The New Year starts tomorrow, it's a time when many people come up with goals to reach for the year. The purpose of these goals is not necessarily to criticize oneself, but usually still a way to better one's life. Some people want to focus on their health, so they set a goal to lose weight, stop smoking, eat better, or exercise. Some people want to just get more out of their lives, so they set goals to travel more, or focus less time on trivial things such as social media and spend more time with their families. While 2015 was a mostly good year for the Yankees, early playoff exit notwithstanding, the team and its individual players could still stand to set some goals or resolutions to improve themselves and put them in contention to be champions in 2016. Here are some not too unreasonable goals I believe some Yankees could set for themselves.
Stay healthy for a full season. Mark Teixeira was arguably the team's MVP in 2015 before he injured himself on a foul ball and that effectively ended his season. While rookie sensation Greg Bird flew into our hearts and filled-in for Teixeira admirably, he's not the middle-of-the-lineup threat that Teixeira is, nor is he the gold-glove caliber defender at first base, at least not yet. Now this isn't a knock on Bird in the least so you can put down your pitchforks, but just a statement on what Teixeira means to the team. Teixeira, in recent years, has gotten a reputation for being injury-prone. It's really hard to argue against that as the last few years it seems as though there's been some sort of injury keeping him from the field. In March of 2013, Teixeira suffered a wrist injury while a part of Team USA of the World Baseball Classic, and that nagging injury limited him to only 15 games that year before eventually being shut down on July 1st in favor of surgery. 2014 was supposed to let him start fresh, but he never seemed to fully recover from the wrist injury and that hampered his production along with random injuries that kept him from playing a full season. He still appeared in 123 games that year, more than his 2015 total, and hit 22 homeruns in those games.
Then 2015 happened and Teixeira was starting to prove to everyone that the injury-prone title is not fair and he just had an unlucky stretch. His nagging wrist injury seemed to be a thing of the past and the other random injuries he had such as his hamstring, toe, and calf all seemed to be healed and let Teixeira be the force and power threat that he had been for most of his career. He mashed 31 homeruns and 22 doubles while getting 79 RBIs in just 111 games. On August 11th, he fouled a ball of his leg and that kept him sidelined for nearly two weeks. He tried coming back from it, as x-rays initially said it was just a deep bone bruise, but that effort proved fruitless as he eventually went on the disabled list and then it was revealed that he actually had a fracture in his shin and ended his season. While this particular injury is considered more of a "freak injury" than others, as it happened only as a result of a foul ball hitting his leg, in the end it's still an injury and something he truly needs to avoid in 2016. If he can come back from this, put up numbers similar to what he was putting up in 2015, and stay healthy, he can get this "injury-prone" label off of him and it would benefit the Yankees greatly in what is likely his swan song as a member of the Bronx Bombers.
Remember how to throw to first base. When the Yankees acquired Chase Headley from the Padres in 2014, the hot corner had been a mess for some time. Alex Rodriguez, the long-time third baseman, was serving a one year suspension and before that hadn't played in more than 130 games since 2010. The hope was for Headley to step in and man the corner for the rest of 2014, which he did very well and led the Yankees to give him a four year deal to set up shop there for the present. With A-Rod practically having not played in two years (44 games in 2013, 0 in 2014), the Yankees wisely did not want to rely on the 39 year old to be their everyday third baseman. So the Yankees re-signed Chase Headley as a free agent and brought him back to be their third baseman. This wasn't a flashy move, but regarded as a solid move as the other free agent options out there weren't much better (looking at you, Pablo and Hanley) and via trade nothing worked out, even though Cashman tried to get Josh Donaldson.
Throughout his career, Headley was known for being a plus defender. 2015 proved to be a long season for Headley, though, as he struggled mightily on defense, and was a roller coaster on offense. Headley committed 23 errors in 2015, a majority of them came on throws from third to first and the number honestly could have been higher if not for Teixeira's gold glove ability and Bird's pelican-like ability to scoop up the baseball. Offensively, he had months where he really struggled (April, June, and September) but then months where he hit the ball well (May, July, and August) so if he can find some sort of middle ground consistency, he should be fine offensively (although if he hits like he did in July all year that would be swell), the most important thing for Headley will be to be the steady and plus defender he was always known as and not make fans watch through their fingers and hold their seats with every defensive play. That starts with him remembering how to throw to first base.
Nothing, he's perfect. Make 2015 A-Rod the 2016 and beyond A-Rod. While on the field A-Rod in 2015 was a breath of fresh air for an offense that had been non-existent the previous two seasons, arguably the biggest impact Rodriguez made was off the field. It all started before the season began when he denied the Yankees' offer to have a media session and instead opted to pen an apology for his actions. That was the beginning of the Alex Rodriguez "redemption tour." He not only played well, but came out and said the right things to the media. He showed genuine remorse for his actions, and just went back to having fun. His main focus was winning and doing whatever he could to help the team out. When the Yankees signed Chase Headley, he (granted he said he was still prepping to be the everyday third baseman, but that wasn't really a challenge to Headley, more just a challenge to himself to be ready) accepted the role of being the full-time designated hitter, and thrived in it. When Didi Gregorius was struggling with his glove and bat, A-Rod worked with him to help him improve his game, and that paid dividends.
Even when the Yankees refused to pay his homerun/milestone bonuses, he could have fought that and made the whole thing an ugly, public mess. Instead he chose to do everything behind closed doors, as his main focus was helping the team win, and even agreeing to forgo the bonus in favor of the Yankees making a donation to various charities in his name. This way the relationships he was working so hard to rebuild remain intact and both parties come out on top, but really Rodriguez comes out a little bit higher. Media circus A-Rod, while entertaining, was not good for the Yankees team, and that's why in addition to having another solid offensive year, if he could be who he was off the field in 2015, he could continue to be #BAEROD forever.
