I exchanged questions with Neil Keefe of Keefe to the City, but I'm slow posting his answers. My answers to his questions are here.
What’s going on with CC Sabathia? Are Yankees’ fans resigned to the idea that he isn’t an Ace anymore?
CC Sabathia is no longer the CC Sabathia the Yankees signed before the 2009 season or the CC Sabathia they extended before the 2012 season. When Sabathia signed that extension (which will give him $23 million this season and next and then $25 million in 2016 with a $25 million vesting option in 2017), the Yankees had no choice with Sabathia's opt-out clause. The Yankees were coming off an ALDS loss, were losing Andy Pettitte, couldn't trust A.J. Burnett or Phil Hughes and if Sabathia opted out and signed elsewhere, the Yankees' rotation would have been Burnett and Hughes, an unknown in Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. It was the right move at the time even if the Yankees knew they would regret the end of the deal when Sabathia aged, I just don't think they expected to regret it as early as 2013.
I don't think CC Sabathia is done as long as he can learn to pitch like his old teammate Pettitte or his so-called best friend Cliff Lee. He can win with a 90-mph fastball and his offspeed stuff if he is locating, which he wasn't on Opening Day. But Sabathia is never good on Opening Day and has won just one of 11 career Opening Day starts with the Yankees and Indians (with a 6.12 ERA), and aside from the 2011 opener, he has been bad for the Yankees in the first game of the year.
Sabathia was no longer the ace as of last year when he kept trying to be a power pitcher as he was in somewhat of denial that he couldn't blow a fastball by someone to get out of trouble. There's a good chance that we will look back at how the rotation was set for this year (Sabathia-Kuroda-Nova-Tanaka-Pineda) and realize it was set backwards. I think the Yankees want and think that Masahiro Tanaka is the ace of the staff (and Michael Pineda could be right behind him), but they don't want to put that kind of pressure on their $155 million investment before he has even thrown a pitch in the majors.
Mark Teixeira played in 15 games last year. Is he healthy this year? Will he be a middle of the order hitter? (this was before Friday's game, Teixeira is now on the DL)
The Mark Teixeira contract is even more regrettable than the CC Sabathia one. Teixeira was great in 2009 and finished second in the AL MVP voting, but he has transformed into what Jason Giambi transformed into as a Yankee because of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium and because he won't hit the ball the other way and prevent shifts. Teixeira has also been a postseason disaster and actually much worse than A-Rod ever was in the playoffs, but because the Yankees won the World Series in Teixeira's first year with the team (and they won it because A-Rod single-handedly carried them), Teixeira hasn't had to deal with the pressure of a championship drought.
Joe Girardi stuck with Teixeira pre-2013 for too long in the middle of the order and had him hitting third despite Robinson Cano being the best hitter on the team. Teixeira has admitted his wrist will never be 100 percent again and last year foreshadowed that injuries will ruin the rest of his career (I wrote about it here: http://keefetothecity.com/breaking-down-mark-teixeiras-admission-to-breaking-down/). The absolute highest he belongs in the lineup is sixth, but for some reason Girardi still think it's 2009 and that Teixeira is suddenly going to be the player he was five years ago.
Who is your pick for Yankees’ MVP?
My pick for Yankees MVP is Brian McCann. Last year was such a disaster, especially at catcher, that you could pick anyone to be it, but I'm going with McCann because of the leadership qualities he presented in spring training, the fact that he is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball and will love hitting at Yankee Stadium and that he will be in charge of the pitching staff, which looks like the deepest the Yankees have had in a long, long time. I'm also picking him because if he isn't the MVP then that means he probably isn't healthy for an extended period of time and that means Francisco Cervelli had to play a significant role and that means the Yankees will have a similar finish in 2014 as they did in 2013.
Who plays the most shortstop this year? Jeter? Ryan? Someone else?
Derek Jeter. Well, it better be Derek Jeter. He has been the Yankees' starting shortstop since I was in fourth grade and I'm not ready to believe he won't be the shortstop next year or ever again. Next question, before I need some tissues.
How is our old friend Kelly Johnson doing? How much will he play?
I don't think anyone expected Kelly Johnson to be the starting third baseman of the New York Yankees, but he is, at least for now. I think Yangervis Solarte has the potential (he showed it in the third game of the season in Houston) to take over the role and relegate Johnson to the bench where he would probably be better suited. If Johnson can play well defensively, any offense he provides will be a bonus in this lineup. But if Johnson can hit 20 home runs (he can with his swing in Yankee Stadium), it will have been one of the better unexpected signings Brian Cashman has made.
Where do you expect the Yankees to finish?
I think the 2014 Yankees are in the same position as the 2013 Red Sox and have built a very similar roster. There is a lot of talent and a lot of questions, especially health-wise, but the Red Sox hit their massive parlay last year and everything went right and the same could happen for the Yankees this year. I love that everyone is picking the Red Sox after many people picked them to finish last in the division and be one of the worst teams in the league last year with the Rays also getting a lot of hype. This is good for the Yankees because it's allowing them to fly under the radar as much as it's possible for the Yankees to ever fly under the radar. I don't know if they will win the World Series, but they will win the division.