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Speculation about the future; appreciation for the present

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Around here, the Yankees future has been this winter’s most relentless topic of discussion. The team’s best player is in the final year of his contract. The core players of the past decade are fading toward retirement. The bulk of the bullpen is heading for free agency, and key young starters have had major surgery. All of that pending uncertainty comes at a time when the front office is trying to cut payroll to take advantage of changes in the collective bargaining agreement.

How are the Yankees going to make this work? It’s a fair question that no one can answer just yet. It’s also a question that has occasionally overshadowed the immediate task at hand.

The more immediate question is this: How much do these guys have left?

This morning, John wrote about appreciation. He wrote about appreciating the final days of franchise icons, and he wrote about appreciating a team that once again has a chance to win. That combination is the reason this team could be — if those icons really can win again — one of the most appreciated teams we’ve ever seen.

Questions about the future will linger, but here and now, imagine another strong year from Derek Jeter. Imagine Mariano Rivera being as good as ever, Andy Pettitte giving one last standout performance, and Kevin Youkilis bouncing back with, of all teams, the Yankees. Imagine Ichiro Suzuki creating a real pinstriped legacy. Even if it’s hard to imagine Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda each coming back next season, each could have a lasting impact in what might be their final year in the Bronx.

There’s a lot to celebrate about a young roster. There’s no doubt it would be fun to watch a team of 20-somethings go on a run like the Nationals experienced last year. But that’s not the roster the Yankees have, which is the reason we’ve spent so much time talking about future. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, and it’s worth discussing.

But wouldn’t there be something truly enjoyable about watching this group of veterans — this batch of familiar faces — make another stand and make another run at a World Series? Wouldn’t this team be easy to appreciate for what it is?

Associated Press photo