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2013 Preview: New York Yankees

Mar 26, 2013, 4:35 PM EST

Derel Jeter

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The New York Yankees.

The Big Question: Is the Jeter Dynasty over?

People used to predict the end of the Jeter/Rivera/whoever dynasty every year. Then they won another World Series in 2009. Then they resumed predicting the end of the dynasty. Then the Yankees won 95, 97 and 95 games and went to the playoffs a three more times. Now here we are back again.  If I had a dime for every time a New York columnist claimed that this is 1965 redux and that we’re in for a decade of the Yankees in the wilderness, well, with apologies to Slim Pickens for mangling his quote, I’d have a bunch of dimes.

This year, however, there is way more ammo for the doomsayers. Because of the front office’s seeming obsession to get the 2014 payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million, Brian Cashman was apparently constrained from signing or re-signing guys who would help the 2013 Yankees a lot.  Gone are Russell Martin and, in his place is, well, no one nearly as good as Russell Martin. Gone is Nick Swisher who woulda been nice to have as it was, but who would have been REALLY nice to have now that Mark Teixeira is injured. Gone is Eric Chavez who was pretty darn useful last year and would have helped cover for Alex Rodiguez’s extended absence.  And of course there are all of the injuries: Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson, Rodriguez. It’s kind of a mess at the moment.

Yet despite all of that I can’t bring myself to join the doomsayers.  Yes, it’s gonna be a tough year. Especially for the first couple of months as so much of the Bombers’ firepower is going to be on the shelf.  But what I said in the Blue Jays’ preview still holds true: there is no alpha team in the AL East. The Yankees, though diminished, are going to look a lot more like the Yankees come June than they seem now, and as long as no one has run away with the division or as long as the AL’s two wild card leaders aren’t themselves some 95-win juggernauts, you can’t count the Yankees out. You can never count them out, many of us have learned to our annoyance, because even when diminished they are talented.

I’ll believe the Jeter dynasty is over the moment Derek Jeter stops playing baseball. I’ll believe the Yankees are through being competitive the moment they end a season with, say, 80 losses and are surrounded by drama and strife.  Until then I’ll realize that this was a 95-win team last year and that they still have just as good a chance to come out of this division as anyone, even if the downside — Last place? A sub-.500 record? Armageddon? — seems a lot more likely this year than it has in any year since, oh, 1992 or so.

So what else is going on?

  • Part of the reason you can’t count the Yankees out is something that no one really talks about a lot lately: the pitching.  CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are a pretty good 1-2-3 punch. Yes there are questions — Pettitte and Kuroda have to age eventually and this year could be it — but it’s not hard to see those three pitching pretty well in 2013 either. The back end is a lot sketchier — David Phelps, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova are either injury or performance risks — but there isn’t a black hole here. The likes of Jonathan Sanchez and Aaron Cook aren’t walking in that door, thank God.
  • Also, while the offseason additions weren’t inspiring, there is certainly upside. Kevin Youkilis is not what he was but he’s still capable of a bounceback season. Travis Hafner‘s power from the left side is tailor made for Yankee Stadium. I don’t think that Ichiro Suzuki is gonna replicate his post-trade numbers from last season and the less said about the Vernon Wells acquisition the better, but it’s not like Brian Cashman sat in his office and looked at lolcats all winter.
  • Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter’s injuries get more press, but the Yankees need Curtis Granderson back before anyone. He didn’t look at lolcats all winter, but Brian Cashman’s outfield acquisitions make my head hurt. Wells, Brennan Boesch, Juan Rivera and Ben Francisco are no saviors. For the Yankees to have a punchers’ chance they need Granderson’s power back in the lineup and they need to limit their lineup holes to catcher and, until Mark Teixeira comes back, first base.
  • Mariano Rivera‘s last hurrah is going to be sad to see. We’ve been in the presence of greatness for many years and often took it for granted. I’m sure someone has figured out how many different dudes held full time closer jobs since Rivera took over ninth inning duties for the Yankees. The number has to be huge. The worst part about Rivera leaving, however, will come if the Yankees are out of it come September. Because you just know the wannabe Roger Angells who work for the tabloids are gonna pen the most hamfisted quasi-poetic tributes you’ve ever seen, equating the Yankees’ demise with the end of Rivera’s career.  Actually, I kinda want this to happen. Bad prose is awful, but truly wretched prose can be sublime in its own twisted way.

