The Yankees, arguably, are the most storied franchise in baseball history. “Putting on the pinstripes” has a special meaning to it – a mystique if you will. Is there something to it…
If the Yankees 2019 season has taught us anything, it’s that an Opening Day roster means nothing. A team spends six weeks in Spring Training sifting through as many 75 hopefuls who assemble in Tampa, Florida with only one thing on their mind – get noticed.
By the time the team heads North for Opening Day, Aaron Boone and his coaching staff have spent hours discerning what they view as their 25 best players.
For the Yankees though, almost immediately everything goes haywire. Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, and Giancarlo Stanton are driven down with injuries. Shortstop Didi Gregorius, a known in advance injury, is out at least until May with a rehabbing shoulder.
Yankees Fill The Holes
Where are the replacements to fill the holes in the lineup? The hole at shortstop is an easy one for Boone. Move Gleyber Torres to his natural position at shortstop. Now, what about second base?
DJ LeMahieu, who was signed during the offseason by Brian Cashman with the understanding he would have no set spot in the lineup but would get regular at-bats, is enlisted to play second base.
A former National League batting champion, still mostly unknown to Yankees fans and the team, steps in to seriously challenge for another batting title in the American League (.335, 24 HR, 90 RBI). Who knew the Yankees would get this kind of production from LeMahieu?
Let go by the Colorado Rockies after several pedestrian seasons, was LeMahieu transformed by the Yankees mystique?
There’s no one Boone sees as an immediate replacement for Andujar. Looking around, Boone notices a castoff picked up by Brian Cashman from the Toronto Blue Jays for “cash considerations” (if anyone knows what that means).
The player has a reputation as a solid fielding third-baseman. So, Boone gives him a try, and on April 4, 2019, Gio Urshela plays his first game in Pinstripes.
By April 22, Urshela is batting .297. By May 10, his average is up to .349. Everyone wanted to know what do we have here?
The answer comes as the months move on. What the Yankees have is another contender for the American League Batting Title and a third baseman who is currently batting .331 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI over 114 games.
Urshela will not have a shot at winning the batting title due to an injury he’s mending, but only because Urshela will not have the minimum plate appearances to meet major league rules. But again, is Urshela another player affected in a positive manner by wearing the Pinstripes? Does the “Mystique” have meaning?
Yankees Mystique: A Case Of Piling On
You are getting my drift here. But there are many other Yankees who have “come out of nowhere” to make substantial contributions to the 2019 Yankees team. And like myself, did you not say – “Huh?” when you first saw them in the Yankee lineup?
Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford come to mind immediately. Here are two players most would say were pulled out of a hat to fortify the Yankees outfield in the absence of Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks.
Tauchman, for instance, in less than 250 at-bats with the Yankees has 30 extra-base hits and 45 runs driven home. His defense in the outfield has been stellar. Playing all three outfield positions, Tauchman has made only one error and has three assists to his credit in left field.
Mike Ford, filling in for Luke Voit at first base, has ten home runs and 16 RBI in a mere 110 at-bats since being called up from Triple-A Scranton. Ford’s walk-off home run alone as a pinch-hitter for Clint Frazier in Sunday’s win against the combative A’s solidifies his place in Yankees lore for the 2019 season.
Can anyone (honestly) say they were familiar with either player before Opening Day, or even in June?
And did either one or both players happen to glance at the at that sign above the entranceway to the Yankees dugout? In the same way, Derek Jeter reached up to touch the plaque (upper right) every time he took the field as a Yankee?
Have they driven to the ballpark on an off day or hours before game time when the Stadium echoes without people? To stroll out to Monument Park, asking the security guard stationed there for entrance? Just for the opportunity to have a few reflective moments soaking it all in.
We’d have to ask them. But something has to account for the level of player each is exhibiting in this genuinely historic season the Yankees are having.
This is not to take anything away from any of these players. Urshela, in particular, worked hard during the offseason to become the hitter he is today. Mike Ford labored in the minors for seven years before he was allowed to show he belongs in Pinstripes.
Similarly, Mike Tauchman played for seven different minor league teams over seven years. That was before his opportunity came when Brian Cashman (in retrospect) stole Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies.
But overall, the hard labor put in by players like Urshela, Tauchman, and Ford is not unusual among minor league players still hoping – after all those years – to fulfill that dream of making it to The Show. How many never get the chance?
The Question: Asked And Answered
In sum then, it does give pause to suggest there is something to the Yankees mystique. It’s about being part of a winning tradition and 27 World Championships. Does a player coming to the Yankees simply just “feel like a winner” and the confidence level automatically shoot up?
And putting on the same uniform, for instance, in Gio Urshela‘s case number 29, the same Mike Stanton previously wore along with Jesse Barfield, both proven winners. Does that not add a little zest to the experience of being a New York Yankee?
You can argue, and I’m sure some will say that the Yankees Mystique is a bit of a stretch. And I will not categorically disagree. But there has to be something behind the performance of these and other players this season.
Would Urshela be battling for a batting title with Toronto if given the same chance he’s been given by the Yankees? Would Luke Voit be as valuable to the Cardinals as he is with the Yankees, if not for the diligent effort of Brian Cashman and his scouting staff?
Would Cameron Maybin have performed for the Cleveland Indians if they had stuck with him a bit longer? And if Cashman did not purchase him on April 25? And did the Pinstripes spur him to hit .291 with 23 extra-base bits in only 65 games with the Yankees?
Detectives working a case will tell you there is no such thing as coincidence when tracking a person of interest. I believe that’s the case here. There is something to the Yankees Mystique – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…