It seemed appropriate to go more or less from the least talented (Royals) to the most talented (Yankees) in my team-by-team AL preview. And when I started brainstorming ideas about things to say, the title of this post is honestly the first thing that came to me. Bobby Abreu. Jesus. But for some reason, when I look at their lineup this year, I'm not as floored as I was in years past. Maybe that's just what happens when you don't see the Yankees in the series for awhile.
That said, I'll still partake in the time-honored practice of quickly running down the Yanks' lineup and marveling how murderous it is. Following is rough guesstimate of how Joe Torre will bat his guys:
1. Johnny Damon
2. Derek Jeter
3. Bobby Abreu
4. Jason Giambi
6. Hideki Matsui
7. Robinson Cano
8. Jorge Posada
9. Doug Mintkiewicz
I think it's pretty self-evident that when you're almost forced to bat Cano 7th--a guy who, despite missing significant time with injury, ended up batting .342/15/78--your lineup is absolutely stacked (insert steroids joke here if you like).
But it's not going to be about the lineup for the Yanks, nor has it been the past several years now. While their lineup is aging fast, I think you'd be hard-pressed to deny that, in terms of sheer talent, it's by far the most dominant in all of baseball. The real issues for the Yanks are two-fold: the pitching staff and the pressure of living up to expectations.
The bullpen shapes up pretty well ahead of Rivera, with Kyle Farnsworth, Luis Vizcaino, Scott Proctor, and Mike Myers likely to see most of the work. But man, when I look at that starting rotation, all I see are question marks.
Is Wang really going to be as good as he was last year, or will hitters figure him out? Can Mussina and Pettitte squeeze the most out of their aging arms for yet another season? Has it really been 2 years since Carl Pavano pitched? Wow. Will Kei Igawa live up to the billing? I wouldn't be surprised if there was mass chaos in the rotation by June. Of course, if Clemens decides to come back, he's very capable of righting that ship. Note to Clemens: get over yourself. Note to ESPN and other major media outlets: get over Clemens.
But the pitching staff may be the least of the Yankees worries. There seems to be this inescapable unhealthy, self-defeating, distracting, anxiety-ridden aura about the Yankees anymore. It's as if the whole team has succumbed to the intense scrutiny of the media (which, of course, the media won't let us forget... how many times are we going to see stories about how the pressure of playing in New York is getting to players)? A-Rod, naturally, is the center of the focus, and maybe he brought this pox upon the Yankees, but it seems to have, perhaps inevitably, spread far beyond his own personal hang-ups.
Everybody on this team is forced to deal with the A-Rod cloud. And if that wasn't bad enough, A-Rod seem hellbent on perpetuating the media scrutiny by bringing up distracting bullshit about him and Jeter just as Spring Training gets under way. Randy Johnson has to be glad the Yanks soured on him. If I was on this team, I'd be doing some combination of rolling my eyes, groaning, dreading a season full of this shit, and contemplating beating A-Rod with a soap-bar laden sock, Apocalypse Now style. And, speaking as a White Sox fan, a baseball fan, and a fan of everything right and good in the world, there's something very appealing in the image of Joe Torre, shaven head, rocking in a dark corner, murmuring "the horror... the horror..." at the end of another season of expectations unmet.