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February 09, 2007

Yankees Bloggers Predict This Season's Big Story

If the Yankees get off to a good start this season, and avoid any major team slumps, I believe that everyday, for the most part, this year in Yankeeland will be puppy dogs and rainbows. But, I also have this feeling that, should the Yankees get off to a sluggish start over the first part of the season, we could be looking at an ugly triangle of pinstriped drama (UTOPD) - with Joe Torre at the top of it.

We know that Derek Jeter loves Joe Torre and vice versa. We know that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are not the best of friends these days. And, there's evidence that suggests Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez are not raving fans of each other - after last season.

If the Yankees get off to a slow start, and Torre is in the hot-seat/cross-hairs, it's not unreasonable to expect Jeter to say things in defense of Torre - and for A-Rod to say nothing (or worse). If this happens, it's not going to help the Torre-Rodriguez relationship or the wall between Jeter and Rodriguez. And, the frostier that things get between Joe and Alex, and Derek and Alex, the hotter the media will turn up the flames under all of them. And, the hotter the media heat, the more likely it (meaning the UTOPD) could turn out to be the biggest story for the Yankees this season.

Wondering if any other Yankees devotees had predictions on what will be the biggest story in Yankeeland this season, I reached out to a few other Yankees bloggers. This is what they shared:

LoHud Yankees Blog -

The biggest story over the course of the season will be the fate of Joe Torre. He could retire, get fired or get an extension. The Yankees haven't won it all in a while but given the competition and other challenges, Torre is arguably the best manager the Yanks have ever had.

Pinstripes Potentials -

If the Yankees allow it, the biggest story of this year will be the rise of Phil Hughes. I never believed that the media would underrate a Yankee prospect, but Hughes is. He is the best pitcher that we have seen in the minors since Mark Prior. The Yankees are going to try and limit his work load, but I would be shocked if an uninjured Hughes does not win a spot in the rotation by July. If the Yankees limit his workload early, he will be our ace in the playoffs. He might just our version of the 2003 Marlins' Josh Beckett.

High and Tight -

Were I to be one to make predictions (and I am) I'd say the biggest Yankees story of 2007 will revolve around the pitching rotation - who's in, who's out. Roger Clemens will of course dominate the press again in the "will he or won't he and if so, where" department, and Phil Hughes is going to be knocking on the door all season. The performances of Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano - if good - could make the situation interesting. I believe the issue will come to a head right before the trading deadline, and expect the Yankees to make a bold move and trade away at least one of their camp-breaking starters and a few prospects to clear up the situation.

Canyon of Heroes -

The biggest story in Yankeeland 2007, right? Off the top of my head, I think it would be Roger Clemens if he comes back. Hmmmm....here goes.

If someone twisted my arm today, and I think a few people out there would love the chance at that, I'd talk about the reunion of Clemens and Pettitte as the biggest story of 2007. But, I'm not going there. I'd also look to the debut of Phil Hughes as a huge story, if it indeed happens. I'm not going there either. I'm going to go out on a limb, just a little, with my biggest story of 2007. I'm going to predict the emergence of Robinson Cano as a legitimate superstar. I know it's not a new idea, and I'm not the only one that is floating this out there, but I'm going to go with it strong from the beginning. Last season, in the midst of his powerful finish, I pro-rated Cano's 2006 numbers to 162 games and showed people the eerie similarity to Donnie Baseball's season at 23 years old. I could be way off base, but I'm still going to cling to hope and announce that Robinson Cano will revisit the kind of success that Mattingly had in pinstripes. He may not reach 40 homers or 140 RBIs in his career, but 30 and 110+ is possible. So, the biggest story of 2007 from Canyon of Heroes is the explosion of "Robbie Baseball".

Yanksfan vs Soxfan

Will Clemens return? Will Bernie retire? Will Pavano play? Will Igawa thrive? Will there be October glory? Will Torre re-up? There are a million stories in this big city, but only one subject is likely to dominate the tabs throughout the season: A-Rod! A-Rod! A-Rod! Tired of it yet?