So how are they gonna do?

More AL East bet-hedging. I could see first place or last place or anyplace in between. For now let’s call them Third Place, American League East, but don’t give me any “ah-has!” if they’re in the playoffs again. Because I’m one of the few people not burying these guys at the moment, and could easily see them make the playoffs again.

  1. chacochicken - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    We’ve got Yankee Gloom and Doom…I like the Weekend at Bernie’s Season or as mentioned in another thread the New York Necromancers. Maybe this is the Gerald Ford Squad since damn near every player on the 25 man roster was born while he was president. Nearly all joking aside, you just can’t count them out what with their evil black magic and all.

    • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:54 PM

      I’m calling it DoomCondition 1.25 with the addition of Lyle/Bay.

      Doom, baby. Doom & Gloom.

      • bigharold - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:09 PM

        And yet we here on the bridge of the Death Star continue to scoff at your doom, .. with a small d.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:20 PM

        Oh, it will make me so sad if even your doom is small time. Use the big D.

      • cur68 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:36 PM

        D00000000M!

  2. El Bravo - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Let me just get this out of the way: “aha! they are in the playoffs again!”

  3. drewzducks - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    We’ll give Craig a mulligan now that the Overbay addition has been completed.

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      Overbay and Wells together again. Blue Jay fans know that that combination leads to Doom!

  4. asimonetti88 - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    “it’s not like Brian Cashman sat in his office and looked at lolcats all winter.”

    We don’t know that for sure.

  5. roverboy1949 - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    As a Red Sox fan who also has a Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra autograph, I hope the Yankees never die. I live for the competition we have seen over all these years. If the Sox win, great, but the games are what’s important. I “hate” the Yankees with all I have inside, but some of the greatest games I ever saw (many of them in person) were against the Bombers. Some things should never die, and this rivalry is one of them. Go RED SOX!

    • thebadguyswon - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      To everyone else besides fans of those two teams, that rivalry is boring as hell.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        Which rivalries do you like?

      • thebadguyswon - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:56 PM

        Rockies-Padres

      • American of African Descent - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:05 PM

        Here’s an idea. If you find the rivalry “boring as hell,” do something else with your time.

      • asimonetti88 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:53 PM

        I don’t like the Yankees or the Red Sox, and I certainly get tired of hearing about them constantly, but I would hardly call their rivalry boring as hell. They almost always play entertaining games because the players always bring it.

  6. thebadguyswon - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Its not doom. Be objective Yankees fans. It was the oldest roster in baseball last year and its older now. They’ve removed over 100 home runs from the lineup.

    Sure, they could make the playoffs if they stay healthy and everything bounces right. But its hard seeing this collection of players as more than an 85-win team.

    • yournuts - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      Ridiculous, never happen. Enough pitching this year. It was never about scoring runs, it was always about pitching, just ask the San Francisco Giants. I see another ALDS champ in the Yankees.

    • American of African Descent - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      The Yankees have a legitimate MVP threat in Robinson Cano, and a legitimate Cy Young candidate in CC Sabathia. While the Yankees may not win the World Series this year, they’re far from done.

      • spudchukar - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        CC Sabathia is not a legitimate Cy Young candidate. He isn’t even an illegitimate one.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        Third in fWAR, fifth in ERA (min 500 IP), 3rd in FIP (ditto), fourth in IP, second in wins (probably doesn’t matter anymore, but we’ll see), fourth in strikeouts in the AL over the past three years. But yeah, no chance at contending for the AL Cy Young.

        Right.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:53 PM

      But its hard seeing this collection of players as more than an 85-win team.

      Why is that? They have the pitching to match up with anyone in the division, and as Craig mentioned all of those guys will come back eventually (save Teixeira who could be headed for eventual surgery).

