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Opening Day: A Microcosm of the Season

By Keith Cousin

Staff writer


I know what you’re thinking. It’s just one game. It’s no big deal. There’s 161 more chances to win. Who cares?


Here’s why it actually matters. The weaknesses the Yankees need to pay attention to surfaced in this opening contest with arch rival Boston. If the defending Champs want to contend in the very strong American League East, they will have to address these mild concerns (not many, so don’t worry).


My big issue is Nick Johnson in the two-spot of the batting order. On Opening Day, he was hitless in three attempts with two walks and a strikeout. In my opinion, he needs to be moved down in the order. Sure, he has a good on-base percentage. Hey, that’s not what batting 2nd is all about. It’s about making good contact, moving runners over, and having speed to beat out a hit, bunt your way on, or maybe even steal a base. So, what’s the appeal for having the oft-injured, very slow, Nick Johnson batting second in the lineup? I don’t know. Put him in a place that will utilize his supposed power (the right field fence of the New Yankee Stadium will help). Luckily, the Yanks have two guys who would be excellent in the spot: Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson. Even Randy Winn would be better. My first Yankee prediction, Johnson will bat much lower (7th or 8th in the order) in two weeks.


The other dilemma: the late-inning bullpen situation. Last year, the Yanks had a great setup. Phil Coke and Phil Hughes would take over the pitching duties in the 7th and 8th innings and reliably get the game to Mariano’s trusted hand to close the door. Now, Hughes has been named the fifth starter, Coke has been traded, and Joba Chamberlain has been sent to the bullpen with no clearly defined role. Who will be the guys for late inning duty? Joba? Chan Ho Park? Damaso Marte? No way. Manager Joe Girardi needs to clean up this mess. My next prediction: Phil Hughes will go back to the pen and dominate the 8th inning. Why mess with last year’s success?


There you have it, my first predictions of the young baseball season. Fortunately for the Yankees, there’s plenty of time to fix these holes. As long as Girardi doesn’t do anything foolish (like overwork CC Sabathia on Opening Day, oh, he already did that), the Bronx Bombers should be primed for another title run.

6 comments:

  1. I think the whole bullpen thing will take a while to figure out, I would have liked to have seen them go out and get a true 8th inning guy this off-season to clear up the confusion that we could all see coming. I think Brett Gardner should slide up to the 2 spot, I agree with you on Nick Johnson needing to move down. You really can't be counted on to advance a runner by walking, and like you said his speed doesn't exactly keep him out of double plays.

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  2. "Sure, he has a good on-base percentage. Hey, that’s not what batting 2nd is all about."

    According to Joe Girardi, a good OBP is EXACTLY what batting 2nd is all about.

    http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2010/03/ny_yankees_manager_joe_girardi_12.html

    It's not much of a prediction to say that we'll see another player in the 2-spot eventually. Even with the ideal #2 candidate, managers will often shuffle players around based on matchups vs pitchers, how hot/cold an individual player is, etc. If this is your big issue with the Yankees, then I think you're in for a great season.

    The bullpen will work itself out eventually. This is also not a big deal at the moment. I think Joba can dominate as an 8th inning man. He's done it before. The bullpen is a constant work in progress throughout the season. Middle relievers/inning eaters will be jostled and moved around until the right combination is found. But it certainly can't be found after only 9 innings of baseball. We need to give the bullpen pitchers time to define their roles.

    The first game of the year is in no way a microcosm for the entire season. The team you see right now will be quite different from the team you see in October in terms of chemistry, personnel, etc. Game 1 of 162 is way too early to start diagnosing problems.

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  3. Come on now, we are fans it is never to early to start diagnosing problems.

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  4. I am inclined to agree with Richard. It is far to early to start diagnosing the "problems" of the Yanks. It was only the first game.

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  5. Hey, thanks to all for reading my article and posting comments. All opinions are welcome and I do appreciate it. The more posts you leave, the more I learn, the better I can do my job.

    Thanks again.

    Keith

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  6. Well the Yankees got the win today and Joba pitched the 8th which I think we will see a lot of this year. For those who didn't see it he faced Beltre and Drew and struck them both out, not so bad. It is to early to tell on Johnson in the two hole for sure but he does have one heck of an interesting line after two games avg. .000 obp .500.
    The coolest thing of the day is that the Yankees now became the first team in US pro sports to have three players play together for 16 years, that is so cool there isn't even words for it.

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