The calendar turns to February and baseball fans count down the days to pitchers and catchers, the official start to Spring Training in Major League Baseball. I look forward to Spring Training the same way I look forward to Christmas morning or my birthday, with sweet anticipation. The only difference is, baseball lasts, at least for a season.
Former MLB Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote of baseball:
“[It] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again…”
Like many fans, I have spent the offseason at the hot stove, living and dying with every free agent or trade acquisition that the Yankees made to improve the team. It is now time for the team to take it to the field in Tampa and see what they have for 2024. The Yankees were a disappointment and didn’t even reach the playoffs in 2023. The 2023 season was everything Yankees Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman said it was, namely “disastrous” and “embarrassing.” Looking back, the team comprised a mix of aging veterans and young players without the depth it needed when injuries or underperformance struck.
The Yankees remedied these failings by trading for Juan Soto, who represents everything that the Yankees lacked in 2023 – youth, offensive production, and durability. Remedying the pitching ills proved to be more difficult. The Yankees went hard publicly after Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who chose the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then they pivoted to Blake Snell, who also rejected their offer. They agreed with free agent Marcus Stroman and set off a firestorm of criticism from fans who recall a few years back when Stroman was critical of Cashman and the Yankees in the press. Fans also questioned whether Stroman had the credentials to pitch in New York, particularly after injuries derailed his season after the All-Star break in 2023. Cashman has bolstered the relief pitching with the acquisitions of Caleb Ferguson, Victor Gonzalez, and the Codys – Poteet and Morris, among others. It will take me a month to learn these guys’ roles and how they fit on the staff.
Have the Yankees done enough to bring the team from an 82-80 fourth-place team in the division to the pinnacle of success – a World Series championship? I would need a crystal ball or the math skills of the projection experts at Fangraphs to figure that out and it would still probably be wrong since baseball, after all, is never played on paper and never goes according to script, but always provides the unexpected twists and turns that make a season complex and interesting. “There are only two seasons: winter and baseball.” – Bill Veeck, Jr once wrote and it’s true as baseball is about to appear once again in all its green, azure, and dirty glory. Yankee fans will arrive at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa shortly for the first game of Spring Training and the eternal cycle will begin again.