The Yankees have been saying it all year. Just wait. When we’re at full strength, we’ll be something to behold. Well, here it is, and sure enough, they are…
By now, the Yankees story for 2019 is a redundant saga about injuries and their ability to overcome them. We listened daily to Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman as they wove the always optimistic yarn about returning players, and even a forecast the team would be whole in time for the postseason.
When it became a question of not if but when players like Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton would return to action, we turned our attention, with some degree of trepidation, to the level of play they would have once they hit the field.
It’s all moot now. Both have seamlessly blended into the team. Especially Severino, whose most recent outing on Sunday caused Boone to gush, “We have our ace back”. Forming a triangle with James Paxton (10-0 in his last ten decisions) and ole reliable Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees are locked and loaded for at least the ALDS.
Oh sure, there are still some MIA’s. But you get the feeling that regardless of hell or high water, both Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez will be on the field October 4 when the Yankees postseason begins.
On paper, the Yankees are set up for playoffs success. It’s in the cards the Yankees hold, waiting for the rest of the players in the game to reveal their cards before the Yankees show their winning hand.
Whether winning home-field advantage over the Astros is in the forefront or rear of the team’s mind – you can’t tell. Because all they continue to do is win. Their latest steak is something like ten out twelve, and they are stomping on teams. Number 28 is coming closer.
There’s Always A But, Though…
Yes, there’s always a but. And you can probably guess what it is. The Yankees must win now. There are no excuses – check that – we’ll call them reasons why the team doesn’t take this all the way.
The Yankees have been playing loosey-goosey all year. Baseball marvels at what the team has accomplished in the face of thirty different players hitting the IL at one time or another (Congratulations Gleyber Torres!). That was then – this is now.
Next-man-up has been the team’s melody and refrain. The initially named “Replacement Players” are now assimilated and firmly a part of the team. What changes now, though, is that the team is composed of the Real Yankees for the postseason.
Players like Aaron Judge, who has been magnificent since his return, and Giancarlo Stanton, who can’t revert to the disappointing postseason he had last year, have to deliver. Ditto Luke Voit and Gio Urshela, and James Paxton, all of whom have had outstanding seasons, but find themselves in the foreign territory of the playoffs.
In The Crapshoot Postseason, You Never Can Tell
Will this be the year the Yankees repeat their assault on the rest of the league by going 11-2, as they did in 1998? This team, arguably, is better than the team the Yankees fielded that season.
They could, but it’s a crapshoot. A break here, a missed bunt signal there, a ball lost in the sun – we’ve seen it all during past postseasons.
Look at the Dodgers. Nearly four million fans a year have flocked to Dodger Stadium to watch the team win seven (7!) consecutive Division titles. All for naught though, as the Dodgers are still waiting for their first World Series win since 1988. And don’t even mention the Atlanta Braves (1995), Minnesota Twins (1991), or Tampa Bay Rays, who have never won it all despite their penchant for getting in the playoffs.
The hottest team at the time usually wins. Usually, being the operative word.
The Yankees look spectacular, and the team is intact for the first time all year. A lot is expected. Let the games begin…