Our guest blogger program continues today with Jim from Club Bronx.
Jim has posted here under the handle “Wolf in Pinstripes” for sometime. He’s a 39-year-old New Jersey native who now works in Lexington, Ky. His site includes message boards, a blog, and a chat room. Jim says he grew up rooting for Graig Nettles and that his current favorites are A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera.
Here’s his post:
Itâ€™s been asked on Yankee blogs, â€œWhat have the Yankees actually done to get better?â€ and â€œIsnâ€™t this the same team that couldnâ€™t get it done before?â€ These are legitimate questions, considering that with the talent the Yankees have had the last few years, they very easily could – and should – have secured a title. However, there are some changes that have occurred since last season which could be difference-makers in this one. Optimism among Yankee fans should be well-justified in 2008.
The transition is complete in the front office and Hank and Hal have been active, which I believe is better than the prepared statements weâ€™ve been fed through Howard Rubenstein. Instead of the big off-season splashes via trades and free agent signings that Yankee fans are accustomed to, we will finally be able to truly evaluate the fruits of Brian Cashmanâ€™s focus on the draft and developing talent in-house. 2008 should be a good barometer for just how well that plan is working, as it is the first year that we will get to see some of that much-heralded homegrown talent over a full season. I personally find this to be a refreshing change.
A revamped coaching staff may be one of the keys to getting the Yankees past the brick wall theyâ€™ve careened into in the last few postseasons. New skipper Joe Girardi will bring youth, fire, and modern strategy to the table as he takes over the reins of the club. Many fans are anxious to see what kind of effect new pitching coach Dave Eiland will have – not only with our three young studs, but also with veteran pitchers who could benefit from some fine-tuning of their mechanics and/or heads. If Eiland is truly as good as his success in the minors suggests, he could be exactly what the doctor ordered for our beleaguered bullpen. And based on the success he has had with A-Rod and Robby Cano, another full year of Kevin Long as hitting coach should continue to pay dividends from the plate.
Injuries early in the 2007 season contributed to a quick drop in the standings that the Yankees amazingly overcame to wind up in the postseason. They responded by firing strength coach Marty Miller, whose unorthodox routines were questioned by several players. One of the traits that has been attributed to Girardi is that he will not tolerate poor conditioning. If this roster can come into 2008 in shape and stay healthy, itâ€™s scary to think about what they are capable of.
Roster-wise, there are still things to be excited about despite the lack of big off-season moves. Although Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy are young and raw, they will be a vast improvement over an aging Clemens, a see-sawing Mussina, a letdown in Igawa, and â€¦ well, Carl Pavano. Even if the Yankees have to dip into the minors to fill some gaps temporarily, prospects such as Alan Horne make me a lot more comfortable than the emergency reliance on players such as Darrell Rasner, Tyler Clippard, Chase Wright, and Matt DeSalvo. In the batters box, Cano, for one, continues to mature and improve. And A-Rod should be even more relaxed and productive with his contract talks behind him and a settled identity among his teammates.
There are still question marks – and there are no guarantees regarding these points of optimism that I have suggested. However, one canâ€™t help but be excited as they look forward to a fresh season of Yankee baseball.