Oiling the Hinges for 2009

Two different articles, one from George A. King III of The New York Post and the other posted by Tyler Kepner at his “Bats” blog at The New York Times, convey optimism from GM Brian Cashman and hitting coach Kevin Long that the offense should be better from within.  King quotes Long as saying that Robinson Cano is working with a personal trainer to shed some weight, while Long has spent considerable time this off-season illustrating the importance of early-count patience to the second baseman.  I’m unsure what he’s conveying to Cano that didn’t take during the six-month season, but it might revolve around the additional weight of responsibility on him now that, in all likelihood, neither Giambi nor Abreu–both far more patient than Cano–are likely to return next season. From King:

“If he is going to be a third- or fifth-place hitter, which we need him to be, he has to learn about the strike zone and taking a lot more often than not,” Long said of Cano, who drew 26 walks last year. Only 11 players with at least 477 at-bats drew fewer walks than Cano.

I’m still not ready to put Cano in either of those spots since his plate discipline has been atrocious but, without Abreu and Giambi, expect Cano to be tried there at some point.  Right now, I’d rather see a healthy Matsui batting third, with Nady fifth and a healthy Posada sixth–and I’d settle for vice versa.  However, should Cano show some improved patience and given the likely holes left by Giambi and Abreu in the lineup, Cano could be in the top six, possibly higher. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Cano fifth to back up A-Rod and Nady sixth, which would also allow Girardi to construct a mixed lineup of lefties, righties, and switch hitters in Posada, Swisher and, if he ever gets his act together, Melky.  (I’m not holding my breath on that, honestly.  I’d slate Melky as the fourth outfielder behind Gardner.)  The Yanks want more from Cano and this is a real shot for him to mature as a hitter.  But I’m still uncertain that it will occur this season.  As of now, this would be the lineup I’d field, if all are healthy Opening Day:

  1. Damon LF
  2. Jeter SS
  3. Matsui DH
  4. A-Rod 3B
  5. Nady RF
  6. Posada C
  7. Cano 2B
  8. Swisher 1B
  9. Gardner CF

I still think Cano needs to earn hitting third or fifth.  He’s still young, he had a bad 2008, and needs to show the maturity to handle those vital spots without having them handed to him.  I am glad to see him showing an earnest commitment to off-season fitness, however.  It’s a good sign of maturity.

Kepner quotes Long as also asserting that the Yankees’ offense should be better from within since A-Rod was dealing with his divorce last season, and Cano was dealing with partying with Melky until all hours.  (Actually, that last part on Cano is from me and not Long but, given the concerns about Cano’s weight last season, I highly doubt that Long, Cashman, and others haven’t connected the dots on what helped cause that…)  With Posada and Matsui expected back and healthy, they feel that improving on the 789-run 2008 season, which was a drop-off of 179 runs from 2007, is likely.  It’s possible, but it’s also clear that much hinges on the healthy hinges of Posada (shoulder) and Matsui (knee)–not a given especially with their turning 38 and 35, respectively.  I’d love to see the Yankees’ offense rebound with a reinvigorated A-Rod (turning 34 next July) and Cano, and a healthy Posada, Matsui, and let’s not forget Jeter (turning 35 next June), leading the team to a 900-plus run season. However, given their respective ages and various injury issues, I’m starting to fear that should the Yankees enter 2009 with this lineup–filled with potential but fraught with peril–next season’s offense might at some point parallel last season’s starting pitching–injured and lacking an adequate contingency plan.

The team cannot afford to replicate that.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 10:27 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. that line-up looks like a waiting list for a nursing home. despite whatever cash is saying now he can’t possibly hope to win against boston and the rays with the geriatric set. they need a real bat to protect a-rod and that doesn’t sound like nady or jorge to me. tex should and may well be a top priority and perhaps they will trade nady and or damon while their value is at a premium. as much as i would love to see a top flight CF, maybe gardner should be given until the trade deadline to show what he’s got

  2. That’s funny about the nursing home, Mike. It is disturbing, especially since the Yankees still need a more solid bench. I share your concerns about a bat to protect A-Rod but, when Jorge was on in 2007, he did just fine. He could protect A-Rod even without the gaudy contract-year production (.338/.426/.543, 20 HR, 90 RBIs), but I’d prefer better numbers, say, from Teixeira. I’ll keep returning to him until he signs–with NY or elsewhere, preferably the former.

  3. I’ll add that I’m still concerned about replacing Abreu’s production in this lineup as it stands. I think Nady COULD have a good year sandwiched between A-Rod and a healthy Posada or even Cano. But except for his apparent desire for a multi-year deal, the guy to have, sans trade, is Abreu. I still believe the guy can produce and, while he’s not a very good right fielder any more, his arm is better than Nady. Nor is Nady that fleet of foot. Essentially, I’m not convinced that Nady is an upgrade in right defensively or offensively. It is one position in which I’m not sold that getting younger is getting better. Offensively, neither is first base with Swisher, who COULD thrive in a better Yankees lineup. Nady and Swisher could pick it up but, as I alluded above, there’s something about this team as it stands now that has a wing-and-prayer feel to it. I know the team wants to improve the arms first and I agree, but neglecting some real problems with the offense by standing pat might occur, or might exhibit some real blowback next season.

    Essentially, that the offense gives me the same feeling that the 2008 rotation did concerns me–possibilities versus problems.

  4. Hey, Jason …

    Yeah, the possible lineup that the Yankees braintrust envisions, is really a cause for concern for all Yankee fans. I am very concerned that the lineup [as it now stands] is just “not” as strong as it could be. The Yankees have plenty of money to sign any free-agents they want; and, as I have said many times since the “free-agent season” started, “The Yankees should pay whatever it takes to sign: Tex; CC; Abreu; and Pettitte.

    The lineup I would like to see on “Opening Day – 2009” is as follows …

    1. (CF) Damon
    2. (SS) Jeter
    3. (RF) Abreu
    4. (3B) A-Rod
    5. (1B) Teixeira
    6. (DH) Matsui
    7. (C) Posada
    8. (LF) Nady
    9. (2B) Cano

    The Yankees are much stronger with Teixeira and Abreu in the lineup; then, with Swisher and Gardner as part of the everyday lineup.

    The only area of concern I have with the above lineup is, I don’t think Johnny Damon is the best option in centerfield. But, I do think, there is enough playing time for: Damon, Matsui, Nady, and Gardner, in some sort of a rotation situation in (LF); (CF); and, (DH).

    We only get to play “General Manager” on our Bogs. So the real GM, Brian Cashman, gets to make these decisions. Hopefully, Hank and Hal, let the money “flow” this winter [like they said it would], and move Cashman in the direction of paying “whatever it takes” to sign: Tex; CC; Abreu; and, Pettitte !!!

    — Jimmy [27NYY]


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