2009 MLB Preview: #1 New York Yankees

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Offseason Movement: To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Bronx Bombers went out and threw gobs of money at top free agents after missing the postseason last year. They signed the biggest bat on the market in 1B Mark Teixeira, then added the two best arms in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The Yanks also added 1B/OF Nick Swisher via a trade with the White Sox, but they might ship him elsewhere since he’s drawing attention from clubs like the Pirates, Nationals and Braves. With Xavier Nady being penciled in at right fielder, Swisher might become expendable.

Top Prospect: Jesus Montero, C/1B
The 19-year old Montero is being groomed as a catcher but could make the move to one of the corner infield spots if he doesn’t clean up his footwork behind the dish. Said to have excellent strength and raw power, Montero could emerge as a future All-Star. He has a great arm and that’s why the Bombers envision him as a future catcher but regardless of his eventual position, Montero will be given the opportunity to play in the big leagues as long as he continues to work on his plate discipline and patience at the plate.

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A Chat with St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa

Tony LaRussa is much more than a World Series-winning manager and current skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals. Along with his wife Elaine, Tony is also is the founder of a foundation that reaches out to animals that are very much in need.

Tony and Elaine started Animal Rescue Foundation (or ARF) in 1991. The goal of ARF is to find families for adoptable animals before they become euthanized and according to the foundation’s website, the foundation now has a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, which is America’s largest charity evaluator. Considering only 25 percent of charities reach a 4-star rating, it’s quite an achievement.

This Sunday, January 18, Tony will host “Stars to the Rescue”, which is an event that benefits ARF and other St. Louis area animal non-profits. “Stars to the Rescue” will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Chaifetz Arena on the campus of St. Louis University and will feature music and entrainment such as country music star Vince Gill, rockers Huey Lewis and The News, Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato from REO Speedwagon, as well as comedians Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan, and 2008 CMA Horizon Award winner Lady Antebellum. For tickets and general information, please call Metrotix at 314-534-1111, or visit the foundation’s website at www.arf.net.

Tony was gracious enough to sit down with us recently to talk about “Stars to the Rescue”, ARF, and whether or not he would ever consider concentrating solely on his charitable work in the wake of Tony Dungy retiring from coaching to work more on his off-field contributions.

We also had the opportunity to ask him some baseball questions, including what it meant to add shortstop Khalil Greene this offseason, how the Cards look heading into the new season and what the health status was of Albert Pujols.

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Yankees acquire Nick Swisher

Nick SwisherAfter sending Jason Giambi packing after the 2008 season, the New York Yankees traded Wilson Betemit and two minor league pitchers to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday in exchange for Nick Swisher, who could be a candidate to play first base next season.

“We’re excited with the addition of Nick Swisher,” Girardi said in a statement released by the team. “We feel he has a ton of upside. He’s a patient switch-hitter, adds versatility at a number of defensive positions, including first base and the outfield, and will be a positive presence inside the clubhouse.”

The Yankees are currently looking at a possible outfield alignment of Johnny Damon in left field, a platoon of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera in center, and Xavier Nady in right. Hideki Matsui is also coming back from knee surgery, and could play left or be a designated hitter.

Swisher made 69 starts in center field, 47 starts at first base, 16 starts in left and 11 starts in right for Chicago last season. His arrival in New York could lessen the chances of the Yankees offering salary arbitration to right fielder Bobby Abreu, who hit .296 and drove in 100 runs last season.

This is kind of a strange move considering the Yankees need so much pitching – not too mention Swisher was one of the worst hitters in baseball last year. But obviously the Bombers needed to fill the vacancy Giambi left at first and it doesn’t sound like they gave up too much. (Betemit has never lived up to his potential.)

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