Yesterday the Yankees were often mentioned on ESPN’s predictions for 2009. Here are the Yankee mentions:

NEW FACE IN NEW PLACE

CC Sabathia, LHP, Yankees

Sabathia rides into New York just as Johan Santana did last season: two trains running, each 29 on entrance, both kind and thoughtful and vehemently competitive. Santana could have won the NL Cy Young Award, but for the Mets’ bullpen. Sabathia arrived in the league in June, and after going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and not allowing more than four runs in 17 starts — including four in succession on three days’ rest down the stretch — he made himself part of the Cy discussion. Sabathia is 117-73 lifetime; Santana is 109-51. Each has won the Cy Young in the American League, and last year both were in the top three in the majors in ERA, quality starts, games started and innings pitched. Santana had no problem handling New York, and neither should Sabathia. Of course, there is a lot of pressure on the $243 million initials twins, CC and A.J. Burnett

The Yankees have lost their 20-game winner, Mike Mussina, and may lose Andy Pettitte. Last season, the Yankees lost Chien-Ming Wang on June 15 and used nine different people for at least seven starts; consequently, more than a quarter of their games were started by Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner and Carl Pavano. As he neared signing with the Yankees, Sabathia got a message from Red Sox GM Theo Epstein telling him how much Epstein respected him for putting aside free agency to try to bring Milwaukee a championship. Some look at what Sabathia has done the past two seasons — from Opening Day to the playoffs: 36 wins, 513 innings pitched, 69 starts — and worry about what that means to his long-term career. The Yankees look at him and see what they most need: the model of reliability.
— Peter Gammons

THE PRESSURE IS ON …

Joe Girardi

Let’s see: In Girardi’s first season as manager, the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993. His critics in the New York media compared him unfavorably with his predecessor, the sainted Joe Torre. The team is moving into a new $1.3 billion stadium, and ownership has just invested more than $420 million in free agents CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett. If the Yankees get off to a slow start — say, 0-3 in Grapefruit League play — someone is going to feel the heat. And our gut tells us it won’t be Brian Cashman.
— Jerry Crasnick

THE EARLY FAVORITE IS …

New York Yankees

What if I told you that a team with unlimited financial resources won 89 games, and then acquired the world’s greatest pitcher and the American League’s greatest first baseman? Is that something you’d be interested in? I’m fairly sure it’s going to interest the oddsmakers. It has been so long since the Yankees have won a World Series that it’s now fashionable to look for reasons why they’ll continue not winning. It’s really not that complicated, though: The World Series favorite should be the best team in the American League, and right now that perfectly describes the New York Yankees.
— Rob Neyer

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Ok. Let’s start with Sabathia. I don’t normally agree with what everything the BoSox-lovin’ Peter Gammons says, but this time he’s pretty accurate. Sabathia will have the spotlight on him everyday and each time he starts, he will be expected to put forth the kind of performance he has been known for the past two seasons. That is the very reason why the Yankees went hard after him and why we should not expect less.

I’m not sold on Girardi on the hot seat. I have said this before, and I will say it again. 2008 was not Girardi’s fault. He cannot control injuries. He won 89 games with a patchwork rotation and an under-performing lineup. 89 games would have won the NL West. Girardi should not be on the hot seat. In fact, he should be on it after the 2009 season, only if the Yankees miss the playoffs again. But for now, leave him alone.

Lastly, Neyer’s prediction that the Yankees will with the World Series, I wish it was true, but even myself, as a die-hard fan, am not sold on them yet. We still have a suspect outfield, and we do not have a #5 arm (or even a #6 or #7 with Joba on an innings limit). The Yankees should make the playoffs at the expense of either the Rays or BoSox, but the World Series? Nice, but possible right now? No.