Don't count out the New York Yankees

Despite injuries and age, pitching and intangibles will keep Bombers in AL East race
03/22/2013 2:41 PM ET
By Chris Shearn

Joe Girardi will have to rely on the Yankees' pitching and guile to help them contend in 2013.(AP)
*Disclaimer: This article is opinion. This article has facts in it, but in no way are my opinions facts. You may now disagree with me all you want on Twitter.

Some people call me the Lighthouse of Hope. Some call me the gangster of calm. Some people call me baldy, because I speak of the pompatus of positivity.  That last sentence doesn't even make any sense. Just as much as 60 percent of the time, it works every time.

I know what you're saying. Where are you going with this? It's simple. You can't write off the New York Yankees before the season even starts. I grew up in these parts. The sky is always falling! Chicken Little is everywhere and he gets paid overtime in New York.

A perfect example is this year's version of the New York Knicks. Are they suffering from injuries? Are they old? Are they being held together with duct tape? The answer to all these questions is yes (well, the duct tape can't be confirmed). However, the team has reached 40 wins for just the second time in the last 12 years and everyone is pecking away at them like vultures on a fresh desert carcass. Last time I checked, they are a FIRST PLACE team and they are headed to the playoffs.

New York fans are very hard to please. They are extremely hard to keep happy and it seems the majority of them are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. How do I know so much? I'm one of you. I get it. Before you go ahead and think the Yankees' season is over before it begins, give me a chance to build a case for the 27-time World Champions. Are there injuries? Will they have fewer home runs in the lineup? Are they in an even tougher AL East than last year?  The answer to all these questions, of course, is yes.

I am well aware they will miss Mark Teixeira's bat as well as his glove at first. They will miss Curtis Granderson's bat in the middle of the lineup. If Derek Jeter starts on the DL, they will miss the captain.  These will all be ginormous obstacles to overcome. The one common denominator to the Yankees' success, despite all the injuries, is their starting pitching. The pitching is intact and needs to remain that way for most of the season for my positivity to be warranted.

The disclaimer said there would be facts in this article, so without any further ado, here is Joe Friday. Let me throw four words at you: The San Francisco Giants. The MLB World Champions two of the past three years. (*Sarcasm alert*) They did it with household names the past season. Guys like Brandon Crawford, Ryan Theriot, Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Eli Whiteside and Joaquin Arias. And who could forget Clay Hensley and Santiago Casilla. They hit a whopping 103 home runs and still managed to score an NL sixth-best 718 runs. I know they play in the National League and it's a different style of game. I know they play in a pitcher-friendly park as well, but you don't need an All-Star at every position to win a World Series championship.

As we all know, any dreams of a championship starts with pitching. You want pitching facts? You got it. Last year the Giants starters had 846 strikeouts and 322 walks. The Yankees, who will send the same five to the mound this season with the exception of Phil Hughes, tallied 840 K's to 253 walks. The Giants' team ERA was 3.68. The Yankees was 3.85. Also, everyone readying the coronation of the Toronto Blue Jays as World Series Champions, two-fifths of their rotation will be pitching against the AL East for an entire season for the first time in R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson.

Dickey started his career in the American League with the Rangers, but he was a conventional pitcher back then, not a knuckleballer. These two have great numbers in interleague play over the years. In 17 starts, Johnson has an 8-3 record with a 2.95 ERA and Dickey had great numbers against the AL in his three years with the Mets. The Knuckler was 7-0 with a 1.77 ERA. We all know the popular idiom familiarity breeds contempt.

Well, in baseball, familiarity can sometimes lead to the destruction of a somewhat indestructible pitcher. I am not in any way downplaying what the Blue Jays could have in Toronto this year. It could be a magical season for them. If history has taught you anything in baseball, the best teams aren't always the teams that win in the end. On paper, did anyone think the Yankees would lose a game when they got Alex Rodriguez in 2004? Did anyone think Mariano Rivera would blow Game 4 and the Boston Red Sox would win four straight on their way to their first title since 1918?

Oh by the way, the Yankees have a manager named Joe Girardi. The same Joe Girardi who won Manager of the Year back in 2006 with a young Florida Marlins team that wasn't expected to win near 78 games and they did. Yes he had a 23-year-old Miguel Cabrera, and a 22-year-old rookie named Hanley Ramirez, but he also had a lot of guys that knew their role and sacrificed for the greater good of the team. That on top of everything else will put you on the path to a winning season.

You can't write off the New York Yankees before the season even starts. I grew up in these parts. The sky is always falling! Chicken Little is everywhere and he gets paid overtime in New York.

You need those character guys, guys with heart.  I know the Yankees have that on this club. They have guys that want to win. They play the game to win. If you combine that with what the Giants have had on the mound in their championship seasons, which I believe the Yankees do this season, and you have a team that is still dangerous in a more competitive AL East.

You know, we live in a day and age where everything is measured in baseball by Sabermetrics. While I can't deny that parts of the number crunching have changed the game in a positive way, some things will never able to be measured by that collective abacus.  Heart, character, and guts. Along with the pitching staying healthy, I believe those immeasurable intangibles will have the Yankees in the thick of a playoff race in September.  

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