Bob Matthews of the Times-Union and Democrat and Chronicle offers his opinion on the 2010 Yankees:
If the Yankees don’t win at least 105 games this season, I’ll be surprised. They finished 103-59 last season and I believe this year’s team will be better. Here’s why:
Alex Rodriguez won’t miss the first six weeks of the season coming off hip surgery.
Curtis Granderson is a big upgrade in center field and Nick Johnson should adequately replace departed Hideki Matsui at DH.
Javier Vazquez should win at least 15 games as the No. 3 starting pitcher. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Vazquez, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes is an impressive starting rotation.
The bullpen could be surprisingly effective (Hughes or Chamberlain, Alfredo Aceves, David Robertson, Damaso Marte and Chad Gaudin, plus closer Mariano Rivera.)
I don’t believe Brett Gardner will be the heavy-duty left fielder. My guess is that free agent Johnny Damon will return. If he signs elsewhere, the Yankees will be looking for someone else other than Gardner.
I believe the 2010 Yankees have the potential to have a better pitching staff than the 1998 Yankees, but here’s why I don’t think they can win 114 games:
Boston and Tampa Bay are strong AL East rivals and figure to hold their own against the Yankees.
Age will become a factor sooner or later. Jorge Posada turns 39 on Aug. 17 and his days as a heavy-duty catcher are numbered. Derek Jeter turns 36 on June 26. That’s old for a shortstop. Rodriguez turns 35 on July 27. Rivera is 40.
If Gardner is the left fielder, I don’t believe he can match the production of 1998 left fielder Chad Curtis (.243, 21 doubles, 1 triple, 10 HRs, 56 RBI, 21 stolen bases).
The 1998 Yankees outscored opponents by 309 runs (965-656). The 2009 Yankees outscored opponents by 162 runs (915-753). I believe the run differential for the 2010 Yankees will be between +162 and +309.
Wow. That’s a big difference from what Matthews had to say about the Yankees four years ago.
Me? I still feel like 2009 was a magical season for the Yankees where just about everything went right. Whether that was due to luck, design, or whatever is open for debate – of course. But, I know that you cannot expect to match or better such a season – at least not in back-to-back fashion.
Will the Yankees win 95 games in 2010? Yes, I’m fairly certain of this – and if they don’t win that many games then something went very wrong in Yankeeland.
But, will New York win 103, 105 or 114 games in 2010? Well, that’s not something that I would bet on…how about you?