The Yankees have won more than ninety games in 2017. That’s a fact and as we look back, who would have thought, and yet here they are on the doorstep of even making some more noise in the playoffs.
The Yankees, at the beginning of the season, were looked upon as a team which would likely finish as an also-ran in the American League East, and as a team with promise but not quite ready for prime time.
Ready to track the progress of Gleyber Torres and the incessant calls that would be rising up from the bleachers for his recall to the team, and wondering where in heaven’s name was the starting going to come from, I couldn’t help but wonder how many home runs Greg Bird would hit following his torrid Spring Training. And hoping too, that the choice of Aaron Judge over Aaron Hicks was the right one for the Yankees.
And so it began with a run to end all runs in which the Yankees stunned the world of baseball with a 21-9 start to the season and the birth of a new American Idol, Aaron Judge, who stepped into the upper echelon of major league ballplayers in the blink of an eye with all eyes upon him.
As with the Yankees, the halo over their caps would fade and the rest of the league would catch up to Judge and there would be two months in which the team would play sub-.500 baseball and Aaron Judge could only be found flailing at pitches he hit on the sweet part of his bat only weeks before.
Joe Girardi stayed steady at the helm, though, refusing to submit to cries from the Yankees faithful to bench Judge and Gary Sanchez, who emerged as a defensive handicap rising to the top of the league in passed balls and errors for a catcher, but still has improved enough for Girardi to name him as the catcher in the o0ne-game shootout against the Twins on Tuesday.
And if that wasn’t enough, he also “stole” Todd Frazier from the desperate Red Sox who were seeking a third baseman at the time. Frazier arrives like a kid in a candy store having escaped from the doldrums of the Chicago White Sox, and the dream of a Jersey Boy is fulfilled with a barrage of home runs that continues to today.
Chase Headley, caught in the middle of the Frazier deal as the odd man out at third base goes to Girardi and says, “I’m your man at first base if you need me”. Girardi, having finally lifted himself of the Chris Carter burden, and with no immediate date on the return of Greg Bird says, “Okay, you’re the man”, as Headley goes on a hitting tear that also continues until today while manning first without a hitch.
Oh yeah, then there all those doubts about the starting pitching. And they continued until one fateful event took Michael Pineda out of the picture with a season-ending injury. Which was the time, once again, for Brian Cashman to step into the craziness for the services of Sonny Gray.
Prospects were given up, and once again there were the naysayers who chastised the Yankees for going all-in on the 2017 season. But from that point on, it was clear the Yankees were in it to win it. And they almost did.
The Yankees Epilog Has Yet To Be Written
Today, officially, the Yankees, on a day when Aaron Judge hit his 52nd home run of the season and the ever-reliable CC Sabathia pitched into the sixth inning savoring a shutout and a Yankees win, were eliminated from the AL East Division title, 161 games after the season began. Who would have thought?
I’ve been following the Yankees for half a century and I cannot recall a season in which the team left a mark on me like this season has. Everything that should have been next year is this year.
And the best part, of course, is the fun is just beginning.