10 PREDICTIONS MADE BY ME, EL DUQUE, ON THIS STAR DATE: MARCH 30, 2010.
1. The Yankees will finish in second place in the American League East. They will not win the Wild Card and they will not play in the post-season. This is because Baltimore and Toronto will be much improved. (The Jays didn’t, as has been popularly reported, give Halladay away for nothing.) As a result, the AL East will be one tough somebich division. And second place will not offer a Wild Card.
2. Johnny Damon will hit more home runs and bat higher than Curtis Granderson, who nevertheless will have a fine season and be popular in New York. It will not be Granderson’s fault that the Yankees fail to make the post-season. But Damon, as a point of personal pride, will make sure his numbers exceed the man wrongly viewed to be his replacement.
3. Mariano Rivera will pitch into August, then break down from age, and the Yankees will not have an adquate closer. If you saw me now, you would see tears in my eyes as I write these terrible words. But it can’t go on forever. He will tweak a muscle or something will fail, and when Mariano is not right, our whole team is not right. Who is going to replace him? Joba? Maybe someday. Not this year.
4. The Yankees will trade Jesus Montero and Brett Gardner for Carl Crawford at mid-season. The trade will backfire, as Crawford suffers adjustment pains in New York, and then, they have nobody to deal for a relief pitcher, down the stretch. But Jesus Montero will face growing pains at Triple A, when smart baserunners steal on every pitch. It will affect his hitting, and the Yankees will have no place for a DH. Tampa will be looking to trade Carl Crawford, and the Redsocks will be sniffing, and there will be no middle ground. Worse, we won’t just give up Montero and Gardner. It will also cost at least another top prospect. Yeow.
5. Javier Vasquez will pitch well for the Yankees, with an ERA of about 4.40; but he will not be offered a contract at the end of the season. It was never in the cards. They only traded for him because he was one-and-out. I don’t know how this will affect him, but I think he will give his heart and soul for this team, trying to win back fans who will never forgive him. He won’t get a shot at post-season redemption, and then he will be gone.
6. A-Rod will have the first off-year of his career, and questions will surround the future of his hip and the past of his bloodstream. He grew tired last year and really lost his swing for a while. Because of the great post-season he had, and that last game, when he drove in a pile of meaningless runs, we forget the ebbs and flows of his year. Also, he won’t have Hideki Matsui behind him in the order. We took Matsui for granted last year. We’ll miss him more than we think.
7. John Lackey will lead the Redsock pitching staff and become a notorious Yankee killer. He is a great pitcher and competitor, the closest to a Teixeira-type mentality that was on the market. I said it in December: Cashman is trying what Theo Epstein attempted in 2009 — to be too clever with his tinkering and outsmart everybody. The Penny/Smoltz/Baldelli/et al follies blew up in Epstein’s face, even though, just like Cashman’s moves this year, they were roundly cheered by the “experts.” This may be the year Cashman learns his lesson: If you got the cards, lay them down.
8. Nick Johnson will hit .300 and 20 home runs, but with nagging injuries to other key Yankees, his fulltime DH presence will prove a poor fit, and he will end up platooned. We will often lament the fact that he is slow on the bases, and we will look for a base-stealing benchplug, a Freddie Guzman, for the late innings, which will mean having to pare our outlandishly large pitching staff down to 11 or 10. This is the folly of a full-time DH on an old team.
9. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes will pitch hot and cold, finishing the season as question marks for the 2011 rotation. Seriously, can you imagine either of them ever being a sure thing? Even though it seems as if they must be pushing 30, they are still years away from their prime. That’s because we long ago began marketing them as future stars. Hell, we treatthem as if they are all-stars. We turned them into china dolls. They’ll come of age around 28, and I think they’ll be good. But that’s two-three years away. Question: Will they still be Yankees? Or will we be sick of them?
10. Kei Igawa w
ill return to Japan by the All-Star break. Everybody wants him gone. It was amazing that he was one of the first slobs cut from spring camp. He must have been awful. First, they announced that he would get a looksee as a situational lefty. Then he had a fine 1-2-3 outing. Then he got tagged. And then he was gone. No word yet on whether he’ll be a starter in Scranton. But really, can you imagine them paying all that money to a situational lefty out of the bullpen in Triple A? Nahhh. He’s gone.
My personal message to El Duque is this… Last February my Tarot card reader predicted the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series and they did. It’s time I paid her another visit and only then will we know what 2010 holds.