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:
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?