(Long Island, N.Y.) Coming off another World Series championship, the New York Yankees hardly rested on their laurels. In fact, they said goodbye to two of their October heroes in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, replacing them with younger players.
Matsui was the first to leave when the Yankees basically no attempt to bring him back. “Godzilla” signed on to become the new designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels. Then Damon made every effort to stick around but general manager Brian Cashman picked up Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson and Randy Winn. At press time, Damon was still on the open market and was said to be mulling an offer from the Detroit Tigers.
Cashman also brought back righthanded pitcher Javier Vazquez, who spent a rocky 2004 (more specifically during the playoffs) in pinstripes. Last year, the 33-year-old went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts (three complete games). Vazquez also pitched over 219 innings, struck out 238 batters and only walked 44. The former Atlanta Brave will not have as much expected from him this time around and is slotted as the fourth starter in a rotation led by CC Sabathia.
“You want to win again,” the ace lefty told reporters after checking in to camp in Tampa. “It makes you want to get back to that feeling again and get back to that stature. I’m excited to be able to come in and we’ve got a new team. We’ve got some new guys and I’m excited to see how it goes this year.”
That last statement may sound a little scary to the competition who the Bronx Bombers laid waste last summer, especially Sabathia. The former Indian and Brewer backed up the huge seven-year, $161-million contract he signed as a free agent in 2009 by winning 19 games and the American League Championship Series MVP Award.
Now joining Sabathia will be Granderson (28) Johnson (31) and Winn (35). Matsui is also 35 but cannot play the outfield on a consistent basis anymore. Johnson, who is also a former Yankee, steps right into that DH role and can also play first base fairly well if called upon. Damon, 36, has slowed down a lot but can still be an effective left fielder. The Yankees hope to pick up some of the spark left with the loss of Damon in Granderson, who hit 30 home runs and stole 20 bases. He will step into the centerfield opening created when Melky Cabrera was moved in part of the deal bringing the six-year veteran to the Bronx.
Sabathia recognizes the potential that Granderson brings to the table. “He is going to be a great ballplayer for us,” he said. “Hopefully he’ll hit like 50 home runs in our stadium. He was always a tough out for me, just getting up there and battling and trying to get on base to help the team win. After his at-bats, him getting on base and getting to steal bags is definitely a threat. Hopefully he can come here and do some of those things.”
If he does, Granderson may just become the next October hero.