With Key Losses and Injuries on Offense, Yankees Need to Rely More on Pitching

Cue the annual Spring Training freakout by media people and fans alike regarding the 27-time World Champions, but this year it may actually be warranted.

Hyperbole or not, the New York Yankees head into the 2013 season with possibly their oldest and weakest roster in two decades. With the Detroit Tigers dismissing them from the postseason in previous two seasons, it may not be so crazy to make such statements.

Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers did little to improve the team in the winter, although pitchers Hiroki Kuroda, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki agreed to return this season. They also brought in other veterans like former Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis and Indians DH Travis Hafner, and Matt Diaz.

However, they lost 45 home runs from two starting position players, catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Nick Swisher. They also lost important bench pieces in Eric Chavez and playoff hero Raul Ibanez. Rafael Soriano, who replaced Rivera as closer after the ACL accident in Kansas City in May, also bolted.

Worst of all, much maligned superstar Alex Rodriguez underwent surgery on his hip and will be out until July. Like him or not, he still has some power and baseball ability left if he ever gets healthy. Also, the Yankees have lost center fielder Curtis Granderson until at least May to a forearm fracture. Granderson hit 84 HRs and drove in 225 men in the previous two seasons.

Going into Opening Day, the Yankees will be missing six players who hit 141 of the Yankees’ MLB leading 245 home runs last season. There will also be a blackhole at catcher and in the outfield as Brett Gardner takes over center for Granderson. That is absolutely significant and concerning if you’re a Yankee fan.

The lineup for Opening Day will look something like this:

C: Competition between Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli

1B: Mark Teixeira

2B: Robinson Cano

3B: Youkilis

SS: Derek Jeter

LF: Up for grabs at the moment

CF: Gardner

RF: Ichiro

Is all hope gone? Absolutely not. This may be an old team, but there is still talent and experience on the Yankees’ side. The AL East is very wide open, all teams with their strengths and weaknesses.

For a very long time, the Yankees have relied on high octane offense to win ball games. This year is a different story, and they may have to live and die by pitching instead of the home run ball this year. It’s not exactly a bad thing, either.

Most of all, the pitching staff is strong, very strong. It is perhaps the most underrated in the game. Their rotation pitched well down the stretch last year and in the playoffs as well. Here’s what it may look like this year:

#1. LHP CC Sabathia

#2. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

#3. LHP Andy Pettitte

#4. RHP Phil Hughes

#5. RHP Ivan Nova or RHP David Phelps

Despite playing in the home run haven at Yankee Stadium, New York’s staff ranked fifth in the AL in ERA and ERA+. Yankees starters ranked 6th in the AL in ERA despite injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte as numerous starts by Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova, both with ERAs over five.

As long as Sabathia is healthy he should have no problem posting his consistent numbers, carrying the usual massive innings load, or delivering close to 20 wins. He’s still clearly one of the greatest and most consistent starters in all of baseball.

Despite their age, seasoned veterans Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda will be able to anchor the middle of this rotation. Kuroda made a successful transition to the American League East last year and pitched masterfully down the stretch. Pettitte was knocked out for months after an ankle injury in June but was still able to pitch very well in his return to the majors.

Then we got the back end of the rotation, where the Yankees have quite a few options, all young. Phil Hughes battled inconsistencies all year but managed to put up a solid 16 win/191 innings campaign. His back injury this spring will give Nova and David Phelps a chance to make their cases to start. Michael Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season, could be back in the summer as insurance for just about anyone in the rotation.

Just about any team in the league would want this amount of depth and potential in their rotation. Just depends on the health of Sabathia and Pettitte and hope Kuroda can still handle the AL East well.

Next there is the bullpen, which is usually among the elite in the majors. Any team losing their closer may go down in flames, especially if he’s as good as Mariano Rivera. Despite losing him to a torn knee in May, the Yankees still ranked in the middle of the back in reliever ERA. Rivera’s return should be enough to make up for losing Rafael Soriano. David Robertson is as good as any set-up man in baseball. The staff could also receive a boost from full seasons from Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma.

It remains to be seen whether a team that has long relied on high powered offense can be able to switch to a team that can play small ball and run prevention in order to win close, low-scoring games, something the Yankees have struggled to do for the past couple of years.

The talent and experience is there, so there is still more than a chance for these Bronx Bombers this year. Don’t abandon all hope just yet, Yankee Universe.

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Commissioner Bud Selig Must Take the Fall After Baseball’s Latest Doping Scandal

Performance enhancement drug and steroid usage has been a prevalent issue in sports for a long time, but no sport has been ravaged by it than baseball.

Now, cheating has been unfortunately been apart of the game since the beginning. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle may have used early forms of steroids derived from animals. Gaylord Perry made a Hall of Fame career out of the use of the now illegal spitball. Hank Aaron and his contemporaries from the 1950s to the 1970s used amphetamines (known as “greenies”) extensively.

But the level of cheating caused by steroids like testosterone and other modern PEDs makes all of that insignificant. Since the 1980s, PEDs have been everywhere you look in Major League Baseball, and they still are even today.

PEDs are still a problem; apparent with the news breaking about this man Anthony Bosch supposedly supplying notable MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Gio Gonzalez, and Melky Cabrera down in Miami.

Despite MLB’s attempts to place drug tests and suspensions for offenders, doping is still very rampant as more forms of PEDs are introduced to the underground of baseball as more players attempt to get around the system.

Why?

The answer is simple: MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig have never done enough to get drugs out of the game. The NFL, NBA, NHL, Olympic Committee and NCAA all have had little problems with doping in their respective sports. Almost all of them have simple tests for most drugs and hand out suspensions, fines, or even bans.

