January 31, 2007

2007 Predictions: Read Them Now, Forget Them Later. Part II

Welcome to "2007 Predictions: Read Them Now, Forget Them Later. Part II". To continue, while fan favorite and proven winner Bernie Williams has been offered a minor league contract by the Yankees, and he's been invited to spring training. If he does not make the team, sources close to him in the February 1, 2007 edition of Newsday are quoted as saying that Bernie will most likely retire from baseball. A prediction? Don't expect him to disappear for too long. While this writer does not think that Bernie will sign with another team, he still has value to the Yankees organization. Look for Bernie to show up to future spring training camps as a special instructor. Maybe we'll see Bernie as a hitting coach for the Yankees one day. While his playing days are over, his baseball career most likely is not. One thing fans can certainly look forward to are more of Bernie's guitar CDs.

Look for Robinson Cano to continue flourish. This one is easy. The young second baseman spent six weeks on the DL for a pulled hamstring, and still came back to play enough games to be in contention for the batting title. Cano is s superb athlete with a big bat who exudes the kind of modest, confident, and good natured character that fans of the Bronx Bombers want to see in their favorite Yankees. Team Captain Derek Jeter is a perfect example and an excellent role model for the young Cano.

In this writer's opinion (and this is all speculation), the starting rotation for the 2007 Yankees should look like this: #1) Andy Pettite #2) Chin-Ming Wang #3) Mike Mussina #4) Kei Igawa #5) Carl Pavano. The returning Andy Petitte will find a challenger in Chin-Ming Wang for the title of Yankee's ace pitcher. The number one spot should go to Pettite due to his past success as a star in the Yankee's pitching rotation. Mike Mussina never seemed eager for the role of "ace", yet Mussina's presence in the rotation has always been formidable, with many memorable and important games pitched during his tenure in pinstripes. Mussina should have his best season as a Yankee yet with solid starters such as Pettite and Wang in front of him. Wang will continue to baffle batters with his heavy sinker and his slider and go deep into games. Look for Wang's name to be mentioned in the same sentence as Cy Young's. Kei Igawa is an unknown quantity, but should be skilled enough to fill in the number four spot in the rotation, barring any bouts with "New York-itis" which seems to affect many newcomers to Yankee Stadium (see Johnson, Randy and Brown, Kevin). Should Hideki Matsui be able to help introduce his fellow countryman to New York and the Yankees culture, this would be a huge bonus. Brian Cashman has plenty of young arms to flesh out the bottom of the rotation if things fall apart during the season, so the pressure on the team as a whole for Igawa to perform isn't dire. Carl Pavano? This writer predicts that he should be able to toss the ball 60 feet, 6 inches towards the plate. Whether or not he gets anyone out is another story. All of the above changes if, or when Roger Clemens dons pinstripes again this summer.

Jason Giambi will be no mystery in 2007. His role is simple: be the full time DH. We all know that Giambi's batting average is considerably lower when he doesn't play full time. But, his numerous ailments and his alleged steroid abuse (See: apology, non-specific) has reduced his stock significantly with the fans. While his batting average has fallen over the years, his ability to get on base has remained steady. In 2007, though, he'll be no mystery to pitcher's either. Having survived the last few seasons by drawing walks and getting hit by pitches, his bat has slowed down a bit; but, he makes noise every now and again with a monstrous home run. In '07, more pitcher's will challenge him instead of being careful and his on-base percentage should suffer as a result.

The first base platoon of Doug Mienkiewicz and either Andy Phillips or Josh Phelps (they will compete for the job in spring training) should work out fine. Yankees have been employing an unofficial platoon for the past couple of seasons with Giambi taking a part-time DH role. One would like to see a bonafide first baseman at the position. In this writer's opinion, Mienkiewicz would do well as the sole man at first; but the Yankees have their reasons for a platoon. If they run out and sign someone like Todd Helton since Boston's talks with the Rockies recently collapsed, then that just might be too greedy for the now frugal Yankees organization. Besides, any extra money they saved by letting go of Gary Sheffield, Jaret Wright, and Randy Johnson would be better spent on Roger Clemens

As of this writing, it is fourteen days until pitchers and catchers show up to spring training. One can hear the crack of a ball off the bat already. This is the last of my predictions for the 2007 season. Soon, this writer will be joining the throngs of die hard baseball fans in New York who writhe in agony after every defeat, and wallow in ecstasy after every victory. And that's just during the spring training games.

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