Yanked Foul -

Once again, the big story in Yankeeland will be Alex Rodriguez. Sure, the spring will be all about Bernie. And there will be constant Clemens coverage until he signs somewhere in May. But between the possibility of him opting out of his contract after the season, how he comes back after being demoted to 8th in the lineup in last year's ALDS, what he does if/when the Yanks go back to the playoffs, and all the fun stuff in between; A-Rod will be our version of T.O. He'll be constantly dissected and over-analyzed in the papers, on the Net, on talk radio and the TV round-table shows. Even if he puts up another .320/.420/.610 season, it won't matter unless he's big in October. One thing's for sure, it won't be a boring ride.

No Sense Worrying -

Biggest story huh? There's so many potential big stories this year: A-Rod (of course), Igawa, Andy's homecoming, Roger's possible return, etc., etc. But I'm going with Pavano. And I'm going out on a limb and predict he will have a positive contribution to the club this year. I'm not expecting anything brilliant, but enough to earn respect back from his teammates and enough to get some wins at the back of the rotation. Why? I don't know, just a feeling I guess. I'm not one to backup my predictions with facts and figures. But I'm calling a Pavano comeback. And feel free to flame me when he dislocates his shoulder opening a jar of pickles. But if he comes through I will reserve the right to say "I told you so".

Yanks and More -

The 2007 season in Yankeeland will no doubt be eventful as always. Some of the big stories of next year will no doubt include the return of the fragile Carl Pavano, the potential retirement of Bernie Williams, the American debut of Kei Igawa, the impressive progress in the youth movement, exemplified by Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Canó and Melky Cabrera, and the rebuilt farm system, featuring pitchers galore and teenage phenom Jose Tabata. While I am optimistic about Pavano returning to form than most and looking forward to seeing the next step in the youth movement, as a Yankee blogger who reads all the stories the media has about the Yankees, I can't ignore what will be the biggest story of the 2007 season: Alex Rodriguez. I'm as tired of hearing about A-Rod as you are, but nonetheless, he WILL be the focus of intense media and fan scrutiny throughout the season. With his enormous contract, Alex will continue to be under pressure, and will be criticized every time he does not come through in the clutch. If he gets off to a slow start, expect the boos to rain down mercilessly and trade talk to begin circulating the blogosphere. Like Peyton Manning (until this past [Super Bowl], that is), he will be criticized for being the best player in the game but failing to deliver a championship to his team. However, for all the criticism A-Rod has taken, he has the weapon to strike back at the fans who have mistreated him: his contract. Agent Scott Boras (AKA Satan) negotiated an opt-out clause in A-Rod's contract for after 2007, similar to the one JD Drew (another Boras client) used to leave the Dodgers and receive a larger contract from Boston. While A-Rod is unlikely to find more money elsewhere, he could leave and go to a less pressure-filled environment. While A-Rod has said he wants to stay in New York, he (and Boras) can use this opt-out clause as a threat to extort a massive contract extension from the Yankees. I hope the fans this season treat A-Rod like he deserves to be treated, with the respect one of the all-time greats merits. I think if the fans get off his back, he has the potential to have another MVP-caliber year, and lead the Yankees to the World Series. Only if this happens will he be able to life the heavy burden of expectation from his shoulders, and become a "True Yankee".

The Stat Boy of the Empire: B(rent) -

Let's see... it kills me to say this, it feels redundant, it feels cliché, it feels like deja vu, but the biggest story in Yankeeland that can trump the story of the return of Andy Pettitte, the 19 games with the Red Sox, the Matsuzaka/Igawa debuts, and the possible rise of Philip Hughes to the majors is the saga that is Alex Rodriguez, especially as he potentially appears in his 4th postseason as a Yankee, and as he approaches and passes the former benchmark for Hall of Fame status: 500 HRs. The fact that the New York media and ESPN can't let go of Alex for one second plays a major part in making him the biggest story for next year. Talks of his opt out option in 2008, signing for his 2nd written children's story, and attending Pauly Shore's birthday party already flood the sports news in a relatively slow sports news week. Imagine the news on A-Rod when he gets closer to 500 towards the end of September.

