Feb
20

Yankees saying and doing all the right things

By

Is it just me, or has the first few days of Spring Training set the expectations for the Yankees rather high? Sure, many of us can see through the media spin on the events of the past week or so. But even at that point, we’re seeing players do things, rather than just saying them. It’s a careful balance that the Yankees have executed perfectly so far. And I have to say, it has me more excited about this season than I have been in any year I can remember — though I’m fairly certain I say that every year.

First, we heard about the pitchers who showed up early. Joba, Phil, and IPK in particular were there before they required to, which is always reassuring. We also heard about Shelley Duncan showing up to work on his first base skills with Tino Martinez. And, Cap’n Jetes was there early, too. But he resides in Tampa, so it only makes sense for him to be around.

Then we heard about Brian Bruney losing weight. Good news, for sure. If anything, it shows that he’s at least a bit motivated. It’s certainly better than him showing up in the same physical shape as last year, and spouting off lines about his determination to make the team. PeteAbe also noted that Mike Mussina checked in lighter, which spoke to his off-season conditioning. We also heard about Kyle Farnsworth being less bulky, but then it was revealed that he dealt with a rather nasty staph infection last month.

But the in-shape crew didn’t end there. We got word that Jason Giambi was in excellent shape. This is good news, as he hasn’t played a full, healthy season since 2003. Yes, it’s his contract year. But the team can obviously benefit from him being healthy.

Not to overly link to PeteAbe, but he also had a great bit on Phil Hughes and his impressive bullpen workout. This came with a great quote from Hughes: “It wasn’t until the playoffs when I felt complete confidence in my leg,” he said. “That was when I got my fastball back.” That makes us all feel better.

Ah, but then we had to deal with the Pettitte media frenzy. But I thought he handled himself very well at the press conference. He gave candid, honest answers to the questions which he could answer. Obviously, some topics were off-limits, as they have legal implications. There is still that pending defamation suit filed by Roger Clemens against Brian McNamee, so Pettitte was wise to deflect many questions that could have implications on that case.

Then we heard about Johnny Damon showing up in shape. This is huge, because his abysmal first half last year was largely attributed to his showing up out of shape to camp. Oh, and Abreu looks in shape, too, meaning we have two vets in the outfield who seem determined to play well this year, and a 23-year-old center fielder who should be more motivated than ever to prove his critics wrong.

We were treated to another Mike Mussina story yesterday by Bob Klapisch, which illustrated his determination this year. Mussina has the opportunity to really impact the Yanks this year, and it’s nice to see him saying and doing the right things.

And how about A-Rod, who, according to PeteAbe, “did a session with the television guys then the print and radio people. It was too short because he actually gave good answers.” That’s what you want to see from an A-Rod press conference. Short, to the point. We don’t need the media fawning over this guy all season.

Of course, things like A-Rod pledging his daughter to Andy Pettitte also just make you smile.

The craziest part is that I’m sure I missed things. It looks and sounds like everyone on the Yanks is ready for a stellar season. If they can keep it up all season, I can’t even imagine how good this team can be. If Giambi truly is in stellar shape — and stays that way — and can handle first, imagine this mashtastic lineup:

Damon
Jeter
Abreu
Arod
Giambi
Cano
Jorge
Matsui
Melky

You can comp that with any lineup in the league, including the Tigers and the Red Sox. And if Mussina truly is ready for this season, his presence will take a remarkable amount of pressure off the rookies. Furthermore, it will make the decision to start Joba in the pen a bit easier to stomach. And if Bruney and Farnsworth are really here to play, it will make Joba’s transition back to the rotation far smoother.

To say I’m excited about this season is the understatement of the decade. The players aren’t just saying the right things, they’re doing them. And Joe Girardi seems to be a tremendous influence on the players. The coaching staff seems to be on the ball, too (especially Tony Pena).

Yes, the feelings will inevitably start to dwindle when we see injuries start to crop up. No team makes it through Spring Training without at least a few bumps and bruises. But I hope we can look back to the beginning at that point and realize that even though one piece is damaged, the unit as a whole is still solid. You can draw an analogy to what Vincent Bugliosi says about circumstantial evidence: It’s not a chain, where one break can destroy the whole; it’s like a rope, where if one strand breaks, the unit remains strong.

So who else is excited as I am?

Categories : Spring Training
  • TurnTwo

    Absolutely, i’m right there with you…. and i cant figure out why this year is any different than last season, or the season before that…. but it just is.

    personally, i think the level of coverage has something to do with it; with reporters blogging regularly, to fan sites with new stories and insights… we never had a full day from the end of the playoffs to right now over the winter where i couldnt read 15 different stories or posts or opinions or trade rumors regarding the yankees, and baseball in general. it was fantastic.

  • Brian

    Torre, much as we love him, is gone, so roles aren’t pigeonholed, and Girardi is a much better guy/manager/motivator than is generally known. This is different because it’s truly a refreshing mix of new guys and old guys making the proper adjustments.

