Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, April 2, 2012

2012 New York Yankees Preview: Will the Yankees find some spring in their step?

Will the Yankees find some spring in their step?
by rick olivares

If there is one professional sport that affords an athlete so much longevity it is baseball.

In a 2007 study made by the University of Colorado, the average career of a professional baseball player* lasts for 5.6 years. Say that again – 5.6 years.

Take a look at the average pro career of athletes in other American professional sports:

That means even before a player hangs up his glove and spikes, he has to think about his future. Even before he hits the age of 25, he has to factor in the next 50 years of his life!

If that is the case, then the New York Yankees’ Jorge Posada who retired a little over a month ago would have played a lifetime as he was in pinstripes – his only team – for 17 years aside from making and supposedly making a fortune! He was the starting catcher for a decade after Joe Girardi left for another team (and Posada was still the backstop when Joe returned as team manager).

Posada’s retirement left that great farm team of the Yankees of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Posada down to two of Jeter and Rivera. And now the club’s senior circuit looks to add another Golden Boy in Pettitte (39 years old until June 15 when he turns 40) who came out of a year’s sabbatical for a one-year contract to play for a New York minor league team with a possible invitation to spring training.

It’s amazing how sports analysts cannot make up their minds about veterans and rookies. One minute they laud teams for getting veteran players with veteran smarts and the next it’s about them getting old in the legs and in dire need of a youthful injection. That ageing veteran team is how many describe at the New York Yankees with Rivera’s age now matching his uniform number (42); free-agent pick up and native New Yorker Raul Ibañez at 39 years of age; Jeter now 37 years old (he is no longer the kid but the Bronx Bombers’ version of Cal Ripken); Alex Rodriguez, 36; Freddy Garcia is 35; Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez, 34; and Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and Nick Swisher both 31.

But they’ve got a still youthful core of Russell Martin (29), Robinson Cano (29), and Eduardo Nuñez (24) approaching their prime.

With pitching a concern since the 2009 season, who is there on the staff who will lead this team? There’s only CC Sabathia who has proven that he can pitch in pinstripes. There’s star in waiting Ivan Nova, the enigmatic Phil Hughes when he’s locked on, and Freddy Garcia.  If Hughes pitches well then that will boost New York’s pitching. Michael Pineda should be there but all of a sudden I get this feeling that General Manager got fleeced. Is this Carl Pavano all over again? If Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, David Robertson can  bridge the starters all the way to the ageless Rivera they’ll be okay.

If Hiroki Kuroda can provide quality pitching as a fifth starter (and that moves Garcia to the bench), if Pineda can pitch to his potential let alone play, and if Pettitte can flash his All-Star form of 2010 (11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts) – now those are a lot of ifs -- then the Yankees, in their 112th season, will compete in a much tougher and arguably the best in baseball AL East with Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto all competing for the division title and even the World Series.

Let’s look at the potential batting order here for Girardi:

SS Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibañez
C Russell Martin
LF Brett Gardner

I think that the addition of native New Yorker Ibañez to the lineup affords a move by Cano to the top of the order. How dangerous is that? Tex is at fifth in the order! It’s a dangerous lineup right there.

A-Rod had a sub-par year and some say that he is on the decline. We heard that about Jeter so much last year but he did hit some milestones and after he broke his slump there was not much talk about his hitting anymore. We’ll have to wait and see if that blood-spinning treatment that Kobe Bryant recommended to Rodriguez will help him play better this year.

Ibañez and Jones should provide more hitting for this team. I’ve always been a fan of Eric Chavez and I think that his addition to the Yankees (as of last year) was a good pick up.

I recall that comment in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball how Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane remarked about their club being a farm team for the Yankees. Well, yeah. Look at who they’ve picked up from the A’s through the years – Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, and Chavez to name a few.

Last season, the Yankees won 97 games and their 11th AL East crown in the last 14 years. They also set some team and individual records on the way to the post-season that ended in disappointment. This year, there’s some optimism coming out from spring training as there are questions. This year could be the last ride for players like Jeter, Rivera, and Pettitte but that also depends on the kind of year that they have. This Yankees team – barring injuries – will definitely compete for the division title and playoffs. Age and all.

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