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog -

I think the big story of the year is going to be Alex Rodriguez. Will he rebound from a down year last year, and will he perform in the playoffs if the Yankees get there? On top of that, there's now the opt-out drama. If he ends up having a great season, will he opt-out for more money at the end of it? If he ends up having a bad season, will he opt-out for a change of scenery? The media is going to play this up all season, to the point where it's going to be really tiresome.

I think he's going to end up opting out, and take less yearly salary in exchange for a longer committment. He'll get it from someone too. It'll then be interesting to see if the people who have wanted him dumped from the team turn around and criticize him for leaving. I'm sure they will.

Secondary story is going to be the debut of Philip Hughes whenever it happens. He will be hailed as the next Seaver/Clemens and every pitch he throws will be scrutinized. He'll put up an ERA of around 4 and be considered a disappointment by many, which would be ridiculous.

Bronx Banter -

Alex Rodriguez is sure to be the media story of the year. I used to think that life after Steinbrenner would be a much larger story than what the team will look like post-Torre, but it seems as if the transition to the world without George is already taken place. Perhaps that won't be as huge as I once thought. But for me, the thing that is most on my mind is: Will Mariano Rivera still perform at an elite level? Along with Jorge Posada, Rivera's contract expries at the end of the year. He's now 37, and though he seems to be as fit as ever, I can't help but wonder when a great thing is due to end. He's past proving himself. He's a Hall of Famer. More than that, it's difficult to imagine Rivera in a decline phase, similar to the one that Bernie has experienced over the past few years. He belongs in a higher league. Perhaps he'll be very good once again. But who knows? Anyhow, it's the thing I worry about most.

Inside The Stadium -

Just one story, eh, Steve? It seems that every year the Yankees are a running soap opera of story lines because there are a ton of All-Stars and a ton of reporters looking for new stories. Bashing A-Rod sells papers...as do his four-home run games. George Steinbrenner and his health...the inevitable cry to bring back Bernie Williams when an outfielder goes on the 15-day DL...Jeter loves/hates A-Rod...A-Rod goes for a bike ride before a game, explaining his 0-4 night...

Interestingly, there is a condensed field of Yankees as a good part of the team speaks little to no English. Matsui will always have a ton of Japanese coverage but very little American press because tv and radio want a player's own answers, not a translator's. Cano, Melky and Wang do their own interviews, but their English is way too broken or softly spoken due to their uncertainty. In the case of Wang, the answers are very short: 'yes', 'no', 'good', 'bad'...but God bless him for trying.

Anyway, to get to the point, my pick for story of the year is Joe Torre trying to get one last ring before riding off into the sunset. The sub-plot will be the grooming of Don Mattingly and the possible spoiler which is Joe Girardi. It will be a fond farewell to the Godfather of the modern Yankee dynasty.

That's it. Some say Torre, others say Hughes, and there's talk of Pavano and even Cano. Yet, the topic that comes up the most is A-Rod. Whether it's fair or not, the dude sure is a lightning, pardon the pun, rod, huh?

Thanks to my fellow Yankees bloggers for their input on this one!
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Posted by Steve Lombardi at February 9, 2007 10:59 AM

Comments

I agree, Steve. It's going to be ARod 24x7. If only Anna Nicole had waited till the position players reported to spring training then that would have supplanted ARod from the headlines. I can only hope for another celebrity sex tape, unexpected death of someone more famous than ARod, controversy hits the White House (but this time it sticks), or an astronaut gone batty will work too.

