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New York Yankees
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   Derek Jeter has played for four World Series championship teams in his first five seasons. Allsport/Al Bello

By CNNSI.com's James Quintong

Sure, the New York Yankees won their third consecutive World Series championship. But let's just say the road gets tougher each year. The Yanks pulled out several close games against the Mets in the World Series and barely escaped inspired challenges from the A's and Mariners in the American League playoffs.

While the Yankees emerged as the best team in baseball, they had just the fifth-best record in the American League and the ninth-best record in the majors. They ended the regular season with a seven-game losing streak, showing plenty of chinks in the armor. Plus, the Yankees showed they just weren't as deep as they used to be, especially in the bullpen and in the outfield.

So what did the Yankees do first in the offseason? Solidify their their strongest position -- starting pitching. The Yankees came away with a relative bargain, signing Mike Mussina to a six-year, $88.5 million deal. Mussina has been one of the most consistent pitchers over the past decade, even with his very deceptive 11-15 record last season. He now joins Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez as part of the best starting rotation in the baseball.

What's interesting with the Yankees is how they seem to cycle through a number of top pitchers in their rotation during their recent run of World Series titles. David Wells, David Cone, Jimmy Key, Denny Neagle are all pitchers who have run their course and won a ring in the Bronx. In fact, Pettitte is the only starter who has been on all four World Series teams.

 
Top Guns
Yankees 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Derek Jeter  .339 
HR  Bernie Williams  30 
RBIs  Bernie Williams  121 
SB  Derek Jeter  22 
Wins  Andy Pettitte  19 
ERA  Roger Clemens  3.70 
Ks  Roger Clemens  188 
Saves  Mariano Rivera  36 
 
Go Figure

3-15

The Yankees' record in their final 18 games during which they were outscored 94-21.
 
 

The rotation may need to work even harder as the Yankees lost veteran setup man Jeff Nelson to the Mariners. He and Mike Stanton were the two pitchers used most frequently to get to the nearly automatic Mariano Rivera, especially during the second half of the year when Ramiro Mendoza went down with a shoulder injury. Mendoza appears healthy and Stanton is still solid, otherwise there's no one in that pen to set up Rivera. That puts more pressure on the starters to stay longer and on Rivera to put in a few more two-inning saves.

On offense, the Bombers were amazingly consistent across the board, finishing sixth in the AL in home runs (205), batting average (.277), RBIs (833), stolen bases (99) and slugging percentage (.450). They were fifth in on-base percentage (.354). Those are decent numbers, helped in part by the midseason addition of David Justice, who added another big bat in the heart of the lineup and hit 20 homers after joining the Yankees.

However, Justice's health will be a question mark after coming off hernia surgery this winter. Furthermore, Paul O'Neill's age won't help his nagging injuries and Shane Spencer missed the second half of the season with a torn ACL. With not much bench help outside of Glenallen Hill, the Yankees may have to rely more on their younger stars.


Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
RHP  Brian Boehringer  Padres  Free Agency 
RHP  Matt Karchner  Cubs  Free Agency 
LHP  David Lee  Rockies  Trade  
RHP  Mike Mussina  Orioles  Free Agency 
Joe Oliver  Mariners  Free Agency 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
DH  Jose Canseco  Angels  Free Agency 
RHP  David Cone  Red Sox  Free Agency 
RHP  Jason Grimsley  TBA  Released 
OF  Roberto Kelly  Rockies  Free Agency 
LHP  Denny Neagle  Rockies  Free Agency 
RHP  Jeff Nelson  Mariners  Free Agency 
OF  Luis Polonia  TBA  Released 
RHP  Jay Tessmer  Rockies  Trade 
OF  Ryan Thompson  TBA  Released 
Chris Turner  TBA  Released 
INF  Jose Vizcaino  Astros  Free Agency 

Spring Cleaning
 
Chuck Knoblauch
  • Has Chuck Knoblauch solved his throwing problems and how much has it affected his hitting? He had career lows in RBIs (26) and steals (15) last season to go along with 15 errors. He's becoming a liability at both the plate and in the field. The Yankees lucked out in the World Series with some clutch hits by both Luis Sojo and Jose Vizcaino. They can't expect that all the time from Sojo. Knoblauch's problems may open a spot for either D'Angelo Jimenez or Alfonso Soriano.

  • Knoblauch's troubles aside, the Yankees are solid up the middle with Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter. The corners are another question. Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius are all declining at the plate and could be playing their final season with the Yankees. The left field/DH situation is up in the air with David Justice, Glenallen Hill and the returning Shane Spencer angling for spots.