      • thebadguyswon - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:57 PM

        Well, one of us will be wrong in October. We’ll see.

    • munsonsgravity - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:43 AM

      Based on the injuries, age and lack of depth I would say the Yankees will top out at 74 wins. Maybe 76 with some luck.

      • thebadguyswon - Mar 27, 2013 at 4:11 AM

        I can see 84-78, in that range.

  7. buffalomafia - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    Whats up with the quick fix old guys?

    I bet George is flipping in his grave that his sons are f’n the Yanks up!

    • cackalackyank - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      yep…but they are gonna save a FORTUNE on that Luxury tax hit.

  8. albertmn - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    On the off chance that the Yankees totally bottom out and become sellers at the trade deadline, is there ANY chance they would trade Rivera? Would Rivera even be willing to pitch elsewhere for a chance at a ring, or would he rather stay a Yankee for life and not ok a trade?

    And, no, I’m not trying to troll the Yankee fans, as I expect they will still at least be on the fringe of the playoff race (or better), I just truly wonder what would happen if they drop out of the race.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      Honestly, depends on Mo. If he asks for a trade to a contender, I think Cashman would try to accommodate him. I guess it depends on whether he wants to finish as a Yankee or try to walk off as a World Series winner.

      • bobwheel - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        Mo will never ask to be traded to a contender. He has plenty of rings.

      • cackalackyank - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:58 PM

        Yeah I think if Mo wanted to play somewhere else he could have done that the last time his contract was up. I think the only reason he is playing at all this year is he wants to end on a high note as a YANKEE, not with a whimper in his road greys in the KC of shagging flies. Could the Yankees become sellers at the deadline? Yes.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:40 PM

      No, he’ll want to go down out in pinstripes. Otherwise, I would totally pee myself.

      • badintent - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:05 AM

        ah,no. Let the Red Sox fans do that, Buckey Dent is in the house.

    • bigharold - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      ” .. is there ANY chance they would trade Rivera?”

      In my estimation, .. not a snowflakes chance in Hell. Nor do I thing Rivera would be stupid enough to accept that trade.

  9. spudchukar - Mar 26, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Hard to see how this team avoids the cellar. The Rays and Jays are markedly better, and the O’s and Sox could also improve. As if that weren’t enough to overcome, the opening day line-up isn’t even good for AAA.

    How far back will they be by June 1st? Most likely 10 games. And in a division without a weak sister that could be too much to overcome.

    Checking their schedule, they have a brutal April, a couple of favorable weeks in the 1st part of May, and then 6 more tough weeks leading to July.

    Personally, I believe their starting 5 is mediocre at best. Sure Sabathia, Pettitte, and Kuroda are solid but that is no lights out trio, and the #4 and #5 spots look ugly.

    Here is the likely opening day line-up, Gardner, Ichiro, Cano, Hafner, Youkilis, Wells, Rivera, Nunez, and Cervelli. Not to be confused with a murderers row.

    Even if all the available parts stay healthy, which is doubtful at their age, and perform admirably, which is really questionable especially Hafner/Youkilis/Wells/Rivera group, cause they haven’t done so recently, the Yankees would struggle to win more than they lose.

    This looks a lot more like an 80 win team than a 90 win team, and with the projected slow start, 70-75 may be the most they can reasonably expect.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:18 PM

      You’re drunk.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        Oh, honey, aren’t you by now?

      • spudchukar - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        Snappy repartee.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        I’m sorry, judging from you post I thought we’d exited the serious portion of the evening.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        But projecting best-case scenarios for four teams and a worst-case scenario for one isn’t going to go over well.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:48 PM

        ‘philliac, I may be disgusted by the scattershot way they’ve handled their offseason, and the injuries are concerning, but they still have a damn good rotation, and an even better bullpen. They still have one of the top three players in the AL. They should get a full year out of Brett Gardner, something they didn’t have last year. Granderson comes back after a month, and it’s not the sort of injury that tends to have lingering effects. Ichiro is somewhere between what he was at the end of the Mariner days and his hot two months with the Yankees, but with his defense that’s still a valuable player. The Yanks right now figure to be a low- to mid-80s win team. If things start breaking better, they contend for the division. If things get worse, then maybe they slide down below .500. But to say that 70-75 wins is the most they can reasonably expect is just plain wishcasting.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:52 PM

