Saturday, March 10, 2012

Times Sure Have Changed

When I was a kid, my family & I would always go down to Florida every year to visit my grandparents in March.  Not so coincidentally those trips were always planned around Spring Training.  I remember standing by the bullpen or down the third base lines of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter in hopes of scoring an autograph from a big league player.  Besides trying to get a lucky signature from someone (I did a fair amount), I was always awe struck when I got to see a household name up close.  I also immediately became bored once the regulars came out of the game.  I had no idea who any of these players were & I was too young to appreciate the development of prospects.  These days though, I don't have any interest in seeing the guarantees play during the Spring Training games because for them, it's just about getting back into a routine.

I am more interested in watching the young talent that is out there trying to make a name for themselves.  To me, that is why I look forward to Pitchers & Catchers reporting because it represents potential.  It is the official beginning of the 2012 season and the possibilities are endless.  The speculation is endless as well as the question "What if?"  "What if Dellin Betances harnesses the command of his plus stuff?"  "What if Austin Romine has added some power to his game?"  "What if Melky Mesa finally puts those ridiculous tools into consistent production?"  You can't help but get giddy over the thought, I know I can't.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not delusional into believing certain things will really happen (ie, Mesa putting it together) but you never know.  That's the exciting part of watching these kids during Spring Training. Maybe this is their year & if it truly is, that can alter the course of a franchise.  If a young talent starts producing like his potential suggests is possible, that is millions of dollars that the Yankees would save because they did not have to go out & poach that player from another roster.

I'd like to assume that the Yankees wished that they had Mark Melancon and Tyler Clippard back.  Those two plus Robertson would have given them a lights-out back end of the bullpen at very little cost.  Instead, we have a surly and inconsistent 7th inning reliever making more than those three combined.  The things I would have done if he opted out of that contract, I probably should just keep to myself.

This year, the only players in camp with the combination of proximity to the majors & franchise altering potential is Dellin Betances & Manny Banuelos.  Again, "What if?"  There is no denying their stuff, it's all about command with them.  Manny is more of a sure bet to lock it down because before last season, he hadn't had any command issues.  Dellin, with his great height, is a different story when it comes to locking down his command.  But what if?  If these two can remedy that one glaring issue and pitch to their potential, the Yankees would have two cost-controlled front of the rotation pitchers for years to come.  That kind of talent would cost a fortune and if Hal Steinbrenner truly wants to get payroll under $189Million, they are going to need the remaining B's to take that next step.

Austin Romine certainly has potential and with great offense being a luxury as opposed to a necessity at that position, he can help the Yankees' goal of getting under $189M.  Russell Martin isn't going to come cheap, especially after the huge deal that Yadier Molina signed to stay on with St. Louis.  Romine needs to put up a healthy and consistent year because he already has the necessary skills to be a backup catcher.  As I said, what if he adds power to his game?  The Yankees could let Martin walk and have themselves a cost-controlled catcher that can call a good game and swing the stick.

The next great wave of talent is on the cusp of helping the New York Yankees for years to come.  "What if?" can become a reality this season & you do not want to miss the show.

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