Maybe the pictures that Isiah Thomas has of Steve Dolan with the naked little boys will probably surface in the next few weeks, otherwise, we'll only have ARod to look forward to in NY and across the country. Come on Zeek, drop the bomb on them. As of right now though, every media outlet will be fixated on the Rod.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 11:22 AM

I'm already sick of hearing about A-Rod and spring training hasn't even started yet. More than anything else, THIS is why I wanted them to trade him in the off-season. I just want the Yankees to be a baseball team again -- not the set of a high-school drama. Can you ever remember the team being talked about like this? Back in the day people didn't like each other and didn't get along, but they brawled. This is all so childish. "Does Jeter like A-Rod?" "Does A-Rod feel bad because Jeter doesn't accept him?" "How does the scorn of (father) Torre toward (son) A-Rod make A-Rod feel, and how much hostility does it engender in him because of Torre's love for (preferred son) Jeter?" Let's just dress them up and act out some Shakespearean family drama and have done with it. Jeez...

Honestly, the Jeter/A-Rod thing has been beaten to death, but the more important relationship is between A-Rod and Torre. Don't think for a second A-Rod wasn't humiliated and enraged when Torre dumped the entire post-season failure on A-Rod and -- amazingly -- dropped him to eighth in the lineup. For all of Torre's managerial bunglings, that still remains his worst moment in pinstripes. It was a desperate, horrible, seemingly spontaneous and ass-saving move and it blew up in his face and he looked terrible because of it. I wouldn't blame A-Rod if he hated Torre for it.

A-Rod says he forgives, but I don't think he can forgive that.

The one thing we can hope for is that this drives A-Rod on to great things. The anger of that moment might propel him into a good year at the plate. Hopefully SOMETHING will shake him from this phony nice-guy fugue he was in last year.

And as for the original intent of this post: the stories this year, after A-Rod, will all be about pitching: Hughes, Clemens, the return of Andy, what Wang does, Pavano, Igawa, re-signing Mo, Farnsworth in his second year, Proctor coming back after 100 innings of bullpen abuse, what Bruney, Beam and Britton do, Cox potentially getting a callup... All pitching all the time. But what else is new?

