What if I told you one year ago the New York Yankees traded away their two best pitchers (Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller) along with veteran and possible future hall of famer Carlos Beltran for a couple of standout prospects and some more arms for their bullpen? You would probably guess this team was in rebuilding mode, preparing to compete in a couple of years after their core of young talent find their stride. After all, the Yankees roster in 2016 was tied for first with the Seattle Mariners as the oldest in the league with an average age of 30.7 years. And the pitching rotation is still an issue today, no matter how many home runs the team hits. But even with all of this going against it, the most storied club in baseball history, and perpetual fixture on the list of most valuable sports organizations in the world is riding on the backs of young bucks Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier and Gary Sanchez in search of a playoff berth once again.
A lot of sports movies are popular because you have an underdog story in which the small town, scrappy bunch of guys come together to beat the snobby kids down the block. Unfortunately this isn’t that story, but it is nice to see the Yankees competing again. To say this is a fairy tale story, where the Yankees magically found the fountain of youth without any hindrances would be insincere. After agreeing a buyout/retirement deal with the notorious but charismatic Alex Rodriguez, in which the club had to pay the final $27 million of A-Rod’s 10-year, $275 million contract, another slugger Mark Teixeira said his heartfelt goodbyes as he retired. So, the Bronx Bombers came into 2017 with big question marks surrounding some of the players that have performed well up to this point in the season. Aaron Judge (All rise for his honor) was still competing for a starting spot (probably because Girardi can be a dunce, but that’s a story for another time), and starting shortstop Didi Gregorious would miss the first month of the season with a right shoulder injury he sustained playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
Luckily, Judge, who also had some injury problems and missed the last part of 2016 with an oblique injury, had corrected some issues in his approach at the plate and got off to a flying start in the first two months of the season. In April and May combined, Judge hit .327 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI’s according to Baseball Reference. The Stillwater, Oklahoma native Matt Holliday and his bald compadre Brett Gardner have made it a contest between themselves to see who can hit the most home runs. Even though Gardner isn’t known for his home run hitting prowess, he knows how to use the short porch in the Bronx to his advantage. But in my opinion the most exciting development of this season is the growth and emergence of second baseman Starlin Castro and outfielder Aaron Hicks. Brought over in a trade with the Cubs in December 2015, the affable and free-swinging Castro hit 21 homers in 2016, and was having even more success this time around with the selection into the All-Star game, but had to miss it because of an injury. On the other hand, Hicks first season in pinstripes was rather underwhelming, as he split time in the outfield with Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and others. But would I be talking about him if he hadn’t fix his issues? No, I wouldn’t. Hicks has been a steady contributor to an offense that relies heavily on players either getting on base or hitting bombs, and in his case he does both.
To say this is a fairy tale story, where the Yankees magically found the fountain of youth without any hindrances, would be insincere. After agreeing a buyout/retirement deal with the notorious but charismatic Alex Rodriguez, in which the club had to pay the final $27 million of A-Rod’s 10-year, $275 million contract, another slugger Mark Teixeira retired and said his heartfelt goodbyes. A few players also departed as free agents, with catcher Brian McCann being the biggest to pack his bags. And as is typical for most teams, with the older teams often finding it a bigger issue, the Yankees have been crippled by injuries. The majority of the players on the team have been on the disabled list at least once this season, with players such as first baseman Greg Bird, Ellsbury, Hicks, Castro and Gregorious missing extensive time.
It’s the start of a new era in the Bronx, and one would have to say it’s gotten off to a favorable start. Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia are the only players who remain from the team that won the club’s 27th World Series in 2009, which can be scary. It’s weird to see the Yankees embrace playing younger players, like many European soccer teams, if you can afford to buy the experienced and already established stars, why give a chance to the young pups? But Brian Cashman (Yankees’ General Manager) and Joe Girardi have started to realize that baseball is changing, and the Yankees don’t want to get left behind.