  • The Yankees may have made noise by signing Mike Mussina as a free agent this offseason. This time, they have two of their own superstars that could be testing the market after the season. Supposedly, the Yankees are close to a long-term deal with Derek Jeter, this after George Steinbrenner nixed a seven-year, $118.5 million contract before last season. The same can't be said about closer Mariano Rivera. Dealings with Rivera's agent, Jim Bronner, haven't gone well. Currently, Rivera is looking for a four-year deal worth about $43-44 million while the Yankees stand firm with a three-year, $27 million offer.

  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    2B  Chuck Knoblauch  LHP  Andy Pettitte 
    SS  Derek Jeter  RHP  Roger Clemens 
    DH  David Justice  RHP  Mike Mussina 
    CF  Bernie Williams  RHP  Orlando Hernandez 
    1B  Tino Martinez  LHP  Randy Keisler/RHP Adrian Hernandez 
    RF  Paul O'Neill  Bullpen  
    Jorge Posada  RHP  Mariano Rivera (closer) 
    LF  Shane Spencer  RHP  Ramiro Mendoza 
    3B  Scott Brosius  LHP  Mike Stanton 
    Key Reserves   LHP  Allen Watson 
    OF/DH  Glenallen Hill  RHP  Brian Boehringer 
    OF/INF  Clay Bellinger  RHP  Dwight Gooden 
    INF  Alfonso Soriano  LHP  Ted Lilly 
    INF  Luis Sojo  LHP  Randy Choate 

    Prospects to Watch
  • RHP Adrian Hernandez -- There are reasons he's called "El Duquecito" -- he defected from Cuba, his last name is Hernandez (no relation to El Duque, though), he throws a number of pitches from different arm angles and he even has a similar pitching motion. Hernandez, 25, went 8-2 over three levels of the minors last season before a knee injury ended his season. He needs a little bit more command on his off-speed pitches, but he may be a prime candidate for the No. 5 spot.

  • 1B Nick Johnson -- A mysterious wrist injury kept him out of commission for all of 2000. Before that, he was the stud prospect after leading the Eastern League in hitting in 1999. He's a wizard at getting on base (he led the minors in walks in 1999) and was developing more of a power stroke. A lost of year of development may slow his timetable for overtaking Tino Martinez at first, but if he flourishes in Triple-A, he could be starting in 2002.

  • LHP Randy Keisler -- The Cubs coveted him in the aborted deal for Sammy Sosa, which may or may not say a lot about him. He made his major-league debut with a start at Fenway Park last September, shutting down the Red Sox over five innings before getting rocked in three relief appearances. He went a combined 14-5 with Norwich and Columbus last year, and could be a contender for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

  • INF Alfonso Soriano -- The Yankees' stud prospect for the past couple of seasons had a cup of coffee with the Bombers in 2000 and hit a couple of homers. However, he also showed his impatience at the plate (15 strikeouts and one walk in 50 at-bats). He's got the speed and the power to be star in the league but has yet to harness all the talent together. He may get a chance off the bench, or could even play third or left field. Otherwise, he makes for great trade bait.

  • Best-Case Scenario
    The Yankees' top four starters pitch to their best of their abilities to become the first staff since the Baltimore Orioles to have four 20-game winners. The potential is there, even if Mussina nor El Duque has won 20 games in their careers.

    Derek Jeter tries to outdo Alex Rodriguez and his $252 million contract by attempting to match A-Rod's 40-40 season. After falling way short of that goal by August, Jeter decides to trump him where it counts and leads the Yankees to yet another playoff series win over the Rangers.

    The Bronx Bombers live up to that reputation as Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez all get a sudden burst of power in their contract years. Shane Spencer regains the stroke that made him a sudden hero at the end of the '99 season.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    Chuck Knoblauch's throwing yips get worse, which prompts the Yankees to attempt to trade him away. Unfortunately the only players they could get in return were Steve Sax and Mackey Sasser.

    To help achieve "competitive balance" in the league, commissioner Bud Selig allocates general manager Brian Cashman to the Twins and forces the Yankees to hire George Costanza to replace him.

    In a fit of rage after flying out against the Devil Rays, Paul O'Neill inadvertently takes out three teammates and bench coach Don Zimmer.

    Bottom Line
    There are still plenty of questions about the age and depth of the team, but after winning three straight World Series titles, they have to be considered the favorites for the World Series again. They'll need to rely even more on their experience as a number of American League teams have beefed up to knock the Yankees off their roost.



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