It has nothing to do with the Yankees history of success with a Democrat in the White House, though that is reassuring. Rather, after years of bad decisions and awful signings, the Pinstripes have unshackled themselves of those mistakes and finally have a versatile, cohesive, deep roster. Gone are Jason Giambi, Kyle Farnsworth and Carl Pavano, among others. In are CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira.
Last season was an unmitigated disaster. Missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995, in my mind, only served to prove the true value of Joe Torre. But despite an offense that woefully underachieved and a rotation that totally disintegrated, this team still won 89 games.
Teixeira was the perfect addition to the lineup, replacing Bobby Abreu’s OBP, adding power and run production, and finally — FINALLY — solidifying the defense at first. Sabathia is a horse and a true ace in his prime. He’s a power arm the Yankees have been lacking, joined by another power in Burnett, who has had success in the AL East and against the Sox. With Chein-Ming Wang healthy and Andy Pettitte the No. 4, the rotation is strong enough to give Joba Chamberlain a chance to prove he can start, with Phil Hughes on call in Triple A.
And even with A-Roid’s injury, the offense promises to bounce back. Jorge Posada’s arm has passed the spring training tests and Hideki Matsui is regaining his stroke and should provide some needed clutch hitting. And as aggravating as A-Rod is, he is a force and will be a big boost when he returns in May.
That is not to say there aren’t questions. Can Burnett, Pettitte and Joba stay healthy? Will the bullpen repeat its solid performance from last season? Will the bench finally produce? Is Brett Gardner the answer in center? But for the first time in years, the Bombers appear to have more answers than questions.
Dave, your Nation, meanwhile, is maintaining on the status quo on offense, gambling an aging Mike Lowell can return to his preinjury form.
Meanwhile, the Sox are hoping an aging, injury prone trio — Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny and John Smoltz — can solidify the back end of the rotation. More likely, they’ll perform like Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano with the Yanks.
I’m more worried about the Rays. They remain a formidable threat, deep and talented. The question is whether they can remain healthy, keep getting the good breaks and continue to get solid production out of a suspect bullpen. I expect Even Longoria to struggle early, but the team is good enough to overcome that.
Yes, Dave, this is the year for Championship No. 27, and the end of the Sox’s claim to being the best team of the 21st Century.