Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday We Are In The News: MLB Opening Day 2008

So much of this New York baseball season will revolve around the past and the future, with the Yankees watching their state-of-the-art home for 2009 rising across the street from the one that has housed baseball's most storied franchise since 1923.

Yes, change is afoot in the Bronx.

Joe Girardi has replaced iconic manager Joe Torre. The brothers Steinbrenner have taken over the blustery owner's box from their Boss father. And the Yankees - the Yankees! - have taken on the novel approach of relying as much on some homegrown young arms as they are their veteran staples to vault them back to the top of their sport and their first World Series title since 2000.

"Clearly with the change in the managerial side of this thing, and closing out Yankee Stadium, there's a lot of new story lines, but we're feeling good about how we got out of spring training," general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday as the Yanks worked out at the Stadium before .today's season opener against Toronto. "We're hoping to try to rock the house here for one more season before we get over there (to the new Stadium).

"Or someone's going to rock my house."

Cashman drew laughs with that last crack, although general partner Hank Steinbrenner clearly will be watching closely as the GM enters his once unfathomable 11th season at the helm - and also the final year of his contract.

The Yankees' championship drought reached seven years when they were bounced by Cleveland in the AL division series last October. The laid-back Torre then was replaced by the no-nonsense Girardi, while Cashman and/or general partner Hal Steinbrenner basically talked Hank into sticking with the young guns and backing off a potential trade for Johan Santana, now a Met.

"I'm excited about this club. I like the character of this club and I like the heart of this club," said .Girardi, whose first camp ran smoothly other than some bad blood with the Tampa Bay Rays. "They showed me that in spring training and I was very proud of them . . . their work ethic.

"Whenever you have a change, there are going to be things that are done a little bit different. They embraced it and did it with open arms, and for that I'm thankful."

Girardi, who previously has served the Yankees as catcher, coach and broadcaster, was forced out after one season as manager of the Florida Marlins over clashes with owner Jeffrey Loria despite earning NL Manager of the Year in 2006.

He also is savvy enough to emit a keen sense of history and reverence for Torre, calling the new Dodgers skipper "a mentor to me" while discussing the "amazing run" of four championships in six seasons that began when both men arrived amid some controversy before the 1996 season.
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