Last night, the Detroit Tigers sent YOUR New York Yankees packing, with a 3-2 win in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series. But seriously, it is far too easy to panic. We had a good, nay, great team this year. And how many of you wouldn't sign up for a season in which the Red Sox fell on their face on the last day of the season?
There's a lot to look forward to next year. So I present to you, my hope for the 2012 Bronx Bombers:
1. Derek Jeter, SS
Is he the prototypical leadoff hitter? Is his range at shortstop declining faster than the time it will take you to stop reading this blog post? Will his hairline ever grow back? No, no, and I'm holding out hope that he discovers a cure. He may not be the perfect guy at this spot, but he will always be the perfect Yankee. Quite frankly, I'll let him play until he says he's ready to leave the game. Besides, he surprised everybody by hitting at a near .300 clip this year. We could do a lot worse.
2. Curtis Granderson, CF
What more can you say about the 2011 American League Mambino winner for MVP? Grandy Man Can led the majors in runs, was second in homers* to Joey Bats with 41, drove in a-buck-19 from the two-hole. An OPS of .916 was good enough, but after those full extension dives this week, I got WET. Love this guy.
*Both Curtis and Bautista would lose the homer battle to my bro KOBEsh. I'm still looking for that baseball.
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
Granderson's swing is so compact that he covers a lot of the plate. But Cano's is so...effortless. It is so fluid that people often mistake the guy for being lazy. He batted fifth for the vast majority of the year because Girardi had too much respect for Teixeira to switch them up. With Tex on board, I expect even better numbers from our franchise player.
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Listen, we all have different types of friends, right? Your best friends are those that you can relentlessly mock, without having fear of hurting their feelings. This dynamic doesn't apply to all of your friends. With some people, you dance around certain topics because those friends aren't ready to be weird with you yet, or maybe ever. A Yankee fan's best friend on the team is probably Mariano Rivera. He's been so dominant for such a long period of time, that a blown save every once in a while gets thrown under the rug. When he gives up a run, he knows we still love him. But A-Rod's not that type of guy with us. We shouldn't make fun of him for hooking up with a dinosaur, and we shouldn't make fun of him for kissing himself in the mirror. We haven't established enough of a relationship with him where it can get all kinds of awkward and have it be okay. So we shouldn't boo him. It makes him sad. Maybe we wish he didn't strike out with the bases loaded, but if we make him feel bad for it, he's just gonna strike out again next time. You wanna boo the team after Detroit celebrates on our turf? Fine. But booing A-Rod will not motivate him to do better. (A contract year will, but that's another story.)
Keep in mind that he played through injuries all year. He persevered, playing through them whenever possible. I'll take a healthy Alex batting cleanup next year. I won't be super stoked, but I ain't booing the guy.
5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
Tex's biggest problem this year was the defensive shift that teams used when he had to bat from the left side. One thing I noticed from last night's game was how calm his at-bat was in the 7th inning, with the bases loaded and after Rodriguez struck out. See, you can't shift so hard with men on base (does it seem like there's a "that's what she said" in there somewhere?). Here's hoping that hitting two spots lower in the order will put more men on base for Mark next year.
6. Jesus Montero, DH
The kid showed that he can hit, and I instantly forgave him for being lazy in AAA this year. A lot of fans will implore General Manager Brian Cashman to find better starting pitching this winter, and I guess I can't blame them. But the Yankees had a pretty good staff this year, even though they had to piece it together off of the street. To get good starting pitching, we will probably have to give this guy up. I say NO. I'm excited for a full year of at-bats for the Jesus.
7. Russell Martin, C
Of course we would all like Russ to be better offensively, but we should come to grips that there are very few studs at this position. It's far more important to have a backstop who can handle
A.J.'s hurt feelings the pitching staff, especially in the AL East. My hope is that Girardi gives Martin more days off next year, by sliding Jesus into the role at least once a week. This will also accomplish the objective of giving the older regulars "half-days" off, because the DH spot can rotate when Jesus wears the catcher's mitt.
8. Eduardo Nunez, RF
This is my did-he-just-say-that moment of the post. Here's the deal: I'm a BIG Nick Swisher guy. I love the energy. I love the Roll Call Salute. His tweets could be more entertaining, but we can work on that. Swish has a club option for 10.25 million next year. One can easily argue that most of the Yankees aren't worth their salary, and compared to those Yankees, Swisher is relatively cheap. The problem has more to do with finding Nunez at-bats next year. Although Nunez was the recipient of a Mambino cheap shot earlier this year, he showed great promise when A-Rod and Jeter went down. I'm a huge fan of homegrown talent, and while that may affect my objectivity, let's see what the kid can do. Swisher's power numbers should be replaced by Jesus anyway.
9. Brett Gardner, LF
I think Girardi's one big mistake this past series was pinch hitting Eric Chavez for Gardy in Game 2. Of COURSE Chavez struck out on 3 pitches. Gardner certainly has the least amount of pop in this lineup, but he's a decent hitter with a good batting eye. The sky's the limit if he can improve his performance against left-handed pitching.
1. CC Sabathia
It would be a wise business move to opt-out after Cliff Lee scored a megadeal last winter. Good thing the Steinbrenners are in the money-printing business. Many people wouldn't classify Carsten Charles as a top 5 starting pitcher, but he has been our ace for three years now. There is nobody, not even The Best Pitcher Alive Justin Verlander, who has been more of a workhorse. And while that may not bode well down the road, we can afford to give CC the world.
2. Ivan Nova
Well, we didn't lose because of SuperNova. The rookie showed enough cojones to pitch well all season. When he was demoted to the minors in favor of Phil Hughes, he didn't cry about it. He just got better. Even if there's an innings limit, Nova is without question the Yanks' 2nd best starter.
3. A.J. Burnett
For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.
4. Phil Hughes
So maybe he's not the elite flame thrower we thought he'd be. But through all the turmoil and the injuries, there were a few decent outings this year. Give him another shot and see what happens. If it blows up in our faces, we can always send Big Fat Bartolo Colon to Dr. Galea again.
5. Dellin Betances
He's ready, but he's not ready, according to baseball people whom I assume have constant nightmares wherein Tommy John reincarnate appears. The fifth starter can be skipped at various points of the season, due to off days, rainouts, and the like. We tried to baby Joba and Hughes, and we don't really have much to show for it. LET'S GO FOR IT this time.
The best in the game. A lot of the credit has to go to Girardi. He massages the bullpen workload better than any manager in baseball, and the numbers speak for themselves (led the AL with a 3.21 bullpen ERA). Tweak nothing.
In more exciting news, the NBA lockout is nearing a critical stage this weekend. Cross your fingers!