And so when we think about the 2014 season, and some of the things that could have a devastating impact on the Yankees' fortunes, it starts with Rodriguez. Isn't it always about him?
But there's plenty more that could go wrong. Here's a list of the top five:
A-Rod shows up at spring training: This would be an absolute nightmare and the ultimate distraction. If you thought the last six months were bad -- heck, how about some of the events, both on and off the field, he's been involved in over the last 10 years -- a spring with A-Rod would make that time look like a honeymoon.
Though it seems inconceivable, and with the odds reportedly stacked against him in his quest for a federal judge to grant him an injunction, Rodriguez's camp insists that the disgraced slugger plans on joining the Yankees in Tampa next month.
He's not on the 40-man roster because of his suspension, which makes it unlikely that the Yankees would allow him to train with the big boys, but just the idea of him lingering, even on a side field far off from view, is unsettling enough. It would ruin the feeling of spring training. And it would be a bad start to the new season.
Derek Jeter is done: It's just a feeling -- maybe more of a desperate hope than anything else -- but I wouldn't put it past Jeter to come back and play at a high level after suffering through the worst season of his professional career.
In 2011, so many were writing him off. Then he got his 3,000th hit and came back the next year and led the league with 216 hits. Last year, he was hurt and almost the entire season was lost. Those same people, and more, are writing him off again.
In June, he'll turn 40, and coming off an injury-plagued 2013, the odds are stacked against him. If he can't do it, if he gets hurt or if he's ineffective, the Yankees are in trouble. They already have holes to his left and to his right. If he's done, they might be, too.
CC Sabathia is no longer an ace: Last year was a down year for one of the most reliable pitchers in the game over the last 13 seasons. Since coming to the Yankees, Sabathia has been everything New York could have hoped for, pitching at least 200 innings in each of his five seasons in the Bronx and recording 88 wins.
Last season, however, was not good. He went 14-13 and his earned run average ballooned to 4.78. The Yankees need Sabathia to be their ace. Even if they sign Masahiro Tanaka, this is still a rotation with questions. Sabathia can't be one of them.
Jacoby Ellsbury gets hurt: While I didn't like the signing because of the years and dollars, when healthy, Jacoby Ellsbury is a very good ballplayer. He could be a difference-maker this year, whether he's batting leadoff or third, but he's only played one full season since 2009. When healthy, he can hit, steal bases, and play a good center field. He would seem to be a natural fit for Yankee Stadium -- left-handed hitter, short porch in right field.
Ellsbury will anchor the outfield. On a team with a few holes and many questions, this is one guy the Yankees need to be able to count on. If he's not in there, that will leave a huge gap in the lineup.
David Robertson has 9th-inning blues: Talk about replacing a legend. The good news is that David Robertson is a quality pitcher who's proven himself in the bullpen. But there's a big difference between the 8th and 9th innings, and the last inning is now his with Mariano Rivera's retirement.
While he's had success as a set-up man, he hasn't been as good when filling in as the closer, blowing 10 saves in 18 opportunities. The first time he blows a save, people will overreact. It might take seasons before he's judged against himself, not against Rivera. Or, that might never happen. It might always be about Rivera around here. That's what replacing a legend is all about. We'll see how Robertson handles it.
Second base, third base, and the general health of some others didn't make the list. At least not this time.
Charles Costello has followed the Yankees for 30 years and was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. He writes about the Yankees and New York Giants on the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @CFCostello.
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