Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Transformation of the Yankee Fan - A Renewed Sense of Optimism

In the 2008 offseason, the New York Yankees biggest offseason acquisition was LaTroy Hawkins.

Think of how up in arms Yankee fans would have been if someone told you that 5 years ago (even when LaTroy was in his prime).

There has never been a more upbeat, positive time to be a Yankee fan than this Spring, even as we watched the best pitcher in baseball get traded to the dump in Flushing for a bag of balls. Of course, this state of euphoria is mainly because after a winter of breath-holding over which young guy we had invested so much time and energy in tracking was heading off to the Twins for Johan, we can finally exhale. The big three are still donning the Pinstripes.

Now it is Spring Training '08, just a few months removed from the latest disaster of a postseason run for the team suddenly stricken with a dose of playoff failures only the Braves of the 1990s can relate to. The team is mostly the same, and most of the stars are a year older and possibly at the peak of their prime or slightly over the hill. One of the most legendary Yankee skippers of all time was shoved out the door and taking naps on the bench image out in SoCal. The bullpen is flawed at best. Still, never has there been such fan optimism surrounding a Yankee team, at least not that I can remember.

Most of it has to do with the infusion of youth that the team has seen over the past couple of years, coupled with the anointment of Joe Girardi to oversee the bunch. Guys making in the hundreds of thousands are suddenly heroes in the eyes of adoring fans while the multi-millionaires on the roster are somehow fading into the background.

I just find it amazing how different this Spring Training feels as a fan than any other one I can remember. I have no doubt the team will be good, but I am basing a lot of that on how great the offense projects to be, especially with some key contributors playing for contracts, respect and playing time.

However, I keep on having to remind myself that when it comes to winning World Championship #27 what will elevate this team to contender as opposed to pretender is the pitching staff. The offense will be there, but can the pitching improve upon pitching to a nearly 5 ERA in the second half of last year? These young guys all project to be solid to great major league pitchers, but they are babies and they need to be watched over closely.

The pundits in the media are doubting the Yankees and suddenly criticizing them for making their biggest offseason acquisition LaTroy Hawkins, all the while quietly predicting a third place finish. The fans of the Yankees are lauding Brian Cashman for preserving the youth movement and are expecting big things - maybe even a championship.

I believe everyone can agree on one thing - the 2008 New York Yankees will be a fun ride.

editors note: mirrored Yankee logo on your fitted is straight gangster
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