Well we've got 12 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the New York Yankees.
Lineup: Stacked. Future HOFers Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter make up the most famous left side of an infield in baseball, Mark Teixeira is a switch-hitting force to be reckoned with, Robinson Cano is one of the better second basemen going, and Jorge Posada has an outstanding bat for a catcher. In the outfield, Curtis Granderson figures to showcase excellent defense and hope to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 season - and Yankee Stadium's short porch in right should help that happen. He is flanked by the speedy Brett Gardner, whose defense figures to be well above average in left field, and Nick Swisher, whose eye at the plate and modest power makes him a suitable option. Nick Johnson will serve as the DH, and if that limited role helps him turn in a healthy season, then he should bring a near-.400 OBP to the bottom of this lineup. Basically, there are no real holes 1-9. The lineup was the best in baseball last season, and the addition of Granderson should help cover any regression from guys like Rodriguez, Jeter, and Posada. A bit of caution, though: this team is paper-thin. There is no depth to be had anywhere, and should one of the regulars suffer a serious injury, they'll likely have to make a midseason acquisition.
Rotation: Stacked. CC Sabathia heads up a rotation that also includes formidable arms in A.J. Burnett (who finally stayed healthy in a non-contract year) and Javier Vazquez (who had a case for the NL Cy Young last season). The ageless Andy Pettitte is back for another run, and is a fairly safe bet to provide league average production, as he has done over and over again throughout his career. The 5th spot is up for grabs right now, but for our money, the job should go to Phil Hughes. Joba Chamberlain, for all the attention afforded him, has not actually been a very good pitcher, and Hughes has a significant amount of promise - certainly more than Chamberlain. So 1-5, they should be about as good as anyone else. But again: No. Depth. There's no other starter on the roster whom you'd like to give the ball to for more than a spot start or two.
Bullpen: Aaaand...stacked. 3/3! Mariano Rivera is the best reliever of the saves era, and regardless of which of Hughes and Chamberlain the Yanks decide to use in a setup capacity, they'll have another lockdown option in the 8th (Chamberlain has been significantly better in relief than while starting). David Robertson is one of the best strikeout relievers going, and Alfredo Aceves, while not exactly a relief ace, is pretty solid. Oh, and Damaso Marte is left-handed. Sergio Mitre, Boone Logan, and Mark Melancoan suck, though.
Overall: For a juggernaut team - which they are, make no mistake about it - the Yankees are ill-equipped to handle a major injury. The punchless Ramiro Pena backs up 2nd and 3rd base as well as shortstop, and starting Nicks Johnson and Swisher back up 1st. Francisco Cervelli is the backup catcher, and Randy Winn is the fourth outfielder. Which is to say: they've got nobody good on the bench. And their best hope for a spot starter, since releasing Chad Gaudin, is Sergio Mitre. Who is awful. They can overcome these problems for awhile with the sheer amount of talent they have, but in the loaded AL East, they can't afford to throw too many PAs or IP at replacement level players.
Predicted Record: 94-68, 1st place AL East
Beer: Westvleteren 12. Any of the three will do, but 12 is the most expensive and most potent. Plus, it's widely regarded as one of, if not the, best beers in the world and carries no label - like the Yankees having no name on the back of the jerseys. The fun part about Westvleteren, as quoted from Wikipedia, is:
"Buyers were originally limited to ten 24-bottle crates of the beer per car, but as the beer increased in popularity, this was first reduced to five, then to two. For the Westvleteren 12 in 2009, it was limited to one case. When making an order now, the type and quantity of beer for sale are revealed. Sales are limited to one order a month per person per license plate and phone number. Also, the beer must be reserved on their "beerphone" (+32 (0)70 21 00 45) beforehand. The monks will never sell you any beer if you just drive up to the abbey hoping to get some. The reason for this is to eliminate commercial reselling, and hence give all visitors a chance to buy some."
That's right - it only comes in small quantities. Just like the Yankee players, there's a limited amount of goodness to be had. Perfect fit!