5 New York Yankees Storylines To Follow During Spring Training
5 Storylines To Follow During New York Yankees' Spring Training
The New York Yankees are the most well-known franchise in all of sports. Even if someone doesn't follow baseball, they know about the Yankees. They are known for spending a lot of money to build a team and winning the most championships in any league -- more than 100 years of existence and nothing has changed.
The Yankees are coming off one of the worst seasons; they finished 85-77, tied for third place in the AL East. The 12 games back of first place was the most since 1992 when the Yankees finished 76-86; it was the second time in 19 years that the Yankees failed to appear in the playoffs. It was the first time in six seasons that the Yankees did not reach 90 wins.
The Yankees, as usual, made a big impact during the free agency period. They were able to fill in some holes left by departing players. Just like in years past, when the Yankees miss the playoffs, they open up the checkbook to get the best available players whether they are in America or overseas.
The AL East has become a lot closer over the last couple of years. The Boston Red Sox, after the poor 2012 season, won the World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles are two teams on the rise, with both teams finishing ahead of the Yankees in the standings.
The Yankees ended the 2013 season poorly by their standards, going 13-14 in the final month. With a lot of new pieces entering the Yankees clubhouse, there will be a lot to follow this season. Here are the top five storylines to follow entering spring training.
5. Can CC Sabathia Get Back To Being A No. 1 Starter?
The 2013 season was CC Sabathia's worst season. He finished with a 14-13 record, his least amount of wins since 2006 and most losses in his career. Sabathia also had a 4.78 ERA, .39 points higher than his second-highest average (4.39 in 2001). He let up more than 100 runs for the second time in his career, and he didn't break 90 earned runs in any other season. The New York Yankees' success, especially last season, relied heavily on Sabathia's arm
Recently, Sabathia has lost a lot of weight as he tried to relieve pressure off of his knees. As a result, his fastball speed dropped and he looked sluggish late in games. Many coaches and trainers want Sabathia to put back on weight and be the pitcher he was in 2009.
If Sabathia can become that pitcher again, along with the rest of the rotation, then there is great success ahead for the Yankees.
4. How Will Masahiro Tanaka Adjust To American Style?
Masahiro Tanaka may be the most talked about Japanese pitcher in recent years. There's been talk about the number of innings pitched since the age of 18 (1,315). There have also been talks of Tanaka's 24-0 record this past season; he also had a career-low 1.27 ERA.
Experts are making comparisons to fellow Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. They played in Japan for seven seasons before taking the flight over the Pacific Ocean. While Tanaka had a better record and more innings, Darvish finished his Japanese career with more strikeouts and a much lower ERA.
There have also been some comparisons to former Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K had a great first two seasons, but quickly dropped off due to injuries.
The Yankees and its fans are sure hoping for Tanaka to be more Darvish-like and not a second Matsuzaka. Will he be able to adjust to the American style of baseball? The seasons are longer here and the fields are different sizes. If he takes his time to learn the game during the spring, he has a bright future in New York.
3. Derek Jeter Needs To Stay Healthy
Just like his teammate, Derek Jeter played (barely) in his worst season of his career. He played in just 17 games while recovering from a broken ankle and multiple muscle strains. Despite all of the injuries, the Yankees and Jeter agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal.
Jeter will turn 40 in the middle of the 2014 season. As long as he's healthy, he can still perform as a top 10 shortstop, mostly because of his ability to get on base and excellent fielding. Jeter is not a power hitter by any means, but he can drive in runs with singles and doubles. As the projected No. 2 hitter, he will be behind Jacoby Ellsbury and ahead of Carlos Beltran, two good power hitters.
With Eduardo Nunez as the back up, the Yankees would love to have Jeter healthy all season. Nunez played shortstop in 75 games and committed 12 errors last season. Jeter is the captain and anchor of the infield. He's a bona fide leader out there. On and off the field, he will be able to help the new guys adjust to playing in New York.
2. Newly Signed Players Must Pay Off Quickly
Speaking of the newest additions, the Yankees went on a spending spree this offseason. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the second time in 19 years. 19 years! If that's not consistency, then I don't know what is. The last time they missed it was in 2008, and what did they do the following season? They signed Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira. The Yankees then won the World Series in 2009.
The Yankees filled in a lot of open spots this offseason. They added another starting pitcher in Tanaka, got a power catcher in Brian McCann, and replaced Curtis Granderson with Carlos Beltran and Ellsbury. One thing to note, these three hitters all bat lefty. And because of that short right field fence, there will be many balls flying into the stands. If this group of players cannot win the World Series or at least make the playoffs, Yankees fans will start a riot.
All of the signings along with the return of Teixeira and Jeter to the lineup and the Yankees have top-tier battling lineup.
1. David Robertson Doesn't Need To Be Mariano Rivera
Besides the loss of players I mentioned in the last slide, the biggest loss was in Mariano Rivera choosing to retire. After 19 years of Hall of Fame worthy performances, no one can blame him for choosing to walk away. He missed most of the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Rivera came back strong in 2013 with 44 saves in 64 innings.
The Yankees chose not to sign a closer, with good reason. Longtime set-up man David Robertson will most likely be taking over closing duties. He's had some experience as a closer, recording eight saves in his short career.
The Yankees will be fine with Robertson as their closer in 2014. The one thing they don't need, however, is Robertson trying to be a Rivera clone. No one can pitch like Rivera. Robertson just needs to pitch like Robertson and he will be a successful closer for the next couple of years.