Are the Yankees Ready for an Encore Performance?
New York City had not finished sweeping up the confetti from the latest parade down the Canyon of Heroes before the Yankeesâ€™ relieved fans asked the obvious question: can they repeat? It may have taken nine years to deliver championship number 27, but that doesnâ€™t mean the teamâ€™s spoiled fans are satisfied.
The difference in the 2009 version of the Bronx Bombers stemmed from GM Brian Cashmanâ€™s commitment to invest the Steinbrenner familyâ€™s money more wisely. Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia demonstrated that they were not just mercenaries like Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano and Jason Giambi, but rather team-oriented role players. It certainly helps when your role players are the highest-paid players at their positions, but even self-absorbed Alex Rodriquez finally bought into the concept of team harmony over individual glory.
As Babe Ruth once said, â€œThe way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they donâ€™t play together, the club wonâ€™t be worth a dime.â€
While it was difficult to see proven veterans like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui leave in the off-season, the Yankees brought in replacements that help the team continue to get younger, more athletic and yes, somewhat cheaper.
To really explore whether the Yankees have another dynasty in the making, itâ€™s necessary to take an in-depth examination of the teamâ€™s farm system. An excellent way to do that is to pick up a copy of Maple Street Pressâ€™ Yankees 2010 Annual. Howard Megdal runs down the Yankeesâ€™ top 10 prospects, outlining how the team has loaded up at the catcher position. Three of the top 10 prospects are catchers: Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez. That doesnâ€™t even include Francisco Cervelli, who is slated to be Jorge Posadaâ€™s backup this year.
One piece delves into the star potential of Montero, who is the newest stud on the horizon. Is he the next Mike Piazza and will his defense ever catch up to his powerful bat? Those questions and more are explored in E.J. Faganâ€™s article.
Fagan contributed another article that highlighted the contributions made in 2009 by Yankee farmhands. Strong play from Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, David Robertson and Phil Coke meant the team didnâ€™t have to bring in veteran retreads like past teams had done with Morgan Ensberg, Chad Moeller and Sidney Ponson.
If you like reminiscing then you will enjoy another article by Megdal about 10 memorable minor league teams in Yankee history such as the 1955 Denver Bears with Marv Throneberry, Don Larsen, Johnny Blanchard and Bobby Richardson. Then there was the 1992 Greensboro Hornets who finished fifth despite having Jeter, Posada and Pettitte in the lineupâ€”guess they werenâ€™t always winners.
Of course I have my own list of teams based on my experiences. Growing up I got a chance to see the up-and-coming stars play for the Oneonta Yankees, a single-A affiliate in the NY-Penn League. Don Mattingly played for the team in 1979, hitting .349 and demonstrating he was a star in the making. But the most fun came from watching the 1982 Oneonta Yankees, a team that featured a quarterback-turned-outfielder named John Elway. In case youâ€™re wondering, yes, Elway was a very good baseball player who definitely could have made it to the major leagues. He batted .318 and stole 13 bases in 42 games, then was off to the NFL.
Vince Gennaro offers an interesting read with his in-depth look at how the Yankeesâ€™ payroll advantage has or hasnâ€™t paid off over the last decade. He does a good job of illustrating the teamâ€™s organizational commitment to get younger while improving the defense.
You donâ€™t have to be a fan of the Yankees to be interested in what makes Alex Rodriquez tick. Has he finally exorcised his demons and written a new chapter in his history? David Vincent and Cecilia Tan co-authored an article that delves into whether A-Rod really has improved his ability to deliver with the game on the line.
Chip Greeneâ€™s great piece compares the stories of iconic captains Jeter and Gehrig, showing the many parallels to their careers. Maple Street Pressâ€™ Yankees 2010 Annual contains lots of other great features plus the usual recap of last season and profiles of all the players. Itâ€™s safe to say that just about every baseball fan is either rooting for or against the Yankees. This is one fan who hopes Joe Girardi is picking out a new uniform number again next spring.
Chris Jensen is a SABR member and lifelong Yankees fan who grew up just outside Cooperstown, N.Y., and now lives in Indiana. He was forced to spend his youth rooting for Horace Clarke, Celerino Sanchez and Ed Whitson but did find the Bronx Zoo years highly entertaining.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the book being reviewed by the publisher, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.