        Ok, well, we’ll see how the rematch goes next week.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:55 PM

        The Tigers could wipe the Yankees off the map and it wouldn’t mean they’re only a 70-win team, just like the Tigers sweeping the ALCS didn’t invalidate the Yanks’ 95-win season. I don’t expect it to be fun early, but let’s play some damn games already.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:08 PM

        Yeah, sorry, it’s not like it will be a real rematch anyway. Maybe later when you have your injured players all back…

    • bobwheel - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      Are you serious?

    • bigharold - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:44 PM

      “Hard to see how this team avoids the cellar.”

      Apparently you aren’t seeing very well then.

      “Rays and Jays are markedly better'”

      How so? The Rays still have a pretty good rotation but their lineup got weaker than last years anemic lineup. The Jays added players, Bautista should be healthy all season and they do have a better manager but it’s also an unproven team. Before ANYBODY could say they have made up 22 games on the Yankees they need to prove it.

      “.. O’s and Sox could also improve.”

      Really your lumping the O’s, who fought the Yankees to the end. with the RS that were done by the ASB??

      The O’s are a very good team, with a great manager and GM, but I don’t think anybody really suggesting that they’ll repeat their 2012 close game record? It was better than any team in over 100 years. The RS have issues that will likely make them a non-factor in the AL East this season.

      “Personally, I believe their starting 5 is mediocre at best.’

      Which says a lot of your understanding of pitching and that is not complimentary. They are as good a rotation as any in the AL East save, perhaps, the Rays. And, their pen is better than any other in the AL East. Pitching wise, the Yankees will be fine this year. They have established veterans as well up and coming pitchers and a surplus of starters. Most teams would be envious of that situation.

      The Yankees let a lot of HRs walk this off season but to a large extent it was unavoidable. The biggest loss was Swisher and, even though I’m a Swisher fan, frankly he wasn’t worth what he was asking for.

      All the Yankees need do is not let the AL East get away from them before their big bats come back. Since I doubt that a wild card will come from the AL East it will be imperative that they win the division. But, every team in the AL East has flaws and there is NO clear cut favorite.

      If the Yankees get Jeter, Granderson, A-Rod and Teixeira back before the ASB without being 10+ games behind, they will be the team to beat. In the mean time, .. you are just another guy predicting/hoping it’s the Yankees time to implode. How’s that been working for you since 1993?

      • ryanrockzzz - Mar 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM

        This team reminds me a lot of the Phillies team of last year. Old and key players having current injuries to start the season. I like your optimism fo the Yanks, but they have gotten worse on paper while everyone else in the east has worked to get better on paper. That will make things even harder for them this year. If they can remain in contention until June/July and get some of the bats back, I can see them making a run. I just don’t see that happening this year though.

  10. Charles Gates - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    The bad Rivera prose come September will be preceded by the wretched writing in August regarding how the Yankees ease Pineada back into the mix via the bullpen and JobaJobaJobaMarianoJobaJobaJoba.

  11. mikefoxtrot - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    when Granderson, Tex and Jeter all get back, the Yankees are gonna have a heck of a bench to go along with a VERY good pitching staff

  12. moe0594 - Mar 26, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    Not sure where the Yankees are going to finish in 2013, but I believe Robinson Cano is going to have a MONSTER season!!!

  13. coryfor3 - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:10 AM

    Am I missing the point where Russell Martin became really good at baseball? If this is 5 years ago, losing Russell hurts. I am not sure why the world has found losing a barely .200 hitter to be such a loss.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:23 AM

      Because calling him a barely .200 hit misstates what he contributed. His power and patience made him roughly an average offensive catcher, and his defense, pitch framing and game-calling were all top notch. The Yankees will be far worse off with a couple of empty .230 hitters.

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