As the New York Yankees move into their 116th season, like every other franchise around Major League Baseball, hope springs eternal. All this despite the fact that the Bronx Bombers were ignominiously bounced from the playoffs 3-0 by the Houston Astros in the American League wild-card game last year at Yankee Stadium.
Following a regular season record of 87-75 that found the Yankees sputtering to the finish line and finishing second, six games behind the American League East leading Toronto Blue Jays, August, September and the brief post-season had its share of drama.
Mark Teixiera was finished for the season with a broken leg diagnosed in August, starter Nathan Eovaldi followed suit with an elbow injury and the day before the wild-card game, C.C. Sabathia left the team to check himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center. Going into 2016, the Yankees still have a roster of aging all-stars (Alex Rodriguez, Teixiera, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran) and various predictions have them finishing second or lower. That said, a number of off-season moves and current factors don’t make the chances of the Bombers winning their 28th World Series title as slim as some would have you believe.
Age And Injuries
With the Yankees ranking among teams with the highest median age in the MLB (about 30), there are plenty of question marks about the injury bug rearing its ugly head. In fairness, Teixiera was having a career season (.255/31 HR/79 RBI) when he was felled by a freak foul ball that wound up fracturing his shin. Likewise, Alex Rodriguez turned 40 and defied Father Time and expectations (.252/33 HR/86 RBI) while leading the team in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging and walks despite faltering badly in the last two months of the season. More problematic were regulars like Jacoby Ellsbury, who once again wound up on the disabled list and hit a paltry .224 in 74 games after getting off of the disabled list and departed second baseman Stephen Drew, who wound up with a .201 batting average. Off-season acquisitions like former Cubs star second baseman Starlin Castro and switch-hitter Aaron Hicks, who can play all three outfield positions, should shore up both the defense and lineup.
The biggest questions being asked have to do with the New York Yankees starting rotation. Will Sabathia bounce back from rehab or continue the downward slide of recent years that’s found him going 23-27 the past few seasons? Despite his promising stint towards the end of last season, does rookie Luis Severino have the stamina to get through the grind of a full major-league season? Can $175 million righthander Masahiro Tanaka get past off-season elbow surgery and throw the 200 innings he promised the media masses when he reported to camp this year? Ivan Nova—will year two after Tommy John surgery prove to be the charm or will inconsistent starts continue to be his M.O.? Does Michael Pineda get the benefit of the doubt when he promises to go 200 innings despite his career high being 171 from back in 2011, when he was a star rookie for the Seattle Mariners?
We already know what a dominating back of the bullpen the combination of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were last season. Adding fireball-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman ups the ante significantly, but as General Manager Brian Cashman pointed out in a recent interview, “What will excite us is if we can get to those guys with the lead.”
See above for the New York Yankees Spring Training Schedule.