When the Yankees were eliminated in Game Six of the ALCS by the Texas Rangers, little did they realize that their winter of discontent was just beginning.
The Yankees built their entire offseason strategy around landing free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, but Lee took less money to sign with Philadelphia.
That sent the Yankees scrambling, and with few alternatives on the free-agent market, they re-directed their efforts to other areas. Significant questions about their starting rotation remain.
Three things that have to go right
1) Derek Jeter must put the offseason ugliness behind him.
Jeter was furious with the way the Yankees handled his contract negotiations and said so when he agreed to his new deal. Jeter's been known to hold a grudge or two, but for the sake of the franchise -- and his own legacy -- he needs to let his play do the talking for him.
2) Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild must figure out a way to get A.J. Burnett back on track.
Burnett posted a horrendous 5.24 ERA last year. The Yanks are on the hook for this and two more seasons of his contract and have to find a way to get more -- lots more -- out of him.
3) They must find someone to take over as the full-time catcher.
Jorge Posada is slated for DH duty, meaning that either injury-prone Russell Martin or highly-regarded prospect Jesus Montero must step forward.
Three things that can't go wrong
1) The Yankees can't allow injuries to take their toll.
With as many as six everyday players over 30 -- and two over 35 -- age is, again, a concern.
2) They can't fall out contention in the early going.
The well-stocked farm system has plenty of pieces to package for a starter at the trade deadline. But first, the Yanks have to figure out a way to stay in the race for the first four months of the season.
3) Mark Teixeira can't begin the season as poorly as he traditionally has.
Until the Yankees rotation stabilizes or is upgraded with a deal, the pressure will be on the offense to produce runs early in the season. That's especially true for Teixeira.