression of the young players, witness the All-Star Game in the Bronx and say goodbye to Yankee Stadium, but Yankees fans will surely trade all of that and more to tack on title number 27. For their sake, hopefully Joe Girardi got it right when he made this the reason for his selection of uniform #27.
Bruce Springsteen’s tour continues tonight in Vancouver, British Columbia. To see the rest of his tour itinerary and all recent setlists, visit brucespringsteen.net.
The Yankees 2008 season begins today at 1:05 pm against the Toronto Blue Jays, and over 3.5 million tickets have been sold for the final season at Yankee Stadium. To get yours, go to yankees.com now.
- Previously on HT: Billy Joel and The Mets: Mash-up Style