Thursday, March 24, 2011

AB4AR 2011 Season Preview: The Lineup

(Hey look!  Four starters!)

Well here we are.  It's 2011, it's almost time for the baseball season to officially begin, and it's time to break down the Yankees 25-man roster as we head towards Opening Day.  We'll start, as we did last year, with the starting lineup.  And this year, as it was last year, the Yankee lineup will be one of, if not the, deepest, most dangerous, most talented lineups in all of professional baseball.  At almost every position, the Yankees have a current or former All Star plugged in, and there isn't an easy out anywhere 1-9 in the batting order.  At worst, the Yankees' least talented players (if there is such a thing) in their starting lineup will provide league average production.  And while advanced sabermetrics might suggest that their defense isn't the strongest, they've got a handful of players who are among the best in the business in the field.

Looking around the infield, the 4 suspects are the same crew that started the last 2 years, and they are still the best all-around infield in the game.  At first base, Mark Teixeira will be looking to rebound from a 2010 season of ups and downs.  He was either ice cold or on fire, and a progression of small injuries as the season went on sapped him of his usual strength down the stretch, culminating in that pulled hamstring in the playoffs.  Projections have Teix slated for a bounce-back year in 2011, and I believe the opportunity is there for him to have a big year and re-establish himself as the best first baseman in MLB not named Pujols.  If he can shake his traditional April slump, he could set the groundwork for an All Star season very early.

At second base, the Yankees are as set as any team with 2010 MVP candidate Robinson Cano.  Coming off a career year that saw him capture an ASG starting spot, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger Award, a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, and the Nobel Prize for Scientific Research in the Field of Chemistry, Cano will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2011.  Now fully into his prime, Cano's maturity has caught up with his natural talent and there is no doubt that he is the best second baseman in baseball and the future leader of this team.  Despite tempered projections, I expect another MVP-caliber year from Cano in 2011 and would be shocked if he didn't finish in the top 5 in the voting again.

We now come to 3rd base, where the majestic A-Horse, though older in age, still exhibits signs of being a premiere thoroughbred in its field.  A-Rod has never looked better in Spring Training than he has this year, physically or at the plate, but it remains to be seen if he can translate the offseason workout regimen to a full healthy season of A-rodian production.  The days of MVP awards are probably over for the 35-year-old Horse, but if Joe can manage his workload to keep him healthy and keep him off the DL, there's no reason not to expect A-Rod to improve his numbers across the board from 2010.

Who Pooped In Buck Showalter's Corn Flakes?

For some reason, Men's Journal magazine decided to interview Buck Showalter for their April issue.  He had some not nice and rather stupid things to say about the Yankees, specifically one Derek Jeter.

"The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout.  Our guys are thinking, 'Wow, he's screaming at Derek Jeter.' Well, he's always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets -- and yes, he pisses me off."

"WAAAAAHHHHH!!!!  Derek Jeter is trying to get calls!  WAAAAAHHHHH!!!!  The Yankees dumped me as manager right before their late-90s dynasty took off!  WAAAAAAHHHHH!!!  I've still got an axe to grind because I built that team and never got any credit for it!  WAAAAAHHHHHH!!!  Now I'm stuck managing the Baltimore Orioles!  WAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!"

Seriously, Buck.  Let it go.  Move on.  Grow up.  I did like his jab at the MSM's treatment of Theo and the Fraud Sox, though:

"I'd like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll.  You got Carl Crawford 'cause you paid more than anyone else, and that's what makes you smarter?"

+1 for Buck there.  I can look past the Jeter bashing if you're going to call out the Fraud Sox.

"That's why I like whipping their butt. It's great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, 'How the hell are they beating us?'"

I don't know if I should take umbrage with this last quote because it's not quite clear if Buck is talking about the Yankees, the Sox, or both when he mentions the "$205 million payroll."  If he's talking about Boston, fine.  If he's talking about the Yanks, I would remind him to check the records.  Baltimore went 5-13 against the Yankees last year.  Not exactly a butt whooping if you ask me.