Every day in spring training until we're finished with the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team that we visit in Florida and Arizona. Next up, the New York Baseball Yankees, who threaten to win their 28th World Series this fall.
2009 RECORD: 103-59/1st in AL East
BIG ACQUISITIONS The right-field stands at Yankee Stadium must look awfully inviting to Curtis Granderson(notes). ... The familiar right-hander is Javier Vazquez(notes), who fits in nicely after C.C. Sabathia(notes) (right) and A.J. Burnett(notes). Vazquez might have been the third or fourth best pitcher in the National League last year ... The familiar lefty swing belongs to Nick Johnson(notes), who will DH and get on base often.
BIG DEPARTURES Did you guys hear that Johnny Damon(notes) left? ... The Melk Man leaveth as well; Melky Cabrera(notes) was sent to the Braves in the Vazquez trade ... Hideki Matsui(notes) now plies his trade in Anaheim ... Chien-Ming Wang(notes) has gone National(s) ... The Tigers now have Austin Jackson(notes), Phil Coke(notes) and a smile.
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE YANKEES:
1. How 'bout a repeat? The Yankees, even in "down" years, are always expected to win the World Series. It's just what they do. The hardest part in defending their title will come in slashing their way through the thicket of the AL East again, where the Rays and Red Sox present World Series-viable teams too. Will the Yankees be burdened by a long season, followed by a short offseason, followed by the ridiculous expectations of the Bronx? My non-expert sense tells me they will play great, it just won't be great enough.
2. How will this Phil Hughes(notes)-Joba Chamberlain fifth-starter thing sort itself out? It'll be decided in spring training, which strikes me as foolish. But I ain't Dave Eiland, the Yankees pitching coach. Joba seems like a better relief candidate than he does a starter, though it's slippery to explain why it seems that way. Hughes can obviously relieve, but his ability to change speeds is more advanced than Chamberlain's.
3. Why is everyone so hung up on Derek Jeter's(notes) contract? Is he popular, or something? Yankees fans probably should just trust Brian Cashman when he says that an extension will be addressed after this season. When has Cashman let you down (to that degree)? Really, it's OK. Jeter is not leaving.
4. Is Yankee Stadium going to play like the ballpark at High Desert this season? I seem to recall that U.S. Cellular Field, in its first couple of years, was tough to hit homers in. But they tweaked it here and there and now it's not so hard at all. We need more data before we can truly say there's something unholy going on in the right-center power alley.
5. With the problems of early 2009 behind him, is A-Rod on the verge of that monster of monster seasons? The so-called "good-luck charm" of Mrs. Centaur, Kate Hudson, is gone. But Alex Rodriguez(notes) is healthy and clear of the doubts — hopefully — about him not being "clutch." He's kind of like Luke Skywalker at the end of "Star Wars," all clear to blow up the Death Star. Except it's baseball and there's no Han Solo in this analogy.