Last week, I promised to talk more about the Vernon Wells trade, but there's not much to say at this point. There is actually some value to having a right-handed outfielder to back up the very left-handed Yankee outfield, although we're told that he's going to be playing every day, which is ridiculous. I'm not clear what Wells is going to do that Melky Mesa couldn't already do, but at this point, I can't really scrape together any surprise that the Yanks prefer veteran chewiness over the devastating possibility of throwing a younger player out there.
I will say this: if they had to trade for Wells, at least the Yanks were good enough to send Exicardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed to a team that actually puts names on uniforms.
Anyhow, Wells is obviously, in the words of Radar O'Reilly, a bear we all gotta cross. And I'm truly sick of the pessimism. I mean, yeah, there's a lot to be pessimistic about, but it obscures the fact that this is a team that won 95 games last year and is fielding the same team…
Well, okay, some of the same team. Ish.
Let's start again.
For each of the last two years, I've contributed to a Yankees annual volume—Yankees Yearly last year for Changeup Publications, In the Dugout: Yankees 2013 for Lindy's Sports this year—and done the look back on the previous year. Last year it was the 11 things that went right and the 11 things that went wrong in 2011, and 12-and-12-in-'12 this year. In that numerical vein, here at the 13 things for Yankee fans to look forward to during the 2013 season:
1. The pitching staff is kind of awesome. I mean, yeah, there's stuff here that could go horribly wrong: this could be the year that CC Sabathia's arm finally falls off, neither Hiroki Kuroda nor Andy Pettitte are young, and the Hughes-Nova-Phelps triad is unpredictable and inconsistent, but the fixin's are here for a spectacular rotation.
I honestly think that this is the year Phil Hughes (finally) puts it together. Part of this is my own cockeyed optimism borne of being a huge fangoober of Young Master Phil since he first came up in the organization. I went to his first major-league start so I could tell the grandkids I'll never have that I was at Phil Hughes's major-league start. Instead, he's had a maddening career with only flashes of the brilliance that enabled him to carve up the minor leagues. I'm hoping this year he finally gets it right and gets to be the fourth part of a killer quartet that masks the Yanks' depressed offense with some superlative pitching.
2. The Mo Farewell Tour. This is Mariano Rivera's final year as a major-league baseball player. And we get to see it. We got to see him all this time. And we ain't never gonna see nothin' like this again.
You run out of superlatives after a while. But seriously, we have all been blessed to see one of the greatest baseball players and also one of the greatest human beings, these past couple decades. (If you read this story and don't tear up, you have no soul.) I'm glad he's going out on his own terms.
3. The rest of the bullpen is also kind of awesome. One of the hallmarks of Joe Girardi's managerial career, going back to his Manager-of-the-Year season in Florida, is his excellent handling of the bullpen, and we can expect more of the same this year. The reliables will be there (Mo, D-Rob), and the rest of the group will be mixed and matched as needed to produce excellence. Besides, it's fun to see who'll break out as the unexpected star of the relief corps: here a Cory Wade, there a Clay Rapada. Who will it be this year?
4. Robinson Cano is still here. With the team falling apart around him, Cano made it through both Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic—where he led the Dominican Republic to victory—with nary a scratch. Lost in all the hugger mugger about Cano's inability to hit with runners in scoring position last year—not to mention the whole Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout mishegoss—was the fact that Cano had a career-best season at the plate last year. With this being the final year of his contract, we may see Cano carrying the team through the early months while we wait for the Bronx Lazar House to empty.
Speaking of which...
5. The injured players are not gone forever. True it's possible that Mark Teixeira will need surgery and miss the season, it's possible that Derek Jeter's ankle won't be 100%, it's possible that the broken arm will sap Curtis Granderson's power, it's possible that shoulder surgery destroyed Michael Pineda's career, it's possible that we won't see Alex Rodriguez at all. It's also possible that none of that will happen and they'll all be fantastic. (In particular there's no point in trying to predict what Derek Jeter will do because he's spent the last seventeen years defying expectations and doing things we thought he couldn't.)
6. A-Rod's gonna kick your ass. Okay, this is total wishcasting on my part, but I firmly believe this: Alex Rodriguez will be back some time in July, and he will spend the last twelve weeks of the season using his shiny new hip to absolutely demolish everything he sees. Remember April 2007, when Rodriguez basically carried the entire team all by himself? Yeah, that's what I think we're gonna see when he comes back.
(I'm also fairly certain that the Biogenesis thing is a tempest in a teacup, and by the time A-Rod comes off the DL, people will have gone back to never having heard of the Miami New Times.)
