One of the things that I couldn't have predicted when I was watching the 2004 Yankees was how comfortable I'd become a decade later with the fungibility of relievers.
Here's the bullpen ten years ago:
Mariano Rivera (Closer, might he retire after the season? We should start looking for an heir)
Tom Gordon (Having proved himself healthy with the White Sox),
Paul Quantrill (Coming off leading the league in three consecutive seasons with the Dodgers),
Tanyon Sturtze (transitioned from starter to reliever with the Blue Jays)
Felix Heredia (lefty)
This is born, in part, from the way Joe Torre burned through his bullpen in the 2003 World Series, allowing Jeff Weaver to pitch meaningful innings in the Fall Classic.
*This is not a knock on Weaver, who I always rooted for and wanted badly to see succeed, in part because we traded away one of my favorite players (Ted Lilly) to get Weaver; in the three years before the Yankees traded for him, Weaver averaged 198 innings, a 1.3 WHIP, and posted a 100 ERA+ in his age 22-24 seasons; aren't we talking about throwing a bazillion dollars at the second best pitcher to come out of Japan in the last decade in part because of his age? My point is, Weaver had so much potential, and I blame Joe Torre for failing to get more out of Weaver because Joe T. only trusted veterans.
Here's the bullpen today:
It's going to be a fight between everyone else who isn't a starter. David Phelps, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, Vidal Nuno and Preston Claiborne and everyone else who doesn't want to start the year in Scranton (though I loved living in Scranton, and would happily go play ball there- Brian, call me).
I watched Paul Quantrill flop, watched Tom Gordon's arm fall off, watched Tanyon Sturtze play whatever blackmail he had on Joe Torre into a three-year stint in the Bronx (followed by surgery and a return attempt with Torre's Dodgers).
When I think about it that way, I'm not surprised that I'm excited for this spring's competition.