Have offensive positives outweigh defensive negatives. Seems pretty obvious, right? Carlos Beltran was one of the Yankees best and consistent hitters throughout the course of the 2014 season. After a dreadful to start to the year in April, and an equally dreadful 2014 campaign, Beltran resurrected to life in May and performed like the Beltran he was for most of his career. He wasn't the flashiest hitter in the Yankee lineup and a lot of times went unnoticed or unappreciated, but once Tex went down with his leg injury, more people really saw how consistent Beltran was at the plate and how at times, he was the had pretty much put the team on his back. Unfortunately though, as well as he hit the ball, he did continue to look absolutely lost in the field.
2014 was a rough year for Beltran on the field because not only was his hitting bad but he was a poor fielder as well, as his aged legs could not keep up with anything except what was hit directly at him. Fielding wise, 2015 was much of the same for Beltran, but his offensive contributions and presence in the lineup did slightly outweigh the negatives of having him as an everyday right fielder. While he would be great on a team that needs a DH, the Yankees already have an everyday DH in A-Rod, so to get Beltran's bat in the line-up, he's going to be playing every day. In this case, the biggest thing he should hope to accomplish is to play well enough on the offensive side of the ball that his defense doesn't make you cry, or reach for a bottle.
Stay on the cliff. What an odd year it was for Chasen Shreve. He was first really noticed in the marathon 19 inning game against the Red Sox where he contributed 3.1 shutout innings and then was consequently sent down to AAA because the amount of pitches he threw would render him useless for a few days. Once he came back though, he started slowly earning the trust of Joe Girardi, and eventually became one of his go-to guys in the late innings of close games. Shreve had earned the right to pitch in the important innings of games, as he was able to navigate through batters without breaking a sweat. "Shreve strikes, and you're out" was a constant presence in gamethreads, and was turning in his own sensational rookie sensation. Through most of August, he was one of the most dependable pieces of a dominant Yankee bullpen.
However, on one of his off days, he went cliff-diving and just never came back. Towards the end of August, however, Shreve started being really shaky in games and cost the Yankees some games with his poor pitching. In September/October he posted a 13.50 ERA (somehow worse 14.13 FIP) with 8 walks and 9 earned runs in only 6 innings. He had lost the faith of Girardi, and rightfully so. With the departures of Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, the Yankees are almost vulnerable in the bullpen (outside of Betances-Miller-Chapman), and if Shreve could perform like he did for most of 2015, not only would he just be a contributor, he could be a scary addition and possibly make the trio a quartet. All he has to do is stay on the cliff.
Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury
Highlight first half from 2015, copy, and paste for both halves of 2016. Ellsgard, or Gardsbury if you prefer (I don't), was a sensation to watch in the early goings of the season. It seemed like almost every game would start off with an Ellsbury single, followed by a Gardner single, and then Tex or A-Rod single or double to drive one or both of them in. The Yankees were at the top of Major League Baseball in runs scored in the first inning, and that could not be possible without the table-setting ways of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top of the line-up. Through April and May, both Ellsbury and Gardner were a force to be reckoned with. If one didn't get it done, the other did, but more often than not, they both did what was needed of them. They got on base, they stole bases, and they scored runs.
Then on May 19th Ellsbury then went down in late May with a knee injury causing him to miss the rest of that month, all of June and the early part of July. And once he came back, Ellsbury just wasn't the same player. It seems that though he was able to play, the injury may have bothered him longer and that affected his playing, but either way, after an extraordinary start to the season, his season was a complete bust. The same can be said for Gardner who earned himself All-Star honors for the first time with an amazing first half batting .302/.377/.484 compared to an abysmal .206/.300/.292 in the second half. After the season, it was found out that Gardner had also been playing through nagging injuries, which while "noble" (or just dumb) might have ended up hurting the team. What started off as Ellsgard ended as Ellsgarbage, and so if they hope to regain the favor of fans they're going to have to replicate their 2015 first half over the course of the full 2016 season. Plus then we can go back to debating Ellsgard vs. Gardsbury.
The Starting Rotation (Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia)
Health, length, and consistency. Now I could easily have broken up all the members of the Yankees rotation (as I'm projecting it to be on Opening Day) but then you would probably just be reading the same paragraph over again. As has been stated many times before, by just about anyone who covers the Yankees/baseball and even commenters here and elsewhere, the starting rotation of the 2016 Yankees has more questions than it does answers. Every single projected starter is filled with a term that's often (no one has probably ever said it before right now) thrown around: potentially-if. "Oh [ insert starter here ] could potentially be great,if he can stay healthy/provide length/perform consistently."
Every single one of those starters, with the exception of Luis Severino, has health concerns. Every single one of those starters has questions regarding how many innings they can provide in a given game and throughout the course of the season. Every single one of those starters needs to perform on a consistent basis before fans can rest easy knowing he's going out on the mound and pitching that day. The closest thing the Yankees have to an ace right now is Tanaka, and we all know about his health issues, but he's also just as likely to go out and give up 4 homeruns in 3 innings as he is to pitch 8 innings of shutout baseball. So if any member of the rotation wants to set a goal for themselves, it should be health, length, and consistency. Then he should get the other rotation members to set the same goal for themselves.
What resolutions could other Yankees set for themselves? Perhaps Didi should make his goal to win the Gold Glove this year.