New York Yankees 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the New York Yankees.

Diamond Hoggers New York Yankees blog(s) of choice: LoHud Yankees Blog & It Is High, It is Far

The Yankees lineup of 2008 will be one that rivals that of year’s past in overall power and run production. They field a very similar and usual team of veterans with many individuals returning from last season’s playoff team. Leading off in left field will be veteran Johnny Damon. Damon’s best years are behind him but he can still do many of the things that have made him successful throughout his long big league career. Damon will always give a tough at-bat and knows many of the pitchers in the American League well because he has spent his entire career in the Senior Circuit. Hitting 2nd is the best leader in all of baseball, Derek Jeter. The cerebral captain of the Yankees remains one of baseball’s best catalysts and a guy who stabilizes the Yankee clubhouse; which is never short on personalities. The middle of the order contains three veteran hitters in Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, and Hideki Matsui. All three of these guys are capable of and should hit .300 or above. Some will say that Rodriguez is the most dangerous hitter in baseball. I predict a line of around 44 HR, 121 RBI, and .304; and after this year we start to see small signs of decline. By the way, Pujols is mightier.

I really like the Yankees 6-8 hitters. Many other teams would be happy to have a heart of the order this effective; yet New York has them filling out the bottom of the order. Jorge Posada is back at catcher, Jason Giambi will play some first base and bat around the 7-hole, and Robinson Cano (who I like as much as any in the lineup) will hit 8th. Melky Cabrera should get over 450 AB’s in center field and hit double-leadoff or 9-hole. Expect talented youngster 28-year old Shelley Duncan to get enough time at first to show if he belongs in future plans. Wilson Betemit and Ian Kennedy are among other talented reserves on the Yankee roster.

For all the talk of last year being the end of an era in the Bronx, there’s a lot of familiar faces back in this lineup.

Rating: 8.6 ^

The rotation is gonna go Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain. The questions arise from how much do older vets like Mussina and Pettite have left in the tank; and how much can youngsters Hughes and Chamberlain (pictured above) contribute.

Wang is solid and should be a threat to win 17-20 games. I think Pettite has a lot left. On the other side of the coin is Mussina, who one night looks like the Mussina of 1995; and on others looks like he should be designated for assignment. Believe me, they’re going to be watching ‘Moose’ closely this year and if he starts slow out of the gates it might be all over for him. Chamberlain is going to split innings between the bullpen and starting rotation and it’s unclear how much he’ll throw as he might be on an innings limit, with the Yankees planning to build for the next decade around the power right handed pitcher. Don’t forget that Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano are still on the roster, and there’s no indication of what the Yankees will do with these two.

In the bullpen the Yankees will give heavy innings to RHP’s LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth. Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras will be looked upon as newcomers to contribute. One thing is for sure: at the end of the game, deep and stirring in the Yankee bullpen will be Mariano Rivera. As much a part of Yankee folklore as the ‘NY’ insignia, Rivera remains one of the most opportune closers in the game, both effective and nasty still. The only thing that could derail Rivera from being one of the best in the game again is an injury, and if that happens the Yankees would probably see what Chamberlain could do in the closers role.

Rating: 8.5

The 43-year old Joe Girardi was tapped as manager, edging out Don Mattingly for the position after Joe Torre decided to leave town. Girardi is going to be a dropoff from Torre because of inexperience, at least initially. However, many close to the team feel that these veterans stopped playing hard at points during the regular season the last few years under the solemn tempered Torre. Girardi has a firey personality and should provide jolts to this aging roster if he’s not getting the results he wants. He’s not afraid to rattle the cages of his animals in the slightest. Girardi’s only prior managerial experience came on the 2006 Florida Marlins when he went 78-84 and finished 4th in the NL East. This is a much stronger group and Girardi is not going to leave New York without being a winner. The question is can he step in and make an immediate impact that allows this 2008 version to be a winner.

Rating: 8.2

With guys like Jeter and Rivera still on the roster, this team will never fall too far from the blueprint of success. That said, there’s a lot of aging former superstars on the roster that have to know by now that they are limited in their abilities. The Yankees have too long been fielding teams that were mid-90’s All-Stars. I would have liked to see the Yankees go with a bit more of a youth movement as I initially thought they would, but they just couldn’t do it. It’s not the Yankee way.

It seems to the observer that George Steinbrenner’s role with his team is becoming less hands-on, and his son Hank Steinbrenner has been more outspoken in recent months. The Boss is going to be 78 years old this July, and his health may be ailing. This team may rally around the declining owner and new management. At the same time, a lot of magical things happen in the Bronx during the summer. “It gets late awfull
y early out there,” like Yogi Berra says. Never count out the Yankees until they’re completely dead. That means you’ve put a bullett in their heart and limbs and a kill shot in their head. This is a dangerous team because the players it contains have simply been there. I like the chances of these veterans banding together and giving it a last hurrah of sorts this season and playing from behind shouldn’t be a problem.

Rating: 9.0

This isn’t going to be a 105 win juggernaut, but it’s hardly a .500 ballclub either. I’d expect the Yankees to end up with around 91 wins. It should be good enough to be in the hunt in the AL East and if the Red Sox best them, they’ll be able to make a run at the wildcard. There’s a very real chance that this team ends up at home in October for the first time in over a decade. Their GM is Brian Cashman and should this team need a move to put them over the top come July 31st, they’ll make it.

Like I said, no matter how bleak things look at times in the Bronx and like the doll from the Child’s Play movies; never count them out till you’re certain that they’re dead.

Rating: 8.6