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By: Joel DiTata

With the start of the season upon us, the New York Yankees still have a variety of questions that are still unanswered. The health of Alex Rodriquez and his replacement in Cody Ransom, the health of the starting pitching, and of course the instability in the bullpen – all are questionable at best.

Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady, and Brett Gardner. Those aren’t exactly the names you would like to see in the lineup with a team whose payroll is well over the $200 million mark – let alone the $441 million spent in the offseason.

Perhaps the largest question is within the Opening Day starters in the outfield. This is an outfield that consists of an aging 36-year-old center fielder converted to a left fielder due to lack of arm strength and a lost step, a 31-year-old right fielder who finally had his breakout season after being bounced around for seven years in the big leagues, and an unproven center fielder who has the pressure of succeeding “now or never” on the most historic franchise in sports.

Don’t get me wrong all three are solid outfielders, just not $200 million payroll caliber outfielders. Damon who was almost written off after a poor 2007 campaign came back with a substantial year to hit over .300 and to have an on base percentage of .375. Nady had the best year of his career last season with the first half being spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest with the Yankees. The X-Man set career highs in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, walks, OBP, and batting average. Gardner as a late season call-up to take over for the abysmal Melky Cabrera, struggled but has the speed to be a real headache for teams at the bottom of the order, Gardner had 13 stolen bases in 42 games and two game winning hits for the Yankees in 2008.

The rest of the outfield rounds out with Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher. With Hideki Matsui coming off a serious knee injury, manager Joe Girardi has placed him as the team’s DH at least until interleague play begins. That leaves Cabrera and Swisher as the only two outfielders available. Cabrera who has been an excellent defensive center fielder has regressed over the past three seasons; he also had one of the worst OBP’s at .301 in all of baseball last season. The last option on the team would be Nick Swisher who can certainly give the Yankees some power options but is a career .244 hitter.

The lack of depth and consistency in the outfield can be subdued by the rest of their highly paid teammates. Hopefully they will be able to come up with those timely base hits and those inning ending double plays, something the 2008 team lacked which caused them to miss the post season for the first time since 1994.

With the opening of the new $1.5 billion stadium, new “toys” that cost the Yankees $441million during the offseason, and the pressure of “The Boss” looking down on it all -- it sure will be a season to remember – one way or another.

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