I drove past Steinbrenner Field earlier today and got a little wistful for the “what if” of 2014, beginning with Spring Training that will take place right there in Tampa in just a few months. With no postseason and very little news to talk about regarding Yankee Universe, it leaves me with no option but to begin to dream and imagine for what could be next season.
I mean, we knew going into the 2013 Spring Training that there were going to be issues — Jeter’s broken ankle, Rodriguez’s hip surgery, and Sabathia’s elbow surgery meant a strong back-up for Jeter, a new guy at 3rd base for most of the season, and a little possible uneasiness regarding the rotation. What we didn’t know going into Spring Training with 88 invitees was how strange 2013 would end up — Jeter’s continued health issues, Rodriguez’s return and scandal involvement, and Sabathia’s struggles to return to form. Oh, and 52 separate people made it through Roll Call this year (just fielders, not DH, pitchers, or catchers). Nothing about 2013 was normal.
But then again, what is normal anymore? We aren’t living in the dynasty years of the Yankees under Torre with the Core Four or the Golden Age with the M&M boys or the Classic Era with Murders’ Row. But then, that wasn’t exactly “normal”. So is this normal?
Here’s the reality, though: people aren’t going to be okay with that. When you have a storied history like the Yankees, packed to the gills with wins and titles and legends and hall-of-fame careers, “normal” isn’t expected; they want exceptional. Perhaps if the Yankees were still newer to the scene or perhaps one of the less-glorified clubs or perhaps didn’t have so many retired numbers in Monument Park, maybe then normal would be an option worthy of the fans and players alike, a goal worth setting, a season worth playing.
But just maybe “normal” is subjective. Maybe “normal” for the Yankees is the exceptional. Normal on the Yankees is seen as a hard work ethic (those who are seen as not making enough of an effort get condemned until they are seen hustling consistently), normal is the clean-cut look (new players always have to shave and keep their hair neatly trimmed and professional, no Duck Dynasty in that clubhouse), normal is high standards of teamwork (divas don’t last long in the clubhouse). Normal is extraordinary for the Yankees.
What isn’t normal (for the Yankees, at least) is having no October baseball, weaknesses in every area on the roster, and continued struggles with players on the DL. 2013 was anything but normal for the Yankees. That means there’s a lot of ground for the front office to cover to get the team from whatever 2013 was back to “Yankee Normal”.
I should clarify, “Yankee Normal” also means “World Series Champion”. If 2014 is normal, we’ll be celebrating #28 this time next year. Oh, please, let 2014 be normal.
Also, Gold Gloves were announced today: catchers Salvador Perez (KC) and Yadier Molina (STL); 1st basemen Eric Hosmer (KC) and Paul Goldschmidt (ARI); 2nd basemen Dustin Pedroia (BOS) and Brandon Phillips (CIN); shortstops JJ Hardy (BAL) and Andrelton Simmons (ATL); 3rd basemen Manny Machado (BAL) and Nolan Arenado (COL); outfielders Alex Gordon (KC), Carlos Gonzalez (COL), Adam Jones (BAL), Carlos Gomez (MIL), Shane Victorino (BOS), and Gerardo Parra (ARI); and pitchers R.A. Dickey (TOR) and Adam Wainwright (STL). No Yankee winners (only Cano was nominated), and surprisingly very little representation from much of my own choices for each position. Honestly, about half of these were complete and total surprises, but if you have to start a hardware collection for some of these guys. A Gold Glove is the way to do it.
Anyway, like I said, 2013 wasn’t normal. Here’s to 2014 and the possibility of our normal rediscovered…