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 12:35 PM

~~~I'm already sick of hearing about A-Rod and spring training hasn't even started yet. More than anything else, THIS is why I wanted them to trade him in the off-season. I just want the Yankees to be a baseball team again -- not the set of a high-school drama. Can you ever remember the team being talked about like this? ~~~

Big ditto on that.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 12:47 PM

Can you ever remember the team being talked about like this?
================
I would suspect the Yanks of the late 70's; George vs. everyone, Billy-Reggie, Reggie-Thurman, to name but a few.

But what can I say? The general public's full of morons who take their cue from the daily rags. Don't believe me? Look how much coverage Anna Nicole's getting...

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 02:02 PM

I would suspect the Yanks of the late 70's; George vs. everyone, Billy-Reggie, Reggie-Thurman, to name but a few.
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That's why I wrote "Back in the day people didn't like each other and didn't get along, but they brawled." When those guys didn't like each other, they didn't pout in the corner -- they let it be known with a loud voice and I'm sure on occasion a few punches were thrown.

Nowadays the tabloids blow these things into melodramas and it's frankly annoying.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 02:39 PM

Nowadays the tabloids blow these things into melodramas and it's frankly annoying.

----

The word that sticks out for me is "tabloids". How about blogs, periodicals (online and print), commenter's on various blogs, ESPN, SNY, NESN, YES, FOX Sports, etc, etc, all have a hand in blowing this thing into a huge melodrama?

And you aren't innocent in any of this, so you shouldn't throw stones and blame others or at least be so quick. You are a part of this entire vitriolic process, whether you choose to believe it or not. Whether it be going off on Torre, being pissed that Bernie's on the team, going off on Miguel Cairo's OBP or lack thereof, etc. You aren't doing a lot to make anything harmonious, and especially not for your favorite target Joe Torre, so you shouldn't sit back and blame others when we all have a hand in the "melodrama".

The ARod episode is crazy, but you can't sit here and compare it to the Yankees of the 1970's because if they were around today they probably wouldn't win one championship, and I don't think they'd even win the division. When you consider the amount of information going around and at the lightening speed information gets transferred, then there is no chance those Yankee teams would have survived in today's environment so comparing then to what's going on now is not an apples-to-apples comparison. It just does not apply.

Billy got a lot of grief for not batting Reggie clean-up, at least not till after the '77 all-star break, what do you think the media attention would have been now? It would have been an even bigger circus, especially when you consider the national media, the local media, and Japanese media. So please, let's not embellish at how those late 70 Yankee teams would have been different today. Because all things being equal, they would have crumbled in today's world.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 03:29 PM

Because all things being equal, they would have crumbled in today's world.
==========
Maybe, maybe not. To use an example, for all the drama that went on this past season, the Yanks had the best record in the league.

Of course you can compare the ARod saga to the Bronx Zoo; matter of fact, you could say that the coverage of Rodriguez is much more savage than the "zoo" days. It's disgusting the way he was treated last year in the papers. It's pathetic that the man can't release a children's book without it blowing up into a brouhaha.

I hope he opts out of his contract, and winds up with a team that appreciates his talent. I haven't seen this kind of treatment of a player since Rickey was here.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 03:52 PM

Raf - Of course it's much more savage than the "zoo" days. That's my point, back then it was like club-med as far as the media is concerned, especially if you compare it to today's media. There is no way that a story of Billy pulling Reggie from RF, in the middle of a game nonetheless and a game against Boston and at Fenway, would not be bigger than Torre batting ARod 8th. That would be a f'ing circus in today's world.

I don't think anyone can honestly say that comparing the 77, 78, and 79 Yankee teams to the Yankees of now and all the way back to 2004 (when ARod joined) is a fair and accurate comparison when you consider today's media (every facet).

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 04:06 PM

"I hope he opts out of his contract, and winds up with a team that appreciates his talent."

I don't. Because the boo birds and pseudo-pundits who despise A-Rod will always have something nasty to say about him, regardless of whether he stays or goes. Very few of them will say, "Hey, you know - I never realized how great A-Rod was until he left. Maybe we were wrong about him after all." No. They'll say he's a greedy, gutless coward for opting out.

At any rate, I'd rather have the best 3rd-baseman in the AL than whatever Plan B would entail.

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 9, 2007 04:12 PM


My Baseball Bias
www.mybaseballbias.com

A-Rod will be the biggest story this season. Plain and simple. He'll not only be the biggest story of the New York Yankees in 2007, he may dominate the headlines for all of baseball. In my opinion, his season will be followed closer than Barry Bonds. Every hit, every error and every sneeze that comes from him will be dissected at a level we haven't seen in a long time. Questions about his performance, his relationships with teammates, what he eats, even down to how much he sleeps the night before a game will provide sportswriters with the type of juicy stories they can stir the pot with all season long. And it's a real shame. We are watching possibly the best player of our generation, in the prime of his career, and all the media wants to talk about is his "opt-out clause". Now just to be completely fair, A-Rod does bring a lot this media attention on himself. He needs to really work on his relationship with the writers too.

My hope is is that the Yankees get this straightened out during spring training. Derek Jeter needs to step up and support the guy that will play to his right for the next six months. Joe Torre needs to completely mend the fence between the two so there's no question about their relationship. And finally, A-Rod needs to stop trying to get everyone in the media to like him. If they start to push you Alex, push them back and watch them finally start to respect you. I believe if you do that, you'll be able to just go out and play baseball, finally bring the Yankees their 27th World Championship. Then, that will be the biggest story of the Yankees 2007 season.

Posted by: mybaseb1 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 11:51 AM