A (not so fun) exercise on baseball’s most optimistic (but sadly, Yankee-free) day:
C – Russell Martin – The second-year Bomber, fatigued in the middle of yet another season of near full time play behind the plate, lands on the dissabled list and hoists Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine into the starting lineup full time. Extension talks falter and the Yankees are left with no bridge to their plethora of catching prospects.
1B – Mark Teixeira – The former MVP candidate falls prey to 30-something-slugging-first-baseman-syndrome. He hits 22 homers with a .222batting average and an atrocious on base percentage. Tex has a couple nice weeks over the summer but by October fans are starting to question – and boo – the team’s 100+ million dollar investment.
2B – Robinson Cano – Bad habits die hard, especially when your Robinson Cano. First it’s his patience at the plate. His walk rate continues to fall and he has trouble finding pitches to drive. His batting average dips into the .280s and mental errors destroy his defensive value. He makes the All-Star team anyway… but heads to Kansas City with an .800 OPS.
3B – Alex Rodriguez – After another fine spring, things start to really go downhill for the Hall of Famer. The power dries up and the strikeouts amplifie. His defense at third is atrocious. By May, he’s on the DL. His replacements do little to fill the gap at third and talk of a David Wright trade fills segments of New York sports talk radio all July. It is clear that Rodriguez’s contract is nothing but an albatross – he will never break Hank Aaron’s record, let alone earn back the many tens of millions of dollars he is still owed.
SS – Derek Jeter – Jeter’s 2012 is even worse than his 2010. He’s old and it shows. He hits .260. There is no longer any power or speed to speak of. His defense is what it is but his bat no longer provides redeeming value. He retires in October to focus on commercials and other stuff.
LF – Brett Gardner – The league’s book on Brett Gardner continues to grow. His OPS does not. It dips below .700 and despite stealing a number of bases, and playing a characteristically good left field, fans and analysts start to wonder whether the Yankees can live with that kind of production in a corner outfield spot. The Yankees panic. They ship Gardner to the National League in exchange for a couple prospects, leaving left field open to a platoon.
CF – Curtis Granderson- Curtis Granderson remembers that he can’t hit left handers. His 2012 season ressembles the first half of his 2010 campaign. While still a productive player, the Yankees are no longer eager to give him a serious long term contract, thinking instead about exploring their options come 2013.
RF - Nick Swisher – Swish has a bad year, his worst as a Yankee, as the plate approach issues from 2011 rear their ugly head. By August he’s no longer a full time starter. Unhappy about his playing time, his happy-go-lucky clubhouse persona sours. The Yankees are forced to acquire yet another outfield bat to split time in right. It helps little. Swisher’s contract is not renewed and he signs with the Red Sox.
LHP – CC Sabathia – After reversing a couple years of bad trends in 2011, Sabathia’s strikeout rate plummets as his velocity falls while spring turns to summer. Eventually it’s announced he will be missing some time with “arm fatigue,” which turns out not to be “arm fatigue.” Sabathia is shut down in July. Say hello to Johan Santana’s big little brother.
RHP – Hiroki Kuroda – Kuroda, a pitch-ability righty fly baller way on the wrong side of 30, is a bad fit for the stadium. Age and home runs take their toll. His ERA balloons to well over 4.00 and he is eventually moved to the bullpen. The Yankees, left without a second starter, trade a couple of prospects for an overpriced and/or overrated alternative. Kuroda returns to Japan at season’s end.
RHP – Ivan Nova – A poor strikeout to walk rate, and a league better aquatinted with his stuff, does Ivan Nova no good. The groundballer struggles before being sent to AAA in May and replaced by Andy Pettitte. His position within the origination is tenuous - despite a decent run at Scranton Wilkes-Barre, he is leap-frogged by Manny Banuelos, who makes a couple of spot starts down the stretch.
RHP – Michael Pineda – All the New York media’s fear mongering is realized. Pineda’s velocity plummets. His control is non-existent. He can’t throw a change-up and his slider isn’t moving like it used to. The curse of the Yankees and young pitching studs continues as Pineda is moved to the bullpen. Jesus Montero hits .310 with 28 home runs and the Mariners don’t finish in last place. I look like an idiot.
RHP – Phil Hughes -See: 2011.
RP – Mariano Rivera – Age and injuries finally catch up with Mo, who misses several months and retires at the end of the season. Despite a great deal of depth, several top relievers underperform. David Robertson struggles to find the strike zone and Rafael Soriano can’t rebound from a difficult 2011 season. The Yankees enter the 2012-2013 off-season without a closer in waiting, trying to keep themselves reasonably close to the $189 goal set by Hal Steinbrenner but with few options available on the trade market.
So, with that out of the way, here’s to a great a season, and 105 wins, and title number 28, and ARod getting back on track, and Mariano Rivera not hanging it up, and the Yankees minor league system succeeding in every way imaginable, and Michael Pineda becoming a star, and Bobby Valentine getting canned.