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Playing Pepper 2011: New York Yankees

Posted on March 10, 2011 at 9:57 PM
Filed Under: New York Yankees | Playing Pepper
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

New York Yankees (95-67, 1 GB and second in the AL East; lost in ALCS)

If you ever want to get a strong opinion, toss out the word "Yankees" to a group of baseball fans.  Some may love them, some may hate them, but all of them have some sort of feeling about them.

The tradition and history of the Yankees appeals to a lot of people while their checkbook baseball (or at least, that perception) turns off just as many.  The good thing about the biggest team in the biggest market?  There are a lot of great bloggers to tap.

Kate Conroy writes for the blog Lady Loves Pinstripes.  You can find her thoughts over there or follow her on Twitter or Facebook to get a different perspective on the Yanks.

Gregg Snyder, Jr. pens Double G Sports, which not only covers the Yankees but also other New York sporting teams, both professional and college.  Keep up with him on Twitter as well as Facebook, or give a listen to his regular Blog Talk Radio show.

Yanks Go Yard is written by Andrew Corselli as part of the FanSided network.  You can find him over on Twitter as well.

Even if you don't like the Bronx Bombers, stick around through the jump as we discuss what their biggest weakness is in 2011.

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C70: What is your opinion of the Yankees off-season? 

LLP: The Yankees off-season was a media circus. Between Derek Jeter's contract negotiations to Cliff Lee going to the Phillies to Andy Pettitte retiring, the Yankees just couldn't get a break. Then the team signs the best closer in the American League, maybe in baseball and there is a public disagreement between GM and owners. Looking back, it was actually refreshing for me as a fan to see my Yankees get a reality check. It broke my heart at times, but the team is so blessed already and I think as a whole Yankee Universe is better for it. 

DGS: The Yankees offseason was one of misfortune. The team put to much stock on one player, Cliff Lee, and the result was missing out on him and the other top free agents that could have certainly helped this years club. They were able to improve the bullpen and all a few other niec pieces. Rafael Soriano and Pedro Feliciano make the bullpen a strong point. Andruw Jones and Russell Martin can contribute if they stay healthy. 

YGY: I'm kind of on the fence about the team's offseason. First and foremost, I'm glad the Cliff Lee situation didn't work out. Don't get me wrong, I would've loved for Lee to be in pinstripes but a seven-year deal worth about $154 million for a 32-year-old is absurd...even by Yankee standards. 

Andy Pettitte retired, what can you do? However, I have a sneaking suspicion we'll see him pitch again; I don't know why but I have a feeling he'll pull a Roger Clemens and come back at some point this season. 

The Soriano contract is stupid with all the opt-out clauses, the Jeter contract is an albatross and I don't know if Mo will last two more years. Then again, he's Mo; he's been known to do the impossible. 

I'm a little salty Kerry Wood went back to Chi-town, but he was asking for too much money. Hopefully his old buddy Mark Prior can fill the void. 

Despite the fact that he's in Boston, I wish Alfredo Acevces well. He threw me a ball during batting practice in 2009 and I'll always be a fan of his. I want him to succeed, just not when he's playing the Yanks. 

Finally, they doled out a lot of minor league deals to over-the-hill veterans, but I think one of them will step up and be a decent starter. I also like the Eric Chavez signing, I think he'll stay healthy enough to be a good bench player. 

I guess if you forced me to pick a side, I'd say I was disappointed with the offseason. Then again, the pickens were slim with free agents and the team really didn't lose much from last year's 95-win team.

C70: What is the team's biggest weakness and how is it likely to be filled? 

LLP: The Yankees weakness is in the backend of the starting rotation, as the fourth and fifth spot are yet to be decided. I think that Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova will start the season. Pending on how things transpire within, along with who might be available, trading for an ace in June or July is very likely. The Yankees have an abundance of young and talented prospects that other teams could build on. 

DGS: The obvious weakness right now is the starting rotation. After Sabathia, Hughes, and Burnett, there are two open spots. Are Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon really the answer? Will Ivan Nova learn how to pitch deeper in games? Or will a prospect like Andrew Brackman show the front office enough to earn a spot? 

