It may have been Matsui’s moment, but as Joel Sherman writes, this is really the about the beginning of the Alex Rodriguez era in New York.
Joe Torre has announced the Opening Day line-up. The most notable decision was that Kenny Lofton will bat ninth. Derek Jeter will lead off, followed by Matsui. (How do you like them apples? Who says Torre isn’t capable of a surprise here and there?) Of course, the heart of the order will be Rodriguez-Giambi-Sheffield, with Posada, Sierra (DH), Wilson and Lofton making up the bottom half of the line-up.
Lofton isn't happy about batting ninth, but quite frankly, who cares? I'm sure there will be plenty of things that upset Mr. Lofton in 2004. But hey, it could be worse: he could be playing in Pittsburgh.
The Daily News has its 2004 season preview today. Naturally, there is much about the Yankees-Sox continuing rivalry. Always the realist, Mike Mussina offers his pragmatic take on the situation:
"You write a great book, you make a great movie, you write a great song, an album, how do you follow it up?" says Mike Mussina. "You have to, but I don't know how you beat last season. You can add all the people you want, but you can't make the stakes any higher."
…"Is everybody going to be disappointed if it doesn't turn out the same way it did last year?" Mussina says. "What if it goes 12-7 this year and we don't meet in the playoffs? Does that mean all this jockeying back and forth is for nothing, because it doesn't turn out the way it did last year? It won't turn out that way. It can't happen that way again, it won't. We were down 4-0 in Game 7 and won the game. It will not happen that way again.
"Now, it will be exciting playing them 19 times, but the same thing won't happen."
Sox fans can only hope that's the case. Then again, I hope that it doesn't come down to a seventh game in the ALCS either. I don't know if I can bear the stress. Either way, I'm excited about the season. Usually, I invest much time in why the Yankees won't win. I'm way too nervous of a fan to think too highly of their chances. But about a week ago, I turned a corner. I'm confident that--if healthy--the Yankees will be a tough out. Now, I'd feel good about my chances if I were a Red Sox fan too. Or an A's fan or even an Angels fan. All I know, if I'm a Sox fan or an A's fan, I would not be too happy about having to deal with Rodriguez and Sheffield when the Bombers come to town.
The bottom line is, the 2004 Yankees will either be a bad team or a baaad team. I could see it going either way. But for now, I like the guys they have this year more than I have liked the teams of the past two seasons. They've got some type-A personalities back (Brown, Sheffield, Rodriguez), and some edginess will go a long way for this team. I like that.
I won't be up at the crack of dawn watching the game tomorrow, but most likely, I'll have the scores and reports up later in the morning all the same. If you are watching the game, and have comments or thoughts, send em' in and let the banter begin.