photo credit: bleacherreport.com
The analysts, experts, baseball fans, and maybe science itself don’t think the Yankees will be good this year. With the massacre of injuries and both an April starting lineup and starting rotation, with an average age of about only 33 years old (you’d think it would be higher, I know) and a couple of old guys, one would say the 27-time-Champion team doesn’t have a chance in hell this year. Jeter and Kuroda at 38, Ichiro pushing 40, Pettitte at 40, Rivera at 43.
I was reading USA Today Special Sports Edition and noticed a slightly older, yet still handsome Jeter on the cover with a headline, “Captain of a Sinking Ship.” Can you picture Jeter doing his famous “gobble up a grounder to his right, mid-jump, chuck it over to first for the out” as effortlessly and smoothly as he has in years past? Not only being older but there is a slight loss of agility rehabbing from a serious ankle injury. I realize that on paper, they’ve got everything working against them this year.
The best part is that the majority of the current lineup is at their physical peak (28-35 years old). With most of the Yankee “stars” and their praised “El Capitan” not able to take the field on Opening Day, it begs the question: Have the Yankees lost their mojo?
I say: yes to a degree but only for the first couple months, I still have them winning the division this year. Here’s why-
The odd: The April lineup has a few Yank returnees: Gardner, Cano & pitching staff; newly acquired power hitters: Hafner and other AL East standouts: Wells, Overbay and (the dreaded) Youkilis. So we’ve got the young guns mixed with the new-to-pinstripes vets together to try and win some games? I mean Nunez can’t even keep his helmet on, let alone step into Derek Jeter’s shoes. Maybe they’re left a little dazed/lost without their leader, Mr. Yankee himself, the man who knows this franchise inside and out.
The hurt: Most of the guys rehabbing should be coming back in May or latest June (Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson), only missing about one (or two) full month of regular season games, with 6 more to go. At the end of the day, this team still has arguably 3 first ballot Hall of Famers on it (Jeter, Rivera & Arod, if miraculously he has nothing to do with the Miami clinic & has a projected return of July), if that doesn’t equal success, I’m not sure what would. What other current team can you find this same situation? None. And only 1 out of the 3 was “bought.”
The older: Regardless of age, these guys (Jeter, Ichiro, Pettitte & Mo) are still the best in baseball in many statistical categories. They’ve been around; they’re well-seasoned veterans who know what they gotta do to get to the postseason. Sure, their speed and endurance may dwindle over the years but thank God that for baseball, that’s not such a crucial factor as it may be in other sports. Of course, anatomically, it does take bone and muscle injuries longer to fully heal, the older you are. Studies suggest that men lose five pounds of muscle per decade after the age of 40 due to reduced levels of human growth hormone (HGH).
As they reach 40 are they still going to have as many hits, stolen bases or strikeouts? Of course not but they aren’t just going to fall off the face of the earth in categories either, they still know how to produce enough to help the team out. For example, duo of Pettitte and Mo (total age of 83 in Yankee years) served up the Yanks first win of the season yesterday. The reality is, there seems to be a few exceptions- “Herculean” professional athletes out there who play extraordinarily up until retirement. The Michael Jordan’s (played until 40), the Brett Favre’s (41), and the Mariano Rivera’s (43).
The underrated, “lights out” Robertson’s and harshly criticized Eduardo Nunez’s out there will need to step it up. D-Rob will take over for Mo after this season after being trained “under his wing” for a while, similar to how Mo took over for Wetteland in the 90s. Mark my words- the Yankees will still win about 90 games this season; will that be enough to solidify the division? Gotta have faith, Yankee fans! Stay positive and no reason to get all upset until about July, see where we are at by then to make judgments and pose ridicule.
The underdog stories always make the best endings: when the team wins it all, when at the beginning, no one would have picked them to do it. The years we start the season with the high payroll and superstar lineup, we hear all about how “the Yankees buy their championships” but this year, if it were to happen, it would be well deserved and earned, no other excuses from the haters. That’s what it’s all about.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” -Gandhi