The Yankees will be all right.

November 4, 2007

As we say farewell to the man in charge of baseball’s last dynasty, as well as the league’s best hitter, its easy to take a pessimistic look on the Yankees’ upcoming season. As the token haters start yapping, and as you entertain those thoughts of ineptitude, inferiority, and all the fights you will be forced to start in order to retain your manhood, I submit to you this, Yankee fans: Keep your head up, we got this.

It’s no secret what the Yankees have been lacking in recent years. Its what makes a good team great, and without it, you don’t stand a chance. What I’m talking about here, obviously, is Chuck Knoblauch…Shelley Duncan

But seriously, they haven’t had consistent, deep starting pitching since 2001. It’s been the cause of their unraveling postseason after postseason. Check out this list: Jose Contreras, Esteban Loaiza, Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Roger Clemens, Carl Pavano. They all have two things in common. One, they were all in the Yankee rotation at some point between ’02 and now, and two, their performance was uglier than Shelley Duncan.

With all that said, I optimistically propose that the Yankees have one of the best rotations in baseball by July ’08. My biased ass is guaranteeing it, and I offer you some marginally speculative reasons why.

Johan Santana, the best pitcher in the game, is coming to New York. He’s got no business (or intention) ruining his career with an extension that keeps him in Grim-esota, and that $30 mill the Steinbrenners just saved by losing ARod is burning a Cruise-Ship-sized hole in their pocket. The Steinbrenner family has an infamous flair for the dramatic, and what better way to forget about the league’s best hitter than by acquiring the best pitcher. The Yanks are going to have to throw a ton of talent at the Twins, but if it can be done, the Steinbrenner kids will be kicking and screaming until it is.

Lets say they lose Hughes in the deal, plus a starting position player and a nice prospect. That leaves them with a rotation like this: Santana, Wang, Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. That’s assuming Pettitte takes the $16m option and comes back, which he may or may not do ($16 mill, tough decision, really?). For the sake of my babbling, I’m going to again take the optimistic view and say he returns.

That gives the Yankees rotation great balance in a couple ways. They’ve got two lefties and three righties. I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had two lefties. The other thing that is even more exciting is the fact that the Yankees will have more young guys in the rotation than they do veterans. From a Yankee standpoint, that is unheard of. But the incredible talent that the young guys Wang, Chamberlain and Kennedy bring to the bump is even more unheard of for anybody except maybe the Marlins every 5 years or so.

Chamberlain’s stuff… –you know what, lets hold up a second. The word stuff is used a ton in baseball, and I think the word is so lame. And if you disagree with me then you are wrong… So I was just thinking of what else I could call it, and I reminded myself that Joba has Native American blood in him, and since it is coming up on Thanksgiving, from now on I’m going to refer to Joba’s stuff as his “corn, beans and squash.” If you don’t mind.

If you’ve had the chance to get a good look at him you’d see that he’s got some of the best corn, beans and squash in the game. He throws 98 mph, spots a ridonculous slider, and we’ve seen flashes of a top-to-bottom curveball, which we’ll see much more of this season since he’ll be throwing more than 15-20 pitches an outing. Corn. Beans. Squash.

Ian Kennedy is a finesse guy who’s got a 2-seam fastball at around 90, a slider, a curve, and his go-to pitch is a changeup he can spot. Both of these guys have very good potential, and it should be fun to watch them develop.

I already know how the haters will respond to this: “Oh, I JUST CAN’T WAIT to see how Yankee fans react when they have to deal with young guys who are struggling, blah blah blah.”

Well, in response to that, with the Yankee lineup, they can struggle–because a mid-4 era and the stamina to get past the 6th inning gets you about 15 wins (+/-1) with the Yankees’ ability to score runs, and that’s with or without PAY-Rod. As good as he was, the Yankees averaged only .22 more runs a game than 2006 when the Yankee third basemen had, by his standards, an off year. With ARod, the lineup was a nightmare, without ARod, the lineup is a nightmare.

In the offseason after a first round postseason loss in ’95, the Yankees hired a controversial new manager, and went into the next season as an underdog with a few young guys forced to play key roles throughout the season. The manager turned into the second winningest manager in Yankee history, the young guys turned out to be Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, and the underdog perception was a means of motivation that transformed them into a dynasty.