YGY: The biggest weakness for the 2011 Yanks is clearly the starting pitching. They have CC (who could opt out after the season), Hughes and AJ, who I think will have a solid bounce-back year. Larry Rothschild, the new pitching coach, will get him on track. I'm not saying AJ will get the Cy Young by any means, but he will be much better than 2010. 

After the first three, it's all a crap shoot. Before spring training, there was talks of Ivan Nova getting the fourth spot and gasp Sergio Mitre getting the fifth spot. I love Nova and think he can flourish at the back end of the rotation, he was legit in his seven starts last year, but, obviously, pitching a whole season is a horse of a different color. 

I'll eat my hat if Mitre gets the fifth spot. I think the fifth spot will go to one of the washed up guys at the start of the season and one of the Killer Bs (Brackman, Man Ban, Betances) will be called up later in the campaign. Or, they might go with a trade; I've heard rumblings of Liriano for Joba, Nova and a prospect or two.

C70: Can Curtis Granderson rebound from 2010? 

LLP: Granderson already rebounded at the end of 2010 season and he should keep that pace going into 2011. Coming to a new place and than getting injured was just an unfortunate start, but not concerned about Granderson at all. 

DGS: The answer is Yes. Granderson got off to a slow start but finished the year strong. He seemed to be more comfortable at the plate, against both righties and lefties. I think Granderson will be a key piece to the Yankee lineup this season. Expect a strong all around year. 

YGY: Curtis Granderson didn't have the greatest 2010, but he did turn it around in mid-August after hitting coach Kevin Long re-built his swing. From August 12 through the end of the campaign, he had 14 homers, 34 RBI, 24 walks and a .920 OPS in 48 games (165 AB). Those numbers trump what he put up over the first 88 games. I expect big things from C-Grizzle in 2011.

C70: Is there a Yankees prospect that will make a significant impact this season? 

LLP: Well, it doesn't look like many of the prospects are going to get the chance. Catching prospect Jesus Montero has to win a back-up spot, but Francisco Cervelli worked with Cano all off-season so nothing is set in stone for a prospect to make the Opening Day roaster. The bullpen is packed already, but rumor has is that pitching prospect Andrew Brackman could make his way into the bullpen, as he is throwing very well. 

DGS: Jesus Montero. The young catcher could earn a backup job this spring. The Yankees and all of MLB seem to think there is no limit to this kids offensive game. Defensive has been the question mark. If he proves he is solid enough on both sides, and if Martin struggles, don't be surprised if Montero takes control of the catcher position. Other possibilities are: Andrew Brackman, Eduardo Nunez, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps

YGY: If there is any prospect that will make a name for himself this season it will be Jesus Montero. The highly touted catching phenom had a great second half in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year and could see some playing time if Cervelli continues to be a non-factor at the plate. I love Cervelli, but he just can't hit. Plus, if Russell Martin gets hurt again Jesus will definitely get a call up. The fan base, along with the Yankee brass, is excited to see this kid rake at the Major League level.

C70: What is your prediction on Yankees record and divisional finish? 

LLP: Yankees will fight the Red Sox all season and without a doubt will make the playoffs. How does not really matter, but they will win 100 games in 2011. This number was lower before I saw the players' determination during this last week. Also the off-season hysteria has worn off and reality is the Yankees look really good. 

DGS: The Yankees will be right up there battling the favorite Boston Red Sox for the AL East title once again. I believe the starting rotation will get straightened out and the Yankees have a soild and deep lineup. You never know what will happen as far as injuries so I could see the Yankees winning the division but I will predict a wild card berth after a 94-69 regular season. 

YGY: As a fan, I want to say the Yankees will win 100+ games and take the division, but I'm realistic. I think they'll win between 86 and 89 games, and finish behind the Loser Red Sox. They'll get the Wild Card, though. 

While the rotation is not the greatest, the team really didn't lose much from the 2010 squad, which won 95 games and was two wins shy of a World Series berth.

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