  • Brian

    One or three follow-ups: the Torre era was so charged with big picture thinking, playoff preparation, the ultimate goal, the penchant to never say die, etc. Obviously, we don’t want that to go away. However, the past three seasons (or more) have been testament to the notion that the Yankees shouldn’t have to recover from a bad start, while the Yankees are the Yankees and must stave off MAJOR CHANGES OR ELSE et al, true Spring Training, what ST is for, is intended to make things look easy for good teams, not enormously impossible over the course of an exhausting 162. So getting off to a nice start this year seems, dare I say, more likely?
    But mainly it’s the new guys injecting all the energy in the clubhouse and the future promise built in the rotation that has us pumped. If we knew last year that Shelley D. could have such a positive impact on the team, we would have used a few of his SWB HR’s to our advantage at a much earlier date.

  • Mike R.

    I am completely stoked for this season. I think there aren’t as many questions as last year. If one out of every 5 prospects pans out for the bullpen we should be in good shape and the bench looks to be stacked.

  • http://breakingballs.riveraveblues.com Tommy

    I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but I always find these perennial proclamations that players are “in shape” at the start of Spring Training to be a bit…incredible. Listed weights aren’t reliable and nobody but the team has players on a scale. Everybody has an incentive to tell those stories, from the journalists to the trainers, and nobody can verify them. That’s not to say the Yankees won’t be great, I just take news reports like those with a grain of salt.

    • mooks

      I’ve noticed that alot of the times, the guys who are saying they are in the best shape of their lives are either going into a contract year, or coming off a bad year.

      Notice Farnsworth, Giambi, and Abreau.

      Damon will have one more season to go.

  • http://www.samiamsports.blogspot.com samiamsports

    WOW Joeseph, you just got me so pumped

  • Guiseppe Franco

    I agree, JP. I’m as exited about this season as I have been about any season in a long time.

    Obviously, players coming to camp in shape doesn’t automatically translate to success. That said, success is much more likely to happen with players who are in shape as opposed to players who are not.

    Plus, lot’s of Yankees are playing for pride (Damon, Moose, Pettitte, and Matsui) and contracts (Farnsworth, Giambi, and Abreu) next season – which are usually strong motivational tools.

  • Rob_in_CT

    Of course… it seems like every year there are a rash of stories about how so-and-so is “in the best shape of his career” and how that means that, even at an advanced age, he’s gonna be great this year… and it almost never happens.

    I’ll be *thrilled* if Giambi is healthy and effective this year. And shocked. Damon would be less surprising, same for Abreu.

    Mussina… it’s all about his fastball. If he can get it up to 88+, he’ll do well. If not, he will struggle. Being in shape never hurts, though I can’t say that Mussina ever seemed out of shape in the past. I heard that he went through an arm strengthening program in the off-season “for the first time,” which, if true, gives one reason to hope for a better heater.

    Overall, it sounds like the team has gotten religion about fitness. That’s good (though it makes me wonder WTF was going on last year!).

    I’m really, really, really psyched for this season. For me it’s mostly about the young guys, though.

  • Manimal

    I think the real bad-ass, kick dirt on your shoes, spit in your face, point at the other dugout, yankees are back. Joe torre was too soft, and lets face it G.I. Joe is much harder on players which most of the time results in players excelling.

  • Rich

    Pat Riley has often said that when a coach (manager) has been in one place too long that the players tune him out. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to play for him, but that they loose their edge.

    Obviously, it’s very early, but it seems that Girardi’s presence could be restoring that edge.

  • Steve S

    I just cant wait for the season to start. I really want to see these kids make a fool out of some people.

  • dan

    Here’s a link for all you people who mention the absurdity of players who come into camp “in great shape.”

    http://lookoutlanding.com/stor.....161534/130

    It’s kinda funny. It’s like every single year, the average weight of the MLB player drops 10 pounds.

  • http://www.overheardinnewyork.com NC Saint

    Mostly great news, but I have a hard time getting excited about Bruney being in shape. Is losing weight supposed to help you find the strike zone? If not, I’d be happier to hear that he’d been prescribed glasses, a la Wild Thing.

  • http://everythingbaseball.wordpress.com Aaron

    Great writing. Catches everything that happened in the first week. I’m definitely getting excited!

  • AOP25

    I AM ALSO VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS SEASON. AS MUCH AS I LOVE JOE TORRE IT WAS TIME FOR A CHANGE. GIRADI IS THE PERFECT MAN FOR THE JOB. HE IS NONONSENCE, AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS TEAM NEEDS. CANT WAIT TO SEE THE YOUNG PITCHERS DEVELOP. I REALLY HOPE THE REGULARS STAY HEALTHY BECAUSE THIS LINEUP HEALTHY ALL YEAR IS SCARY!! I REALLY FEEL IT IS TIME FOR ROBINSON CANO TO MOVE TO THE THIRD SPOT IN THE ORDER, HE IS AN UP AND COMMING STAR. IT IS TIME TO PUT HIM IN THE BIG SPOT AND SEE WHAT HE CAN DO. HE HAS THE POWER TO HIT THERE AND I THINK HITTING IN FRONT OF A-ROD WILL REALLY HELP HIS GAME EXPLODE!!! THOUGHTS??

  • http://www.theshiningyankee.blogspot.com JGao

    This is a bit off topic, but I don’t know where to ask it.

    The Yankees have a few former all-stars about to come off the payroll next year, i.e. Abreu and Giambi, among other lesser players.

    Which of these free agents-to-be will be at least a Type B?
    Would the Yankees offer them arbitration – considering that the Braves didn’t offer it the Andruw Jones (I think)?

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