With spring training now underway in Tampa, FL, the New York Yankees are set to show and prove this coming season, but with a couple of minor changes to the line-up, lack of depth, shaky pitching, and injuries to boot, one can think how they’ll fair in the upcoming season. Well, manager Joe Giradi believes his squad can rack up at least 95 wins this year. Hmm. He states:
“This team can win 95 games and get to the World Series,” Joe Girardi said. “Because there is a lot of talent in that room.”
He is right. The best-case possibility is still Canyon of Heroes. But what is different from at any time in the past two decades is the worst case. The Yankees have played .540-or-better ball (the equivalent of 87.5 wins in a 162-game season) for an unprecedented 20 straight seasons. The previous record was 18 consecutive years by the dynastic 1926-44 Yankees.
It is an amazing streak that speaks to the depth of talent the Yankees have had, a depth that has meant even if things pretty much went haywire, the Yankees still would figure out how to win 87 games. Heck, in 2008, the only season they failed to make the playoffs since 1993, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang got hurt, Andy Pettitte pitched through injury and Darrell Rasner was essentially the No. 3 starter, yet that team still managed 89 wins.
But the 2013 club does not project to have as much depth (they are still looking for a right-handed DH/outfield bat, as an example). Their farm system is not ready to help. They just might have the oldest average age ever for a team. They are more fragile than they were even last year, when they felt like an egg wobbling on the edge of a table. They do not have the Bronx Bombers power oversaturation that compensates for shortcomings elsewhere. And — as important as anything — the up-and-down strength of the AL East is arguably the best it has ever been.
Thus, if matters go haywire this year — Derek Jeter and/or Mariano Rivera cannot defy age/injury any longer, Mark Teixeira continues to recede, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and/or Joba Chamberlain are undermined by walk-year pressures, Kevin Youkilis cannot provide a legitimate stopgap for Alex Rodriguez — the downside is much worse than 87 wins.
Look, at this time last year, not even the biggest pessimist foresaw 69 wins for the Red Sox. But injuries, lack of depth and disenchantment formed the basis for implosion. The Yankees have some of the same issues right now.