All off season all we heard was how the Yankees needed to improve. The #1 priority was centerfield, #2 was bullpen. With all of the Yankees troubles last season, the slow start, the losing streaks, getting beat up by the D-Rays, Bernie, Pavano, Wright, Giambi (the Sultan of Shot), etc, somehow they did manage to win 95 games. 95! 95 wins WITH Bernie in CF. 95 wins WITH no middle relief. 95 wins WITH Darrell May, Melkie, Bubba and Tony Womak.
To me, if the Yankees had to start 2006 with Bernie in CF they'd be fine. If they had to go into 2006 with last years pen, they'd be done. Thus, I think all the fuss over Bernie was over blown. Don't get me wrong, I like getting Johnny D, the Yankee Clipped, but bullpen was where I thought the priority was.
I think the Yankees fixed the bullpen. I NEVER liked Gordon and I think he'll stink as Philly's closer. I was hoping the Yanks would start breaking in someone to be the successor to Mo. Just like they did with Mo and Wetteland. I thought Proctor was that guy, but it seems he's going to be a starter again.
It all comes down to the starters. Unit: He'll be fine, 18 wins, lots of K's and he'll be out there every 5th day trying to avenge last year. Mussina: I can't stand this guy. Never liked him. He's a head case. He was STILL complaining about the Japan trip this spring! He stayed in his room and only emerged when he had to for the team. What a whack-job. That and a gimpy elbow, 12 wins. Wang: To me he's the #2. If he's healthy he'll go at least 15 wins. Chacon: He almost has the same make-up as Wang. Just like they used to say about Dan Marino...cooler than the other side of the pillow. He'll go 15+ wins too. Now the #5. Right now it's Wright. If he stays healthy. No confidence in him at all. Same for pansy-assed Pavano. These 2 together MIGHT win 12, but I'm being generous. Before seasons end, Small will be the #5 and there will be another mid season pick up for the pen. Farnsworth and Meyers will be fine and Mo is Mo, but the Yanks must start the process of grooming a successor.
Line up is fine. Any order works. They will hit and score runs. Torre says they hope to rely less on the HR this year. Thats easy to say, but when 1 through 9 are all capable of hitting 20+, its easy to fall back on relying on the 3 run upper decker.
The best off season move was signing Brian Cashman. Cashman is the right man to transition the Yankees into the approaching post-George era.
My prediction: The Yankees have improved. I think Bostons pitching is highly suspect, Toronto has improved, Baltimore is in a slide and the Devil Rays are stagnant.
1st place 95-67.
AL Central: Chi, Cleve and the Twinx. Chicago is the team to beat. They have it all. The Indians will make noise again and thats about it.
AL West: LAA, Sea, Oak. Oakland is SOOO overrated it makes me sick. But they are in a no-lose situation. If they win its great they did it with a 60 mil payroll. If they lose its OK, its the Yankees fault! As for Texas, Buck and his over managing will be co-hosting Baseball Tonight by seasons end.
NL East: Atl, Phl, NYM. Until someone knocks off the Braves they have to be the pick. Philly could make a run, but Gordon will kill it. The Mets pitching will implode, they are a .500 team at best.
NL Central: StL, Mil, Hou. The Brew Crew will be the surprise team of '06. In Houston, it could be over by the time Roger returns and count on Andy's annual trip to the DL.
NL West: LAD, SF, SD. LA is improved, SF will be too distracted by all that comes with Barroid. I like Lance Neikro as R.O.Y. for '06. SD, Arz and the Rox will just be filling out the schedule.