Opening Day for the New York Yankees is just two days away and for fans of the Bronx Bombers, excitement is in the air once again.
While the season begins with a heavy cloud hanging over the organization with the realization that there will be no Andy Pettitte, no Mariano Rivera and only one more year of Derek Jeter, indicating the end of one of the greatest eras in baseball history, there are still reasons to be excited for this summer in New York.
Last year, the Yankees had what many fans would consider to be a major disappointment of a season. The team finished at 85-77 and failed to make the postseason for only the second time in nearly two decades. It just didn’t have the same feel that fans have been used to since the dynasty years of the 90s, and left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.
What a difference a year makes in the MLB. If you look (painfully) at the 2013 Boston Red Sox team, this theory is proven true. In 2012, the Red Sox were sitting in the basement of the AL East and divided by fried chicken, beer in the clubhouse, and Bobby Valentine at the helm. Well, the BoSox returned the following year to make a significant leap and are now the defending World Series Champions.
As much as it may hurt to say for Yankees fans, New York needs to look at the Sox blueprint from last year as a way to right the ship and contend for their 28th World Series title.
With spring training coming to a close, it appears that the Bombers may be on that track, and it is certainly cause for some excitement heading into Opening Day. First, let’s compare last year’s lineup in the final game of the regular season to the tentative lineup in game one of the 2014 season.
The 2013 final starting lineup was:
Eduardo Nunez (3B)
John Murphy (C)
Curtis Granderson (CF)
Vernon Wells (LF)
Mark Reynolds (1B)
Travis Hafner (DH)
David Adams (2B)
Brendan Ryan (SS)
Zoilo Almonte (RF)
With this lineup in place, it took the Yanks 14 innings to dispatch of the horrid Houston Astros, and the team finished the season with a combined .242 batting average, good for 12th out of 15 in the AL.
In 2014, the projected starting lineup according to CBS Sports is:
Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
Carlos Beltran (RF)
Mark Teixeira (1B)
Brian McCann (C)
Alfonso Soriano (DH)
Brett Gardner (LF)
Kelly Johnson (3B)
Brian Roberts (2B)
This projected lineup contains none of the nine starters from last season’s final lineup, and not only looks like a major league batting order, but one that could be a top-five lineup should it stay intact.
The loss of Granderson and Robinson Cano, the Yankees’ top player by far last year, will certainly hurt. However, the additions of Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann, with Jeter, Gardner and Teixeira all set to return from near season-long injuries, will give this lineup a much-needed boost back into the MLB’s elite.
On the pitching end, a rotation featuring C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda means the Yankees should be much improved on that side of the ball as well, and could potentially have the best rotation in baseball.
The exits of Pettite and Rivera are not only major losses on the field, but also tremendous losses for the fanbase emotionally. However, while David Robertson will never be quite at Mo’s level, he has certainly proved capable to serve as the Yankees’ closer of the future.
The Bombers have a lot of work to do from now until October, but with Opening Day just a couple of days away, there is certainly a lot for fans to look forward to this summer when the Yankees take the field.