Selig turned a blind eye to PED use throughout the 90s, ignorantly celebrated Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds as they cheated their way to breaking historical records. They all ignored warnings of detrimental effects of PEDs from people like Lyle Alzado until it was too late, and doping was everywhere in the early 2000s.

Selig did not act on this drug culture in his sport until he faced pressure from Congress. He enacted band-aid policies for drug testing for some forms of steroids, but not human growth hormone (HGH).

He hired former Senate Majority Leader and Boston Red Sox director George Mitchell to launch an investigation which now seems obsolete, as many previously un-named players, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Alex Rodriguez were all named in an anonymous drug test from 2003.

After that until now, it seemed the drug culture was starting to decay, as more and more types of drugs became testable and offense declined. Then in 2011 one of the game’s biggest stars, Ryan Braun was found to have failed a drug test but then got off on a technical when he tried to prove that his test sample was tampered with by a FedEx guy.

It’s pretty clear that beating Selig’s broken drug testing system is not as hard as it is in the NFL or Olympic Committee.

Now, these revelations of this Miami cartel set up by this Anthony Bosch character linked to several MLB stars previously mentioned have come out, which prove that doping is still a cancer in our sport.

It’s pretty clear that when it comes to dealing with drug use in the sport, Bud Selig has failed in his 22 year tenure as commissioner of Major League Baseball. The sport needs someone who is more aggressive in dealing with this problem before it gets worse yet again.

Selig has done some very good things in his time as commissioner. He has expanded the game to places like Phoenix, Florida, and Washington, D.C. He has expanded the playoff system that now allows 10 teams a chance at the World Series. But his greatest and most damning failure has been dealing with steroids

MLB needs a new commissioner who will go to the distance to get as much of the doping culture out of the sport as possible. It needs someone who will not let liars like Ryan Braun get away with their crimes untouched.

It needs someone who will work with the United States government to get scum like Anthony Bosch from funding the cheaters in the game. It needs someone who will go down hard on these cheaters like other sports leagues and organizations

It’s time for Bud Selig to go, and baseball needs someone who will save it from itself.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony Are Proving They Can Play Together and Win

Ever since one of the biggest trades in recent NBA history went down in February of 2011, there have been questions regarding the on court relationship between the centerpiece of that trade, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar’e Stoudemire, who came to the New York Knicks in the summer of 2010 knowing neither LeBron James orDwyane Wade would join him on Broadway.

In his first season in New York, Stoudemire carried a young, inexperienced Knicks squad to relevance, but owner James Dolan decided it wasn’t enough, trading much of the roster for Anthony, a Brooklyn native. For the rest of that season of much of the next, the Knicks struggled before finally parting ways with Mike D’Antoni.

Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks went on a tear to end the season, with Anthony carrying the load with Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler after Stoudemire missed some weeks with an injury.

In the playoffs, the Knicks were torched in Miami in the first two games, causing Stoudemire to infamously smash the grass of a fire extinguisher container, cutting his hand and forcing him to miss Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks, led by Anthony yet again, were able to salvage Game 4 before finally being eliminated in Game 5, raising questions whether he, Chandler, and an injury plagued Stoudemire could win on a consistent basis together.

In the offseason, Stoudemire received some training from the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon, who’s battles with Patrick Ewing denied New York City the NBA championship along with the Stanley Cup in 1994. Amar’e looked as if his defensive skills were improving and his offensive prowess.

Going into the 2012-13 NBA season, Stoudemire suffered a serious knee injury that would keep him out for two months. However, the Knicks did just fine without him, slotting Anthony at power forward and went 21-9 in November and December.

During the Knicks’ successful run in the first two months, there were constant questions from the media over how Stoudemire would fit in with Mike Woodson’s system with Anthony and Chandler, as the Knicks were playing some outstanding offense and defense and STAT’s defensive abilities were always criticized.

Many suggested that Amar’e should come off the bench, and should be willing to. Luckily, he’s been a good soldier and accepted becoming a featured bench player.

Those questions were made more prevalent as the Knicks started 2013 just 2-4, with losses at home to nemeses Boston and Chicago and tough battles to Portland andIndiana. Stoudemire looked the same as last year, taking bad shots and playing poor defense.

Since then, he and the Knicks started to figure it out, as Amar’e has played much better defense and his offense looks better than ever, shooting .659 from the field and averaging almost 17 points a game. Overall, Amar’e is averaging 13.9 PPG in less than 23 minutes a game, shooting .584 from the field and .808 from the free throw line. He

So far, advanced metrics suggest that trio of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler has been indeed working this season. With all three on the court, the Knicks have an offensive efficiency of 118.5 and a defensive efficiency of 99.7. Also, the Knicks shoot .487 with the three on and the opposition shoots .436.

I think this all but proves that the problem the first two years was not Amar’e and Melo, but the coaching. Mike D’Antoni was a bad fit for the Knicks when he was here, and he’s being even more exposed for the fraudulent coach that he is.

Mike Woodson has made this Knick roster work since taking over for the Pringles Man last March, and has turned the Knicks into championship contenders, especially now that he has one of the most complete teams in the NBA.

None of this could have happened if Amar’e wasn’t a good soldier agreed to take a bench assignment. Over night, he’s also turned the Knicks’ second unit of him, Steve Novak, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni, and Chris Copeland into one of the deadliest in the league.

So far, it’s clear that Melo and Amar’e work together well now that they have the coaching, and one has to wonder how far they can take this Knicks team that’s already 1st in the Atlantic, 2nd in the East and has already proven they can hang with the Miami Heat.

Perhaps they can take this team to its first championship in 40 years? It really seems as if the sky’s the limit right now.