Our next Pinch Hitter is Brendan Sennott, who lives in Detroit but still manages to catch the Yankees every night on YES. A one-time media member – “I still dream of getting back into the biz,” he wrote – Brendan spends his free time with Angela, his wife of nine-plus years, and their kids, Aubrey (2) and Declan (six months).
For his post, Brendan took the opposite view of yesterday’s Pinch Hitter. He sees reason for optimism, not gloom.
Last offseason, I wrote in this very space  that the Yankees needed to go gangbusters during the offseason and spare no expense. They’d won the American League East with 97 wins but lost meekly in the division series, and I felt it was in the organization’s best interest to go “all in” because it was all but guaranteed that Mariano Rivera, the greatest weapon of the modern baseball era, was going to retire.
Just before I submitted my piece to Chad, the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda and traded Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda. Despite those moves, I wanted still more “hot stove” activity because I was spoiled by how The Boss used to do things.
Well, the Yanks didn’t do much more last winter. It turned out the warning track at Kauffman Stadium had something to say about Mo retiring as he tore his ACL shagging fly balls before New York’s game against the Royals on May 4. He quickly vowed to come back and, thankfully, will indeed return to pitch in his 19th season in 2013.
Kuroda was a solid No. 2 starter going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 219.2 innings. Unfortunately, Pineda came to camp out of shape and without his pre-advertised 97-mph heater. The big right-hander would not throw a regular-season pitch after he suffered a torn right labrum in his shoulder that required season-ending surgery.
The point is, winning the offseason means absolutely nothing. Rivera, CC Sabathia, A-Rod, Andy Pettitte, and most significantly Brett Gardner all spent time on the D.L. during the ’12 campaign. Curtis Granderson was not an M.V.P. candidate like he was in 2011; Mark Teixeira continued to play well below his salary; Robinson Cano started slowly and was awful for most of the year with runners in scoring position; Russell Martin’s batting average was below .200 for most of the year; only Derek Jeter had a truly great year.
Despite all that, the Yankees won 95 games and once again captured the East. They actually won a playoff series thanks to some Raul Ibanez clutchness, then they got their doors blown off in the A.L.C.S. It was a humbling defeat, and something needed to change.
I am from the camp that the Yankees became too reliant on the long ball these last few years. I believe a reliance on homers does not translate to postseason success. Sure, setting the club record of 245 homers in 2012 was fun for Bombers fans, but playoff losses are not. A different way of thinking would be refreshing.
Well, I got my wish. The Yankees certainly will be a much different club in 2013. Now the change in offensive philosophy may have more to do with Hal Steinbrenner and his desire to lower the payroll before 2014 than anything related to on-field performance. The Yankees have had an uneventful offseason by their standards, and the lack of a big splash has the media skeptical the Yanks can win enough in 2013 to even make the playoffs, let alone win the division. It also has the media fawning over this season’s hot stove champs, the Blue Jays. As the Yanks showed last year, and the Red Sox the year before, that offseason title means nothing.
The Yankees not throwing money at their problems has me more excited for a season than I have been in a long time. I am stoked because New York actually resembles a complete baseball team. I love the entire pitching staff from top to bottom. They will play flawless defense. Cano, Teixeira, and Granderson will mash. Robbie and Grandy will be playing for new deals, which certainly enhances their prospects for monster years.
Jeter, Ichiro, Youkilis, and a healthy Gardner will work the count with tough at bats, put the ball in play, and take the extra base; 150 steals is a heck of a lot more feasible for this 2013 ball club than 245 homers. This year’s Yanks definitely won’t hit .256 with runners in scoring position, which may be the most thrilling possibility of all for next year. Yankee fans also won’t be subjected to the many at bats Martin and Swisher gave away trying to hit 900-foot, 12-run homers. The 2013 Bronx Bombers will be a max effort team, much easier on the eyes.
I don’t expect anyone in their right mind to pick the 2013 Yankees to win the World Series because of their age and key guys coming off injuries, but Jeter, Mo, Andy and CC have never given us reason to doubt them, so I don’t plan on starting now. If the team can stay healthy over the course of the season and get anything from Ivan Nova, Pineda, and even A-Rod, I like their chances. I will like them even more if Cashman can add a legit righty bat. Stranger things have happened.
I just know it is going to be an exciting ride, and a lot more fun to watch a different movie for a change.
Associated Press photos