If you thought you were going to be spared from a cheesy Valentine's Day post, I have bad news. In honor of the holiday of love, here are ten things to love about the 2016 New York Yankees.
1. The youth movement
For the first time in a long time, the Yankees have a significant amount of legitimate young talent. Luis Severino will be just 22, but will be an important part of the rotation. Aaron Judge and his power bat will likely make it to the Bronx at some point this season. Jorge Mateo should continue to climb through the ranks. Rob Refsnyder may play a utility role. Gary Sanchez could be a powerful backup catcher, and Greg Bird is out for the season, but certainly not forgotten. It will be exciting to watch young, homegrown players play important roles for the organization this season.
2. The bullpen
Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman all in one bullpen. With three of maybe the five best relievers in baseball, the Yankees have perhaps the best bullpen trio in baseball history. In 2015, the three combined for a 1.66 ERA and 14.7 K/9. What's not to love?
Alex Rodriguez had himself quite a 2015. He went from being a pariah and outcast in the organization, to being beloved by most fans, celebrated by the organization, and largely welcomed back into the baseball community. If you told me a year ago that A-Rod would be working for FOX during the playoffs and having a bat day in 2016, I'd think you were a lunatic. Rodriguez really seems to have turned a corner and is hopefully staying on the right track of doing and saying all the right things. He's a great teammate, a great baseball mind, and the Yankees will need him to contribute again this season if they want to get number 28. In Rod We Trust.
4. Didi Gregorius
From jeers to "Di-di! Di-di!" chants, Gregorius certainly endeared himself to the fans as last season progressed. He's a joy to watch in the field, as he has great range to both sides and an absolute cannon of an arm. His offense was a question mark, but he ended up with a slash of .265/.318/.370, which is more than respectable for a middle infielder who plays great defense. He was actually even better in the second half, hitting almost .300 and showing more power. He's only going to improve at the plate, and his glove isn't going anywhere. "Di-di!" chants are here to stay.
5. There's no Stephen Drew
This is a prime example of addition by subtraction. I'm sure Drew is a good guy, but his impressively bad .187 average as a Yankee will not be missed. Now watch him hit 30 home runs with the Nationals.
6. Starlin Castro
A lot to love about the middle infield this year, clearly. Castro is Drew's replacement, which already gives him a leg up. The Yankees are hoping Castro will be their replacement for Robinson Cano, and he's got a chance to be. The 25-year-old is a three-time All-Star and showed great improvements at the plate after moving to second base late last season. So, sometimes he may not pay attention, or let an extra run score because he's mad at himself, but sometimes he'll do things like this, and Cub fans say it all adds to Starlin's charm. Castro should be fun, albeit sometimes aggravating, to watch in 2016.
7. John Sterling
Okay, this one may not be unanimous, but I'm a Sterling fan. He'll be back for 2016 with Suzyn Waldman, and while more old-school fans who just want to listen to a baseball game may not love him, I like him; sue me. Whether it's his corny home run calls, badly misjudging fly balls, or repeating his famous lines over and over ("How do ya like that?!", "Well, you know Suzyn..." and "You can't predict baseball" to name a few), he's always entertaining. And as seriously as we all talk baseball and the Yankees, it's still the entertainment industry, and if he's nothing else, John Sterling is an entertainer.
8. FOX Sports will be streaming Yankee games online without blackout restrictions (as long as you have YES)
Maybe you're like me, and your university decides to draw the line at not getting YES, even though the college is in the Bronx and is literally 30 blocks away from Yankee stadium. Or maybe that's too specific, and you just will be happy to have an easier way to watch the Yankees; either way, this is good news. It won't help cord-cutters because you still need YES, but for those who do subscribe, this will give us yet another convenient way to watch our beloved Yankees.
9. Mariano Rivera's ceremony
This is going to be a tearjerker. The Yankees announced they'll be giving Rivera a plaque in Monument Park on August 14th, and it's safe to say it's well deserved. A five-time World Series champion and an unbelievable playoff performer, he has the most saves in baseball history and is the greatest closer ever. Honoring his legendary career and taking a trip down memory lane is going to be a great day for everyone.
10. Most importantly, they should contend
As great as all that stuff above is, all Yankee fans want is for the team to win, and that (hopefully) shouldn't be a problem this season. Injury and other questions certainly exist, but no team is devoid of question marks. The second best offense in baseball from last season only got better. The rotation features four young, promising starters. The bullpen is historic. They should have a solid defense, and Joe Girardi has proven success as a manager. As mentioned, they also have a solid crop of prospects on the farm that are ready to make an impact. Don't just take it from me, though, projections and sports books agree. FanGraphs projects them for the third most wins in the American League, and Bovada gives them the sixth best World Series odds in the AL. They may not be a lock for the playoffs like they used to be, but they should at least be in the mix all season, and have a legitimate chance to win a championship. There's a lot to love about the 2016 Yankees.