The question facing the 2005 New York Yankees is not will the make the playoffs but will they vanquish the demons from last years historic collapse in the ALCS against Boston and once again represent the American League in the World Series.
Here is a look at the good, the bad and the questions facing the 2005 Bronx Bombers.
Randy Johnson: Johnson is coming off a 16-14 with a poor Arizona team with and an ERA of 2.60. With the hitting the Yankees have donâ€™t be surprised if Johnson wins 20 plus and adds a sixth Cy Young award to his Hall of Fame Numbers.
The Bats: Once again loaded for bear. Look for A-Rod to rebound from last yearâ€™s â€œOff-Seasonâ€? 286 AVE 36 HRâ€™s and 106 Rbi and 28 stolen bases. Throw in Sheffield 36 HR and 121 RBI, Hideki Matsuiâ€™s 31Hrâ€™s and 108 Ribâ€™s and you can see that scoring runs will not be a problem.
The Bullpen: The Yankee bullpen, burned out by the time the post season came around last year, should be bolstered by the additions of Felix Rodriguez and the return of Mike Stanton.
Rodriguez a setup man for the Giants last year was 5-8 with an ERA of 3.29. He should be able to take some of the load off of Tom Gordon who after a very nice 2004 season in which he was 9-4 with a 2.21 ERA faltered badly in the playoffs.
Stanton returns after a two year exile across town to provide relief for Paul Quantrill. Stanton was 2-6 with a 3.16 ERA last year with the Mets and should be the guy who Torre will call upon to get the big lefty out late in the game.
Then of course there is Mariano Rivera. Rivera posted yet another great season going 4-2 with 53 saves and an ERA of 1.94 but showed some vulnerability in the ALCS blowing two saves against the Sox.
Kevin Brown: Can this guy please just go away ? Already complaining of back problems Brown was horrible last year going 10-6 on the mound. 0-1 against the Wall, and brought nothing to the table in the biggest game of the year against the Sox. Already complaining about reoccurring back problems Brown could be starting the season once again on the DL.
Outfield Depth: Bubba Crosby and Ruben Sierra ? With Bernie Williams coming towards the end of his career it looks like Crosby will be the man in Center when Bernie is getting rested. Crosby earned the job this spring hitting 320 with 2 doubles a triple and 2 hrâ€™s. Crosby can also steal you a base going 3-0 this spring.
1) Jason Giambi: 2004 was a disaster for Giambi who missed a big portion of the season due to various aliments and became a prime player in the Balco scandal. If Giambi struggles again in 2005 George Steinbrenner could be making calls to Howie Spira once again. While I donâ€™t expect to see the Giambi that was a regular 35-40 homer person if he can give you 25 hrâ€™s and 85 rbiâ€™s that would be a major plus
2) Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright: Will they continue to produce or will the bright lights and pressure of New York turn them into Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver or Esteban Loaiza? Pavano was 18-8 with Florida Marlins last season. and Wright was 15-8 with the Braves last season. It will be interesting to see how they respond to the intense glare of the New York spotlight.
3) Age: Is there a player on this team under 30. We have come the expect the usual numbers form the likes of Mariano, Johnson, Sheffield but sooner or later age catches up to you. If they produce as expected the Yanks will be fine. If not it could be no post season in the Bronx.
4) How does this group respond to the Great Collapse of 04 ? Does this team come out and steamroll everyone like they did in 98 following the loss to Cleveland in the ALCS in 97 or will the scars of 04 fester?
Overall: Enough talent to once again the make it to the post season but to bring the title back to its rightful place The Yankees are going to need for Pavano and Wright to have good years, stay healthy, and most importantly,
PUT THE PAST BEHIND YOU !!!!!
Prediction: The title comes back home and all is right in the world again as the Yankees beat the Astros in 6 games.