(I wonder how these guys would have looked in pinstripes)
The running joke around the blogosphere with this recent rash of ST invite contracts is that this year's Yankee team would be a shoo-in to win a World Series some time in the mid-2000s. And that got me thinking, gee, I wonder what this team would look like if I piled everyone into my DeLorean, gunned it up to 88MPH, and traveled back to the mid-2000s.
This lineup would be an interesting combination of veterans in their prime, young players establishing themselves as All Stars, and brand spanking new, completely untested rookies or 2nd-year men. It wouldn't be hard to picture at least 5 All Stars coming out of this lineup.
Around the infield the Yanks would have monsters at the corners in terms of a 25-year-old Mark Teixeira at first base, fresh off a .281/.370.560 2004 season in his 2nd full year and on the verge of putting up career numbers across the board in 2005 on his way to leading the league in TB, and a 29-year-old A-Rod coming off his first full season in the Bronx and heading towards what was a .321 BA, 1.031 OPS, 124 R, 48 HR, 130 RBI, MVP season in '05 at third. 30-year-old Derek Jeter, right in the middle of his .300 BA/100+ R/200+ H prime, would be at short, and a 33-year-old Jorge Posada behind the plate, starting to show some decline but still one of the 5 best offensive catchers in baseball, would be the unquestioned clubhouse leaders. The unknown in this HOF group would be newcomer Robinson Cano, a lefty-hitting 22-year-old from the Dominican who has never had a Major League at-bat but won the job out of Spring Training with some flashy glovework and by showing an ability to make contact and hit to all fields.
The outfield would be almost all or nothing in terms of experience. In center, the Yanks would be anchored by 28-year-old Andruw Jones, he of the 7 consecutive Gold Gloves and he on the way to setting career highs with 51 HR and 128 RBI while winning an 8th straight GG in 2005. Flanking him would be 2 young, untested players who made names for themselves in Spring Training in different ways. 24-year-old Curtis Granderson gets the nod in LF after showcasing great speed on the basepaths and in the field and some pop in his bat during the spring. His 25 career at-bats heading into 2005 make him both a question mark as the #2 hitter in the Yankee lineup (to give them that righty-lefty alternation that they love) and a leading ROY candidate in the AL. In right, the Yankees will go with Nick Swisher, a 24-year-old "jack of all trades"-type in the field who impressed with his power and patience in the spring.
At DH, the Yankees would deploy Eric Chavez. The recent signee from Oakland would give up his spot in the field, where he has won the last 3 Gold Gloves at third, for a chance at a ring. Chavez´ lefty stroke and patience would give the Yankees the flexibility they are looking for in their lineup and insurance policies for 1B and 3B if A-Rod or Teix get hurt or need days off from the field.
The rotation for the '05 Yankees might have some question marks, but they certainly won't be related to lack of experience or potential innings limitations. Between the 5 of them, the rotation features 4 former All Stars and a guy at the back end of the rotation who could be on the cusp of becoming one.
The "ace" of the staff would be 31-year-old Bartolo Colon. He would be coming off his worst year as a pro, but one in which he still pitched over 200 innings, and would be heading towards a 21-8 record and a Cy Young in 2005. Following up Colon would be young fireballer Mark Prior. He had some injuries in 2004, but would come back strong in ´05 to lead the league in K/9. Splitting up the righty-heavy rotation would be another 24-year-old, this time the lefty CC Sabathia. CC would still be learning to harness his explosive stuff and polish himself into a complete pitcher, but he can be counted on for lots of innings, lots of Ks, and double digit wins.
The bottom half of the rotation would start with 30-year-old Freddy Garcia, who would be coming off of his 4th straight year of throwing more than 200 innings, and end with A.J. Burnett, a 28-year-old who, like CC, is still learning to harness his stuff but has 200+ K-type potential with his fastball-curve combination.
The bullpen won´t be quite as strong or deep as the 2011 version should be, but there still won´t be a shortage of quality arms. Mariano Rivera, in the shocker of the century, will be the closer. At 35, he shows no signs of slowing down, leading the AL in saves and games finished in 2004 while finishing 3rd in the Cy Young voting and 9th in the MVP. Setting him up will be 25-year-old Rafael Soriano, a player who has had arm problems the last couple years but possesses devastating stuff. For lefty-lefty late game situations, the Yankees will turn to either 25-year-old Neal Cotts or 28-year-old Pedro Feliciano, both of whom have stuff that can shut down the best of lefty bats. Another youngster, 24-year-old Sergio Mitre, will start the season as the long man in the bullpen and could make spot starts if needed. There is room for another consistent righty in the mix, but with this core the majority of high-leverage situations are covered.
There isn´t much to discuss in the way of bench options. 30-year-old Ronnie Belliard will be the utility infielder, and this version of the 2005 Yankees would most likely fill the rest of the spots with Triple-A guys or a few cheap FA signings.
All in all, this team would have had the potential to be dominant. There are good to great hitters from 1-9 in the lineup, speed in the outfield, arms and range all over the infield, 5 guys in the rotation capable of winning 15+ games and throwing 200+ innings, and a bullpen with 2 killer righties and 2 killer lefties apiece.
1) Derek Jeter- SS
2) Curtis Granderson- LF
3) Alex Rodriguez- 3B
4) Mark Teixeira- 1B
5) Andruw Jones- CF
6) Eric Chavez- DH
7) Jorge Posada- C
8) Nick Swisher- RF
9) Robinson Cano- 2B
1) Bartolo Colon- RHP
2) Mark Prior- RHP
3) CC Sabathia- LHP
4) Freddy Garcia- RHP
5) A.J. Burnett- RHP
- Mariano Rivera- RHP
- Rafael Soriano- RHP
- Neal Cotts- LHP
- Pedro Feliciano- LHP
- Sergio Mitre- RHP
- Ronnie Belliard- INF
- A couple other dudes
I don´t know about you, but I could certainly go to battle feeling confident with that team. Well, in 2005 at least.