Here is Sunday’s piece about the New York Yankees — written, I suspect, in such a way as to draw ire both from the readers who say I’m biased against the Yankees and from those (i.e., Red Sox fans) who say I’m biased in favor of the Yankees.
In the piece, I go over some of the reasons I think the Yankees are going to be contenders again in 2011: a lineup that led the majors in runs scored in 2010 and returns basically intact, a bullpen that should be much improved, and the financial wherewithal to make one or more major acquisitions at the trade deadline.
The biggest question for the Yankees, obviously, involves the starting rotation. Other than ace CC Sabathia, the Yankees are short on sure things. Is Phil Hughes, still young and still talented, ready to take the next step and become a solid No. 2? Can A.J. Burnett be trusted? And who will fill the final two spots in the rotation?
Of all those question marks, Burnett – himself a walking question mark -- stands out as the pivotal one. If he’s the good A.J. (the one who went 31-19 with a 4.06 ERA in 2008-09), it would allow the Yankees to match up, arm for arm, against just about anyone in the American League. If he’s the bad A.J. (10-15, 5.26 in 2010), it heightens the pressure on Sabathia, Hughes and the others.
Here is what Nick Swisher had to say about Burnett: “This guy’s going to have a monster year. He’s my comeback player of the year, hands down. You can see the change [in him]. I just know he’s got more in that tank, and I know we’re going to get it.”