John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman have been partnered together in the Yankees' radio broadcast booth since 2005, and they will be moving up the dial this season to call all the action on WFAN 660 AM.
As Spring Training draws to a close, Sterling and Waldman joined MLB.com in the radio booth to chat about Derek Jeter's final season, Masahiro Tanaka's first season and several of the other key issues surrounding manager Joe Girardi's squad this year.
MLB.com: This camp started with Jeter's announcement that he would retire at the end of the season. When you look back on Jeter's career, and now to this year, what do you think this year is going to be like for him?
John Sterling: Well, I think it is an unknown because he missed all of last year. He's moving all right. He hasn't hit yet, but didn't he start off one year like 0-for-37 or so? The last time he played a full year -- you have to throw out last year, he played 17 games -- he had, I think, 216 hits to lead the Major Leagues. I'm hoping that he's Derek Jeter. I think there's a chance he really will be Derek Jeter.
Suzyn Waldman: I agree with you, and I think mainly because of the way he's moving and his approach at the plate. I talked to Kevin Long today about that. He's not worried about him at all. Derek, I was talking to, and he says, "You know, I feel a little rusty." I said, "Well, you haven't played in a year." Guys come off the DL and it takes them time. So it's going to take him time, but I think the key is that he's got balance at the plate and his legs are strong. He's running great and he looks good in the field. That's the most important thing.
MLB.com: You saw the way Mariano Rivera left last season. Do you think Jeter will enjoy that farewell tour?
Sterling: Well, he's a very private person, as you well know. But I don't know how you couldn't get moved by it. We got moved by it in the booth on the road when Mariano was feted by all the visiting players and teams in ballparks. It brought a tear to our eye, and I'm sure it will happen again this year.
Waldman: I think there's going to be a lot of crying in this booth particularly. You know what I want to bring up, though? How great was it the way that Derek Jeter did this? He did it like Derek Jeter. He did this, he went right to the fans, he told everybody, and now we're going to break camp and all the hubbub is over. There'll be the little things, but none of this, "You think you can still play? What about next year? If you go 0-for-30, you think you should retire?" It's all over, and that's Derek. He didn't want to be a distraction, and that's what he's done. It's pure Derek from beginning to end. I think he's going to enjoy it, I really do.
MLB.com: The other big story in camp was Tanaka coming in. What have been your impressions and what do you think he's going to mean to this rotation?
Waldman: I think he's terrific. I think that he's got a lot of adjusting to do. When he gets behind hitters as we saw in Fort Myers, Fla., he has a little trouble. That's when he gets hit because he tries to rear back and that fastball flattened out about 92, 93 mph. But he's learning. He's 25 years old. People that are 25 get to grow up in this life and get to change. I think he's tremendous. He's got everything. I think he's the real deal.
Sterling: I think he looks like a competitor and I think it's so unfair. I understand why now. It's so unfair that he's being examined this closely. [Tuesday], I saw Rick Porcello get killed. I mean, are they going to take him out of the rotation because he had one bad day? I think, just leave him alone. Look what he's doing. Different country, different language, different culture -- different everything. And everything he does is being examined. You know, he'll be fine. He looks like he's really a competitor and it looks like he's really cool, too.
MLB.com: General manager Brian Cashman made a lot of other moves this offseason -- Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brian Roberts at second base, Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. How do you think that whole lineup is going to play? It's certainly a different team than last year.
Sterling: I think they're going to score runs and I really like the starting pitching. One thing: You should never fall in love with these things during the spring. I try not to think of the spring as a harbinger of things to come. I think they might have a very good ballclub.
MLB.com: What do you think was the most important move Cashman made?
Waldman: Oh, boy. I think obviously Brian McCann, because we saw last year, you cannot go through a season without a real catcher. I'm not saying anything bad about Austin Romine or Chris Stewart. You need a No. 1 catcher and you see already the difference. Brian McCann came in here knowing everyone on the staff. He sat with his iPad all winter and studied people. He was ready when he came in here. I think he is one of the keys. I love what Brian did. I think Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be fine with the little calf or whatever. I think people are going to love watching him play. I love Beltran already; you can see what he's going to do. I was saying to Derek Jeter today that he and Brian Roberts look like they have been making the double play for the last 10 years. They know each other so well already. John says you don't get excited about Spring Training -- well, if they lost every game, we'd be sitting here saying, "Well, it's only Spring Training." I'm very hopeful. We sat through last year's Spring Training and we knew exactly what was happening. I think this is going to be a good year.
Sterling: The key to all this, because we're seeing it with other teams in March, is staying healthy. There are going to be injuries, but I think the Yankees had a great camp. You've seen pitchers are going to go down who can pitch up here, and we're going to see players who are going to go down who can help during the year. They're a much deeper organization than they were last year.