Sunday, April 5, 2009

2009 Pinstripe Preview

Here we are on the eve of the start of the 2009 Regular Season so lets take a quick look at what to expect from the New York Yankees this season.

On paper the Yankees look to boast another strong team and with a 200 million dollar payroll they should always be in contention. The additions of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixera and Nick Swisher bring a lot of excitement to the season.

The Yankees again boast another strong- even without A-Rod for the first few weeks. Most teams would kill to have the names of Jeter, Damon, Teixera, Nady, Cano, Posada but in New York if A-Rod's name isn't included people are concerned.

The Yankees lineup does have some question marks heading into the 2009 compaign. First of all who knows what the psyche of A-Rod will be following his topsy-turvy off season. (From steroids to madonna to an injury to kissing himself in a mirror.) They also have to find out if Robinson Cano is a 330 hitter or a 280 hitter and if Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada can return to their old form. Also Bret Gardner brings some needed speed and athleticism to the team.

When looking at the lineup tomorrow Yankee fans will notice (or already probably noticed this weekend) that there is a major change. Derek Jeter will be batting leadoff and Johnny Damon is batting second. The flip-flop could be an attempt at protecting Jeter who has hit 40+ doubleplays the last two years; and 15 of those were in the first inning. Now this only protects him in the first inning but it might be one of a couple changes Jeter sees in his role. There has been a lot of talk about Jeter and his contract following 2010. A lot of this is just to grab headlines as last I checked Jeter batted 300 last year while being injured. He is the face of the Yankees and baseball and on the verge of being the first Yankee to obtain 3000 hits. He still gets the job done and leads the team.

Onto the pitching staff the Yankees feature their best rotation since atleast 2003. With Sabathia, Burnett, Chien-ming Wang, Andy Pettite and Joba Chamberlain the Yankees 1-5 is as strong as anyones. The fact Wang, Pettitte and Chamberlain will matchup with other teams 3-5 starters gives the Yankees an edge. Who would you favor Pettitte or Sidney Ponson? They also have reinforcements for when someone gets hurt, and someone will, in Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, and Ian Kennedy.

The bullpen is still fortified by the greatest closer of all time in Mariano Rivera and the bridge to him will still be a key to winning ball games. Brian Bruney last season quietly had a similar 2008 as Chamberlain had in 2007. Phil Coke had a great September and Spring and has looked very promising. Coke and Damaso Marte give the Yankees some important lefty arms. They also have Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez to help eat up some innings.

The big offseason debate has been whether Joba Chamberlain should be a starter or a bullpen man. He is a starter now and should be a starter. But if he fails there or an injury to Rivera or Bruney forces him into a bullpen role he will be fine.

The big weakness on this team is on defense. The addition of Mark Teixera will save some errors in the infield as it is believed he saves 40 runs a year with his glove. Jeter and Rodriguez's range will be an issue on the left side of the field. Cano has the talent to win a gold glove but his effort needs to be there. As for the outfield Gardner covers a lot of ground and Damon is an above average defender but has no arm. Xavier Nady in rightfield is probably a drop off from Bobby Abreu (except he will go within 20 feet of a wall.)

The outlook for 2009 is bright for the Yankees but to win #27 they need to hope certain things happen. Playing in the AL East will be tough with the Red Sox and Rays arguably the other top 3 teams in baseball. The Yankees need to hope no major injuries occur and that they improve their hitting with runners in scoring position. 2009 should be an exciting year in the New Yankee Stadium.

Checking out the New Digs

The Eliassportsblog spent the past weekend checking out the new home for the New York Yankees. We were lucky enough to get tickets for both games and spend both days moving around the ballpark and checking everything out. The anticipation of getting insdie the Stadium really felt like the anticipation on Christmas before you open your gifts. There was not enough to check everything out as the place was huge but here are some first impressions.

First of all the place is just massive. You really feel like you are walking into a cathedral. It just has a feel that its something special. However while in your seats you don't feel that it is a huge ballpark. It really feels close to the action

The history of the Yankees really jumps out at you when you enter the Great Hall. The pitcures of the past greats really gives you goosebumps.

When you finally see the field, the first thing you notice is the gigantic scoreboard in centerfield. Gigantic doesn't even cover it. The screen is massive and has a great picture. Its better then any HDTV you have ever seen.

The best part of the Stadium is that it looks and feels like the old one across the street. From some angles everything really looks the same. There are even some of the same advertisements on the walls. The dimesnsions are the same and just looking at the field its tough to tell a difference.

The Stadium looks like the old one but feels like all the modern parks that have opened. There are wide walkways that allow you to see the field from anywhere. You can stand and watch the game from anywhere. There are plenty of places to eat and drink and go to the bathroom. Hopefully this means waiting on lines will be a thing of the past. The food is upgraded as there is everything that you can imagine, from sushi to italian food to garlic fries. The Mohegan Sun Sports Bar or the bleacher cafe in centerfield provides a very nice view of the whole place. It will be a great location to hangout eat and watch the game.
It seems that the new park will be a hitters park. The Yankees hit 7 homeruns in two games in early April. This is a time when hitting is supposed to be difficult. It really makes you wonder how it will play when the air heats up in June. The ball got to the gaps very quickly and I am sure this made the hitters extrememly happy and the pitchers nervous.

The only negative is the crazy ticket prices that are being asked for some of the best seats. However the only problem with it is that companies can't afford them this day and that those great seats might be empty most days. It's not like the average fan is losing out because they usually didn't sit there. There are (well were they are likely sold out for the year) in the Terrace and Grandstand levels. Also the obstructed view or standing room seats are a great bargain because you have access to everything in the park.

All in all this is going to be a great place to watch a ballgame and a place that everyone will enjoy.

Hope Springs Eternal

Just received this text message from a friend: "its finally here. Best night of the year." That about sums up the way today is. The games finally count and all the prognasticators, writers, and talk show hosts can finally be quiet and we will let the teams decide who the best is on the field.

For the first night since October 29th, the games begin to count tonight. It is very fitting to see the first game of the year being played in the same place the last game was played. 2009 should be a very exciting year as you can make the case for at least half of the league to have a shot at winning the pennant. And after the Rays last year, every team has hope to make a dream run.

There are lots of story lines. From two new ballparks in NY, to the A-Rod saga, to new faces in new places, and finally to the games continued tranistion to younger, athletic players. This is easily seen with teams giving the nods to top prospects such as Jordan Schafer in Atlanta, Colby Rasmus in St Louis , Dexter Fowler in Colorado, and Trevor Cahill in Oakland. Teams are deciding to give the young guns a shot instead of paying money for an older player who wont produce.

The exception to this rule is in New York. Following the opening of 2 billion dollar worth of Stadiums. The two New York teams have decided to go out and add the top free agents. CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixera now call the Bronx home while the Mets have tightened up their 2007 and 2008 achilles heals by adding Fransisco Rodriguez and JJ Puts to tighten up the bullpens. We will see if these investments pay off.

AL East Champ: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Oakland
AL Wildcard: Red Sox

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Reds
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wildcard: Cubs

Suprise teams: Royals, Rangers, Reds, Giants

As of now everyone is 0-0 and everyone has a chance, well maybe not the Pirates. But everyone, even the Royals have a chance to be good and win their division. Fans are figuring out which breaks they need, who needs to stay healthy or take the next step to help their teams contend.