As far as I’m concerned this is the actual first day of 2010. My new year doesn’t begin until the baseball season begins. In the past I’ve ignored spring training, but I’m more excited for this season to begin than I’ve ever been before, so any real baseball is good baseball as far as I’m concerned. Defending the World Championship obviously contributes to that feeling, as well as the Yankees’ slew of excellent offseason moves
adding to the anticipation.
2010 also promises to be what 2009 wasn’t. Along with 1996 and 1998, 2009 will go down as one of the three best Yankee seasons of my lifetime to date (Ed. note: Me too) but the season took the road less traveled to get to its goal. After the Bombers missed the postseason in 2008, 2009 began shaping up as a season of immediate promise. When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, stunning the baseball universe, 2009 became my most anticipated baseball season. I couldn’t wait for the games to begin.
Then, disaster struck
. Nothing has ever taken the wind out of my sails as much as learning of A-Rod’s steroids scandal. I don’t actually care much if a player takes steroids or not, so long as he isn’t caught, but 2009 was meant to be a pure tour-de-force of baseball dominance. I knew that A-Rod’s saga would bring unwanted attention to a team that had to perform. After all that money had been spent, only a division crown and at least a six-game ALCS would do. Learning that Alex would miss the start of the season just poured salt on an open wound.
Suddenly 2009 had gone from being the baseball season I’d anticipated most to something that looked like the next chapter in an ongoing saga of Yankee dysfunction. And, while it’s easy to overlook now, the Bombers responded in kind. Mark Teixiera and CC Sabathia got off to slow starts and the team was below .500 through May, and then A-Rod finally returned.
The rest, of course, is history. Rodriguez did come back. Tex and CC found their strides (and then some!) and the team played nearly as dominantly as any baseball team ever has in the second half of the season. The Yankees won their 27th title, certainly exceeding my expectations.
But for me, something was lost. (Right now a Kansas City Royals fan is reading this, stunned to learn that this Yankee fan wanted something more from the 2009 season, and furiously trying to figure out where I live.) I wouldn’t change a thing about 2009, but I had expected it to be a season of out-and-out dominance. It wasn’t, at least not in the first half. The Yankees gave us a bit of a roller coaster ride. In addition to the A-Rod soap opera, the team also gave us such gems as losing two of 3 to the Nationals and their first eight against the Red Sox.
2010 has replaced 2009 as the Yankee season that I hope will bring me the dominance of old. 2009 restored the Yankees to the top of baseball, and set the stage for what could be a new dynasty, but fell just short of owning the rest of baseball outright. 2010, on the other hand, opens with no drama (yet … I’m frantically knocking on wood right now), and quite a bit of excitement, including new players, a battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, and the potential to be a juggernaut squad.
What I love most is that I get to have a front row seat. The Yankees could once again play .450 ball in April and shatter my illusion, but right now anything is possible and the fun is only just beginning.