Friday, March 13, 2009


BORED WITH BASKETBALL? Irked by ice hockey? Sick of spring training and not wild about the World Baseball Classic?

Well, if you fall into any of these categories, the good news is that the real baseball season is now little more than three weeks away.

Quite frankly, it can’t come soon enough for this New York Yankees fan.

I’ve tried to form attachments to the other sports but it’s just not working. The Knicks and Nets suck, the Rangers are skating on thin ice and UConn – my wife’s alma mater – can’t even get past Syracuse in six overtimes.

It’s about time I backed a winner…and up until a week ago, I was pretty sure it would be your 2009 Yankees.

Now, before a ball has been thrown in anger, I’m not feeling quite so confident.

For all his faults, Alex Rodriguez is an integral part of the Yankees’ batting line-up and being without him for at least the first month is a major blow.

Jorge Posada has yet to catch a game in spring training and we’re still awaiting Mariano Rivera’s first pitch. 

The pair have reportedly made a full recovery from major surgery during the winter. But let’s not forget that they’re both in their late thirties so it’s asking a lot for them to return as good they were.

Most fans agree that, for once, the Yanks’ prospects of making the playoffs and beyond hinge on their starting pitching rather than bludgeoning their opponents to death with their bats.

And after spending top dollar on CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, there should be a big improvement in this department.

Spring training not going smoothly for Yankees

However, there are no guarantees. It’s a little worrying that Sabathia was roughed up by Gary Sheffield and the Detroit Tigers on his latest start.

And let’s not forget his shaky start to last season when he went 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in his first four outings.

That the Yankees overpaid for both Sabathia ($161 million over eight years) and Burnett ($82.5 million over five years) is beyond doubt.

The Boston Red Sox have just signed Jon Lester to a five-year contract extension at a cost of just $30 million. Lester went 16-6 with an ERA of 3.21 in 2008. Compare that to Burnett’s record of 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA.

Yankees fans will be expecting Sabathia and Burnett to start earning their money from day one, which may be unrealistic.

We’re also hoping for great things from Joba Chamberlain, providing he stays the course.

With Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte completing the starting rotation, the Yanks have a powerful pitching line-up on paper. And they also have Phil Hughes standing by as first reserve.

But they’ll need a lot more luck than they had last year when they were plagued by injuries.

The Yanks face a testing start with a nine-game road trip to Baltimore, Kansas and Tampa Bay.

If A-Rod is healthy by early May, if Posada can return as the everyday catcher, if Mariano is still the best closer in baseball, if Sabathia and Burnett are indeed ace pitchers, and if Joba really is a bona fide starter, the Yanks are going to be the team to beat in the American League East.

But that’s a whole lot of ifs…

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