The Yankees went on record yesterday predicting they’ll break their season home run total. The bravado is nice, but a Championship needs more…
The Yankees Mighty Mouse, Brett Gardner hit two home runs against the Tigers on Sunday, Aaron Judge hit two more, and Gary Sanchez added another, while even a 22-year old rookie named Isiah Gilliam tacked on one more, for a total of six (count ’em) home runs for the day.
After which came the next day’s news headlines quotes from both Gardner and Judge that last year’s record-setting team home run record is kindergarten compared to what we’ll see this year.
Later, Gardner was heard ribbing both Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, wanting to know which of them was going to hit 70 home runs in 2019. Fortunately, the bravado stopped there on a day when the Yankees were hitting Triple-A pitching over the fences during a meaningless Spring Training game.
Okay, let’s give Brett Gardner, a guy probably asks himself upon waking up every day – Am I in the lineup today? – A pass for his enthusiasm and excitement. And Judge too, who is usually more restrained but may have just been enjoying seeing his teammate having a bit of fun.
But here’s the rub. Take a peek at the box score for Sunday’s game, and ask yourself, what’s missing? I see only seven runs scored, meaning only one was not attributed to a home run, three hits more than the home runs for a total of nine, and one measly walk.
Remembering that I didn’t start this, they did, and one game, especially an exhibition game, does make a season, but I have a concern if the Yankees truly believe the home run is the answer to Number 28.
What is the worth, as an example, of Giancarlo Stanton smashing those 70 home runs let’s say, but holding that against a repeat of his 211 strikeouts, half of which as a minimum (let’s assume) came with men on base who could have been driven in with a single, or even a batted ball hit in fair territory?
A home run is an individual accomplishment, that may or may not lead to a team accomplishment. A home run hit in the seventh inning of an 8-1 game, whether losing or winning, adds to the total contributions to “The Record,” but what else makes it noteworthy?
There is nothing more entertaining and explosive than to be present at Yankee Stadium, or any ballpark when a home run is hit. The crack of the bat sounds and feels different, and most times you just know the ball has hit the sweet spot of the hitter’s bat, and you automatically stand in response to the ball in flight.
The Yankees do indeed have all they need to set a new record for home runs in a season. When you consider Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez missed a considerable amount of time due to injury, their impact on the record was marginalized, and bigger things might naturally be expected from both this season.
But if Brian Cashman’s signing of DJ LeMahieu and the Yankees offering of an extension to Aaron Hicks tell us anything, it should be that the Yankees assign a priority value on players who can get on base. Mighty Mouse Gardner falls in that category too. And it’s a good one to be in because these are the players who will be the engine that drives the train in the upcoming season.
The Yankees, the team who is known as the Bronx Bombers, will never be a team of “punch and Judy” hitters. But it’s the blend of power and situational hitting that separates the Red Sox from the Yankees. I can’t prove it, I just know and sense it as a fan of baseball.
Box scores level the playing field of every game ever played. And while it was fun to note this entry in the box score for Sunday’s game…
HR: Gardner 2 (2, 1st inning off Norris 0 on, 0 Out, 2nd inning off Norris 0 on, 2 Out); Sanchez (1, 3rd inning off Verhagen 0 on, 1 Out); Judge 2 (2, 1st inning off Norris 0 on, 0 Out, 5th inning off Turnbull 1 on, 0 Out); Gilliam (1, 7th inning off Alexander 0 on, 2 Out)…. all, you’ll notice with no men on base…
I’m just not convinced this is a winning formula for the Yankees to win that long-awaited 28th World Championship….