What's it like to root for a team that has all of the money in the world? I have no idea whatsoever. The Yankees fans over at Pinstripe Alley are much more familiar with that feeling. With the Orioles set to play the Yankees for three games starting tonight, I asked my Yankees blog-running counterpart Tanya Bondurant to answer a few questions and enlighten us here in Birdland about this week's opponent.
1. Through Saturday's game, the Yankees lineup had five regulars batting below the Mendoza line: Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, and Mark Teixeira, although Teixeira at least has a pair of homers. Of course it's early, but do any of these guys in particular worry you with these slow starts?
Tanya: I'd say that Carlos Beltran and Stephen Drew worry me the most, Headley worries me the least, and Teixeira and Gregorius fall somewhere in the middle. I'm of the opinion that Beltran may very well be done, but he's welcome to prove me wrong if he wishes. Drew has obviously not been as bad for his career as he was last season, which most people attributed to a lack of spring training, but I don't have a ton of faith that he is going to be doing much of anything offensively.
Hopefully second base prospect Rob Refsnyder pushes him out of the way by mid-summer. I'm not sure what to expect from Teixeira at this point in his career, aside from a decent amount of home runs. Hopefully his triple slash manages to look a bit more respectable than it did last season now that he is more removed from the wrist injury.
2. Once through the starting rotation is early to start passing judgments on pitchers too, but a shaky spring on top of a rough start can still be concerning to fans of the team. Where are your feelings about Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia?
Tanya: I thought that Tanaka looked better in his Sunday Night Baseball performance against the Red Sox than he did on Opening Day. Granted, his control was still kind of spotty. Seeing him keep a strong lineup in check did give me some additional hope that wasn't there last week. Hopefully he can let go a little more and trust his elbow, as much as one can while knowing that their UCL is partially torn.
As for Sabathia, I basically don't expect anything. He's fallen into a pattern of one disastrous inning here and there while looking okay the rest of the time. It's hard to imagine his knees holding up over the course of an entire season, especially with the weight he's added again, but at least his velocity is a little closer to where it needs to be to get out big league hitters.
3. The Yankees bullpen has a bunch of new faces to go along with holdover Dellin Betances. Last year's unit was 8th of 15 AL teams in bullpen ERA with a 3.70. Is this bunch going to do better than the last?
Tanya: The bullpen could be even better than last year's group, which is really exciting. Adding Andrew Miller as sort of a co-closer certainly helps for matchup purposes, and Chasen Shreve has really, really impressed me since coming over from the Braves this offseason. The team has subbed out a few of their less reliable relievers for ones that pack a big punch. David Carpenter and Justin Wilson have also been pretty impressive. The weak link is probably Esmil Rogers, but not a lot of teams have the luxury of their mop up guy being anything to write home about anyway.
4. With only one regular younger than 30 and three players in their age 35 or higher seasons, the Yankees stand out as an old team. As more and more focus around the game is put on defense as part of run prevention, how do you feel that these guys will be able to keep up with that?
Tanya: NOT GREAT, BOB. They have really thrown the ball around to start the season, but I can't imagine that will continue all season. Chase Headley is a great defender at third base, Gregorius is above average at shortstop, and Teixeira should still be able to pick it at first. Brian McCann is also highly regarded for his pitch framing behind the plate. I'm not totally sold on Stephen Drew's reputation as a strong defender at shortstop seamlessly carrying over to second base, however. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are also fantastic defenders in the outfield.
That being said, Alex Rodriguez playing first base was an adventure and a half and Carlos Beltran sometimes seems to need a Rascal scooter to get around in right field. The bulk of the defense should be good, but I have no doubt that there will be some ugliness from the senior citizens along the way.
5. Where does non-insane Yankees fan opinion fall on Alex Rodriguez? Are people hoping he'll go away? Do you want to see him get those $6 million home run milestone payments that the Yankees organization are reportedly going to try to get out of paying him?
Tanya: I think the non-insane opinion on A-Rod will always depend on how he's performing. He had a great spring training, was on his best behavior, and has managed to carry his hot-hitting over into the regular season so far. That's going to have the bulk of non-insane Yankee fans on his side. There are going to be people who will never be on his side, but helping the team win should go a long way toward warming up at least those who fall in the middle.
I'm not in the business of saving the Steinbrenners money for their sixth yacht or whatever new statue of their father they want to put up somewhere, so I'm perfectly fine with Rodriguez collecting his milestone bonus money. I hope he hits all the dingers, personally.
So there are some thoughts from the other side. How worried are YOU about facing the Yankees both this week and this season? Do you think the O's can stay ahead of this division rival?