While the Yankees have managed to avoid clubhouse distractions and in-fighting, there is cause to wonder if they have what it takes as a team to snare Number 28.
The Yankees, by the time October rolls around, are likely to be framed as one of the best three or four teams in baseball, joining the company of the Dodgers, Red Sox, Astros, and a mystery team (TBD). One team will win it all while the others conduct an obituary on their season, and a rush to make it all better during the offseason.
Last season, the Red Sox were not (necessarily) the best team in the playoffs. They just played better than all their competitors, including a scrubbing of the Yankees. Of significance too, there isn’t one player on the Red Sox squad who didn’t contribute somewhere, somehow during the playoffs. As a team, they “got it.” Just as the Astros got it the year before.
When you look at the Yankees team today, how many of those players “get it,” and what it takes to not only play at this level but to excel by putting in the hard work and making adjustments to failure that comprise the character of a good teammate?
CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge immediately come to mind as consummate professionals, and they can be left alone, but then what about the rest?
The final numbers put up by Giancarlo Stanton look good, but they are not great. And the image stuck in my mind is more of Stanton making his way to the dugout following a strikeout with two men on, than one of a line drive double to the gap driving his teammates in.
Gary Sanchez? Enough has been said about all those passed balls and a minuscule batting average. Instead, we are left only to hope he “gets it” in 2019, and all that talk about loafing becomes (finally) a memory. In the same way, there is a reason to wonder if Luis Severino can manage to put together a second-half, including the playoffs, equal to what he produces in the first half. Moreover, when will he show he is coachable and ready to make the step from a thrower to a pitcher?
Ditto for Miguel Andujar, who can hit a baseball square up with one hand, but can’t seem to play third base with any regular consistency. Will he, for instance, respond to the challenge of all those rumors that are probably true, of the Yankees willingness to include him in a trade, despite hit hitting abilities? Does Andujar “get it” that the Yankees aren’t fooling around?
Teamwork in the big leagues is not yeh, rah, sis, boom, bah. It’s the ability to be able to rely upon and count on each member of the team to do their job. That’s it, just do your job. So that when Severino needs to throw that nasty slider in the dirt, Gary Sanchez will be there to catch it. And when the situation calls for it, Giancarlo Sanchez will be able to put his bat on the ball moving the runners-up or hitting a flair to right driving them in.
Or, that Gleyber Torres will learn to stay focused all the time, and not just most of the time, causing embarrassments on the bases and in the field.
These are intangibles that never get measured in the myriad of stats produced these days. But they all weigh heavily in a team’s success or failure. As we’ve said before, the Yankees have enough talent to take it all; it’s just a matter of whether or not they have the team to win it all.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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