07 March 2007

What, Me, Worry? The 2007 New York Yankees Season Preview

I'm worried about the Yankees.

True, they ran away with their 9th straight divisional title last year, 10 games ahead of second-place Toronto.

True, despite not winning a World Series since 2000, they have won two AL pennants and averaged nearly 99 wins per year in this millenium. They led the major leagues in wins, hits, OBP and runs scored, and were 2nd or 3rd in a bunch of other offensive stats.

But there were some serious chinks revealed in the armor of the Yankee Dragon, not the least of which was the starting pitching. The 2006 Yankees ranked 10th in the majors (6th in the AL) with a 4.54 starters' ERA, an emminently pedestrian number for a team trying to win a championship. Sure, the Bronx Bludgeoners managed to beat their opponents into submission pretty regularly diring the season, but when faced with a Tigers team that could actually pitch (as evidenced by their best-in-the-majors 4.00 team ERA), the Bronx Bats wilted like so much stewed cabbage.

The most glaring need, however, is youth. Sure, the Yankees have some youngsters who are contributing, for the first time in several years, but overall, they're the oldest team in the AL, and if not for San Francisco GM Brian Sabean's inexplicable fear of anyone under the age of 35, they'd be the oldest team in the majors. According to www.baseballreference.com, the average age of the 2006 Yankee hitters was 30.9, almost half a year more than their closest AL opponent, the Boston Red Sox. In the NL, the Giants are in a league of their own, with hitters averaging 33.5 years, putting a whole new spin on the term "Senior Circuit". Nobody else in the NL is over 30.7 (Houston). Yankee pitchers averaged 32.5 winters last year, almost a year and a half older than the Red Sox hurlers, their nearest AL competition for that honor. This number led the major leagues last year, as the Mets, at 32.2, led the NL pack in pitchers' average age.

Randy Johnson (42), of course, was the most glaring reason for that, but even with his departure, the Yankees have age issues on the pitching staff, especially if they manage to convince 44-year old Roger Clemens to join them. Whether the Rocket returns to the Big Apple or not, the Yankees still have Mike Mussina (38), Mike Myers (37), Bergenfield's Ron Villone (37), Mariano Rivera (37), and Andy Pettitte (34). The hitters aren't a whole lot younger, either, with Jason Giambi (36), Jorge Posada (35, very old for a catcher), and a bunch of guys who are 32 or older, like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, and even His Clutchness, Derek Jeter. A-Rod will be 32 by mid season, though he's still very, very good. Recently signed backup infielders Miguel Cairo and Doug Mientkiewicz, who will both be 33 by the end of June, are part of the problem, not the solution.

I see a lot of similarities between the 2006-07 Yankees and the 1997-98 Baltimore Orioles. You remember them, right? I know it gets tough to remember the proverbial "good times" when a team goes ten years (and counting...) between winning seasons, but back in the mid-1990's, the Orioles were pretty competitive, winning the AL Wild Card in 1996, the A.L. East division in 1997, and...

...crashing like a de Havilland Comet in 1998.

Those Orioles got a mean case of "The Olds", and the team has finished better than 4th place in the A.L. East one time in the nine seasons that have since passed. Consider...

Find out why Yankee fans should panic at Most Valuable network...

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