|One thing to like about the Yankees: Mariano Rivera never seems to age. (AP)|
TAMPA, Fla. -- What I like and dislike about the Yankees.
• The Yankees' bullpen is second to none, and it isn't just the incomparable Mariano Rivera, either. They also have arguably the game's best eighth-inning guy in David Robertson, the natural heir apparent who kidded when he got to camp that he doubted Rivera's retirement hints following the year, jokingly suggesting Mo could become the next Brett Favre. No matter, Robertson had a 1.08 ERA and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, which was the best in the American League for pitchers who threw at least 50 innings (and second to Al Alburquerque's 13.92 among those who threw at least 40). They also may have the best seventh-inning guy in Rafael Soriano, who is without question at least the best-paid seventh-inning guy.
|New York Yankees|
• The lineup remains stacked, and it's maybe a bit younger than you think. Among regulars, only Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Raul Ibanez are officially out of their prime, and Jeter played like his old self last year once the pressure of the 3,000th hit was lifted, leading to the suspicion that he, like Rivera, is another medical marvel. Curtis Granderson showed he's the biggest threat among No. 2 hitters in baseball with his monster second season in the Bronx, and there's little debate about Robinson Cano being one of the game's best hitters, not to mention one of its best all-around players.
• Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Rodriguez figure to play with chips on their respective shoulders following more playoff failure. Teixeira and Swisher have seemed like different hitters (read: not as good) in October, while A-Rod has started to make a habit of making the season's final out. All three are dedicated workers (despite Swisher's goofy side) who are probably determined not to let this happen again, and Swisher has the added incentive of being a free agent after the year.
• Their defense is better than you think. Catcher Russell Martin, who had a terrific first year in the Bronx, is Gold Glove caliber, as are second baseman Cano, first baseman Teixeira and left fielder Brett Gardner. Granderson is a lot better than advertised, and Swisher is a lot better than he looks.
• Despite their sudden checkbook balancing act, the Yankees always have the money for a nice midseason acquisition or two. Their revenues dwarf almost everyone else, with the exception of Boston.
• A-Rod is suddenly the biggest concern. He sure looks good at 36 (as his ability to attract Hollywood starlet after Hollywood starlet attests), but he appears to be breaking down, with both hip and knee concerns. This is not a pleasant thought considering six more years remain on his record $275 million contract (plus another $30 million in bonuses).
• They never got that second left-handed reliever, and will entrust the underrated Boone Logan to do all that work again. It seems like a mistake for baseball's highest-paid team to skimp here, but they are far from alone in having this weakness. Clay Rapada and Mike O'Connor are long-shot hopes to try to improve the situation after Hideki Okajima failed his physical, but perhaps the Yankees can try for Mike Gonzalez or someone else later.
• The loss of Jesus Montero weakens them at DH. Ibanez may seem like a steal at $1.1 million guaranteed. But let's not forget he had a line away from Citizen's bank Ballpark that was close to appalling: .210/.261/.310.
• The overall age has to be of some concern, with Andruw Jones due to turn 34 (yes, he is only 34), Freddy Garcia 36, A-Rod 37, Jeter 38 and Ibanez 40 in coming months. Though with Ponce De Leon back as closer and age irrelevant there, more will be made of the age component than necessary.