Although it is still early in the season, I can say with more confidence than usual that this year’s Yankees appear to be the best of recent years. Without a championship since 2000, Yankees gm Brian Cashman has finally begun to go back to the formula for winning baseball, especially playing in a very competitive AL East division.
This past offseason’s free agent additions of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira are slowly but surely beginning to pay off, with Sabathia starting to look like the 400lb ace that he is, Burnett pitching like a respectable number 2, and Teixiera beginning to show why he earned the absurdly large contract the Yankees decided to offer him last minute, in the steal of the offseason.
Teixeira is not only beginning to hit, (with the return of A-Rod to the lineup and the protection he provides being a great help) but is also playing spectacular defense and making Yankees fans wonder why they put up with the bumbling, stumbling Jason Giambi for so many years. Teixeira is the kind of player that won the Yankees championships in the late 90s and 2000. I don’t mean to jump the gun, because he hasn’t won anything yet, but he reminds me of a Tino Martinez or Scott Brosius, a smart player talented both offensively and defensively.
After suffering through the atrocious signings of Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson and Kei Igawa, the Yankees are finally making smart moves. The choice to focus on pitching has proven to be a good one , with the Yankees now having 6 quality starters and a respectable bullpen once Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte return. Sabathia is an ace capable of dominating games in the playoffs, Burnett is a good number 2 who has always owned the Red Sox, Wang will come back to his normal form, Pettitte is a veteran lefty who has championship experience, and Joba will do well either as a 5th starter or as a lights-out set-up man.
One area of the team that has improved considerably is the defense, as evidenced by the recent MLB record-setting 18 game errorless streak. Since Matsui can no longer run, an outfield of Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner is the best way to go for the Yankees. Gardner not only can play a great center field, but also has improved his hitting and all but guarantees a steal every time he gets on. This stellar outfield, combined with what is arguably the best defensive infield is baseball makes the Yankees a very good defensive team. This defense, combined with the ridiculously deep lineup and improved starting pitching form a combination that I believe will get the Yankees deep into the playoffs and enable Yankee fans to forget about the consistent underachieving of the past 8 years.