Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2006 in Review

Taking a look back at the events that made 2006 the year it was for the Yankees...

Having already added Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers and Ron Villone, the Yankees continued to shape their roster in January by signing Miguel Cairo as their utility infielder. Alex Rodriguez decided to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic, ending months of speculation. Back in the Dominican Republic, Melky Cabrera was getting valuable experience under pressure, playing in the league's championship series.

As the Yankees prepared to report to Spring Training, Jason Giambi was healthy, happy, and looking forward to a big season in 2006. Carl Pavano was also looking forward to a new year, but his spring began in disappointing fashion, as a back injury kept him from starting camp with the rest of the pitching staff. Pitchers and catchers reported to Legends Field, but the major attraction was Damon, who made his first appearance in Tampa a little earlier than expected.

Joe Torre wasted no time in naming Randy Johnson as the Yankees' Opening Day starter. Five Yankees left the team to participate in the World Baseball Classic, giving some of the team's young prospects a chance to shine in their absence. When the Classic participants returned, Al Leiter pitched in one game for the Yankees before announcing his retirement. Damon got his first look at the other side of the rivalry, playing the Red Sox in an exhibition game. With the season opener just days away, Pavano was finally ready to return to action, only to suffer a bruised backside in his first outing of the spring.

The Yankees opened the season with offensive fireworks against Barry Zito and the A's. Although the first road trip wasn't a successful one, Derek Jeter lifted the Yankees to a win in the home opener with a dramatic home run. Mike Mussina got off to a hot start in April, showing that even at the age of 37, he still had enough left to get the job done. After getting off to a solid start, Gary Sheffield's season was derailed by a wrist injury, suffered in a collision with Toronto first baseman Shea Hillenbrand.

Damon faced his former fan base for the first time, making his return to Fenway Park. Torre earned the 1,000th victory of his managerial tenure in New York, becoming just the fourth man to reach that mark. Wang started to open some eyes with a great game against Oakland, a sign of things to come for the young pitcher. With Sheffield already out of action, the Yankees' outfield suffered another major blow when Hideki Matsui fractured his wrist while trying to make a catch. The injury ended Matsui's consecutive-games streak, leaving the Yanks outfield in shambles. The Yankees also lost Tanyon Sturtze for the season, as the reliever underwent shoulder surgery. Jeter reached a major milestone, collecting the 2,000th hit of his career.

The Yankees went heavy on pitching in the First-Year Player Draft, selecting USC's Ian Kennedy with their first pick. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continued with several classic games, including a 2-1 win on June 7, highlighted by Cabrera's stunning catch. The Yankees' first trip to Washington since 1971 was memorable, but not for the right reasons, as the Nationals handed New York a pair of terrible losses. David Cone and Darryl Strawberry made their first appearance at the Yankees' 60th annual Old Timer's Day, thrilling the Bronx fans. Having endured a miserable month, Alex Rodriguez had a memorable moment with a walk-off home run against the Braves.

Four Yankees players were named to the American League All-Star team, including A-Rod, who continued to be the primary target of the home crowd. Rodriguez responded with a huge performance against the Mets, temporarily silencing his critics. Mariano Rivera earned the save for the AL, his third career All-Star save. But Rivera recorded a bigger milestone the following week, notching his 400th save. A-Rod reached a pair of milestones with one swing, recording his 450th home run and 2,000th hit against Toronto. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, Brian Cashman pulled the trigger on a big deal, adding Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle in a trade with the Phillies. Cashman also swapped Shawn Chacon for Craig Wilson on deadline day.

Johnson joined the milestone parade, recording the 4,500th strikeout of his career. While the Bombers prepared for a five-game showdown in Boston, the Yankees celebrated the future with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Yankee Stadium. Damon, Jeter and Abreu each played a major role in the Yankees' five-game sweep of the Red Sox, giving New York control of the AL East.

Young pitchers such as Jeff Karstens and Darrell Rasner were impressive while starting for New York, giving fans a glimpse of the future. Wang cemented his status as a Cy Young candidate, while Jeter continued to hear his name mentioned in the MVP race. Matsui returned after missing four months, as the Yankees began to get healthy for the postseason. Sheffield's return came next, though he didn't have much time to get broken in at first base. The Yankees captured their ninth straight AL East title, but the remaining members of the championship teams deflected much of the credit.

The Yankees' Division Series started off on a good note, as Wang, Jeter and Abreu led New York to a Game 1 win. After a rainout, the Tigers took Game 2, sending the series back to Detroit tied at a game apiece. Kenny Rogers dominated the Yankees in Game 3 while Jaret Wright couldn't get the job done in Game 4 sending the Yankees home for another early offseason. The playoff disappointment led to plenty of speculation regarding Torre's future, but George Steinbrenner decided to bring the manager back for 2007. The day after that announcement was made, the Yankees and the rest of the baseball world were stunned by the tragic death of Cory Lidle, who died in a plane crash. Several Yankees received postseason honors, as Jeter won the Hank Aaron Award and Rivera earned the DHL Delivery Man of the Year award.

With an eye toward 2007 and beyond, the Yankees promoted Don Mattingly from hitting coach to bench coach, making him the logical choice to eventually succeed Torre as manager. Jeter continued to rack up the hardware, adding a third straight Gold Glove and first career Silver Slugger to his trophy case. The Yankees picked up Sheffield's option, then parted ways with the slugger, trading him to Detroit for three pitching prospects. The Yankees continued to reshape their roster, dealing Jaret Wright to the Orioles for reliever Chris Britton. Wang finished second in Cy Young voting, while Jeter placed second in the MVP voting. The Yankees finished the month by agreeing to a new two-year deal with Mike Mussina and winning the negotiating rights to Japanese lefty Kei Igawa.

On the final day of the Winter Meetings, the Yankees selected Josh Phelps in the Rule 5 Draft, giving them another option at first base. But the day after the meetings ended, the Yankees made their big move, bringing Andy Pettitte back to the Bronx with a one-year, $16 million deal.

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BallHype: hype it up! Posted by Steve Kenul at 6:57 PM


  • Anonymous Anonymous posted at 6:33 PM  
    We meet again. No deleting your account this time....lol.
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