7. An entire year of Ichiro! I'm not talking about a year of Ichiro Suzuki on the field, which I fear will be painful. No, I'm talking about the quotes! This is a guy who claimed to sign an extension with the Mariners because his dog told him to.
Plus these gems:
"It's not surprising. At the same time, it's not that usual. It's somewhere between usual and surprising."
"Chicks who dig home runs aren't the ones who appeal to me. I think there's sexiness in infield hits because they require technique. I'd rather impress the chicks with my technique than with my brute strength. Then, every now and then, just to show I can do that, too, I might flirt a little by hitting one out."
"I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger."
"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."
And this is just what he came up with when he played for Seattle. Now he's going to play a full year in the largest media market in the world, thus guaranteeing even more inane questions that he can provide surrealist answers to.
8. The kids are all right. I had to confess to looking forward to seeing what Melky Mesa and Ronnier Mustelier could do on the big club, but they're starting the season in Triple-A and on the DL while the bench is populated by waiver-wire castoffs. Sigh.
But the Yankees do have some fun folks in the minor leagues whose progress will be entertaining to observe this year: the outfield trio of Williams, Heathcott, and Austin (attorneys-at-law?), hoping Gary Sanchez will be the new Jesus Montero without being the new Jesus Montero, seeing if Dellin Betances and Dante Bichette Jr. can bounce back from disappointing 2012s, tracking the road back for Jose Campos and Manny Banuelos (though the latter will just be recovering).
9. Tim McCarver is retiring. It's not much, but at least when we see Yankee games on FOX, we can be reassured that we won't have to listen to McCarver's blather after this year.
(Honestly, McCarver used to be a good announcer. I adored him when he did Mets broadcasts way back when, and I still recall with amazement his calling of Game 4 of the 1996 World Series. He all but predicted Jim Leyritz's home run before it happened based entirely on Mark Wohlers's pitch selection. But the last decade or so, he's like your old Uncle Elmer who just keeps babbling at the family gatherings without anyone having a clue what he's talking about...)
10. The catchers aren't as bad as you think they are. This is not to say they're good or anything, but still. For starters, alternatives aren't exactly jumping out at you. The really good catchers aren't leaving their current teams, and the rest of the pickings are fairly slim. One of the common rants after the Wells trade was asking where the money they're shoveling to Wells was when the Yanks got outbid by the Pirates (seven words you rarely see in sequence) for Russell Martin's services?
My response: it's Russell freakin' Martin. He hit .211/.311/.403 last year, and it's only that good because he had a .258/.347/.539 final month. I am fairly confident that Chrisco Stewvelli will outdo Martin's dreadful 2012 batting line.
Besides, we get a whole year of Francisco Face!
11. At least it's not the Mets. Over on Grantland, Jonah Keri provided a bit of trivia that's amusing to everyone except Mets fans: the two outfielders to whom the 2013 New York Mets will pay the most money are current Seattle Mariner Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla, who retired in 2001. Yeah. And honestly, either of those two would probably improve the Mets' Opening Day lineup.
12. Who's supposed to supplant them, exactly? The rest of the AL East doesn't exactly have anyone quaking in their boots.
First of all, I have yet to jump on the Blue Jays bandwagon. Yes, they acquired half the Marlins roster, but where many focus on the word "acquired," I prefer to focus on the word "Marlins." Expecting both Melky Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion to repeat their career years rather than be the player they were every other year prior to that is optimistic as hell, and I don't think playing 81 games on turf will do anything good for what's left of Jose Reyes's legs. There's a lot more wishcasting in Canada than I think people are realizing.
The Orioles are a prime candidate for regression, especially since they're pretty much fielding the same team as last year. Maybe Buck Showalter's pixie dust continues to work, but I think it's much more likely that math catches up with them and the pendulum of one-run games and extra-inning victories swings the other way.
The Red Sox probably won't be as bad as last year, especially since they punted the last couple months, but it's hard to see where lots of wins will come from. Dustin Pedroia can't carry the offense all by himself, and nobody knows what to expect from David Ortiz at this point, and the rest of the team is a rebuilding project.
That just leaves the Rays, who I think are likely to take the division, honestly, but who also have enough holes in their offense that they could drift toward the middle of the pack just by virtue of not scoring enough runs.
13. I'll be writing for this site all year. Okay, this really only matters to me, but now instead of annoying my friends and family with my blathering about the Yankees, I get to annoy each and every one of you at least once a week. Isn't that just great?
So there you go. A baker's dozen reasons to look forward to the '13 season if you're a fan of the Bronx Bombers. Don't you feel better?
Oh, and if you don't get the reference in the title, it's from one of my favorite songs by Ian Dury and the Blockheads...