And the first one now. Will later be last. For the times they are a-changin'”. – Bob Dylan, lyrics from The Times They Are A-Changin’
Get your scorecards! That eager sales pitch is one of the hallmarks of Opening Day, but this season, the familiar refrain is quickly becoming prerequisite advice for Yankee fans headed to the Bronx on April 1. It’s no joke. At least to the more casual observers, there won’t be many familiar faces taking their place along the first baseline at the Yankees’ home opener next Monday.
Because of injuries and free agent defections, the 2013 Yankees’ Opening Day lineup will look much different than last year, with only three holdovers likely to take the field when the season begins next week. Not since 1996 have the Yankees experienced so much turnover, and in only six other years since at least 1917 have the Bronx Bombers had fewer players make consecutive starts in the season opener.
Note: Includes years with no more than two players making a consecutive Opening Day start.
The three stalwarts expected to be in the 2013 Yankees’ Opening Day lineup are Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia. However, Gardner’s position has yet to be determined. With the addition of Vernon Wells and the likelihood of Jon Lester starting for the Red Sox when the season kicks off, the speedy outfielder could be shifted to center field. If so, that would mean the 2013 alignment would only have two players in the same position as last year’s first game, something that has only happened once before in the DH era (again in 1996).
Note: Assumes Brett Gardner starts in center field on Opening Day.
The ironic thing about the Yankees’ rapid turnover is it comes just one season after two years of remarkable stability. In 2011, the Bronx Bombers had eight players occupy the same position on Opening Day as they did the year prior, and then, in 2012, the holdovers increased to nine. Last season, Raul Ibanez at DH was the only new entry to the Yankees’ opening lineup, marking the first time since 1917 that the team had that many players start back-to-back Opening Days (on three occasions in the pre-DH era, the Yankees had eight holdovers for nine positions).
The times they are a-changin’ in the Bronx, but don’t expect Yankee fans to hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Going from Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter, Russell Martin, and Mark Teixeira to a lineup filled with journeymen isn’t exactly the kind of change that’s easy to embrace. After all, Yankee fans are used to having no names on the back of the team’s uniforms, not wearing them. So, if Hal Steinbrenner wants to avoid the wrath of an angry fan base, he’d better hope his new cast of characters can produce the same results as teams from the past. Otherwise, the theme of next year’s Opening Day might be the number of fans who aren’t returning.