The Changing of the Guard…
The title of this post is a line by Captain James T. Kirk in the original TV Series Star Trek, but it holds true for the Yankees.
Who knows if the youth transfusion in the Bronx will be enough to push the Yankees into the play-offs this year. But at the moment, they are only 2.5 games behind for the last Wild Card slot, but with four team to leap frog. Regardless of what happens, baseball in the Bronx has become exciting again. I don’t think the Yankees will pull it out this year, but I am very excited for the future.
The Gary Sanchez Era has begun with the most legendary start in baseball history. Yesterday, he became the fastest player to reach 11 home runs at the start of a career. I’ve always remembered how beautiful it was to watch Darryl Strawberry hit home runs, and Sanchez has one of those swings that I love to watch the follow through. He may be young, but he is a professional hitter with the potential for long term sustained success in pinstripes. Before he is done, his name will be mentioned among the greats in Yankees history. Just like center field has long been a position of legends (current starter excluded), the Yankees have a deep history with legendary catchers. Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada represent rich tradition. If Sanchez stays healthy, he’ll join those names one day.
Credit: Ray Stubblebine, The New York Post
It is amazing that Sanchez is only 23. It seems like he has been a Yankees prospect for so many years, having signed at age 16.
Brian McCann is still a very good major league catcher, but he lost the position through no fault of his own. I hope the Yankees to the right thing and trade McCann to a team that can use his skills, even if it involves paying part of the contract. I personally would like to see him have the opportunity to return to Atlanta since he is a Georgia native. Even without McCann, the battle for the backup catching position will still be competitive next spring with Austin Romine and AAA catcher Kyle Higaskioka (assuming the latter is tendered a contract in the off-season).
Credit: BeGreengo, Flickr
The other young players, such as 1B Tyler Austin and RF Aaron Judge, have under-performed since their dramatic back to back homers in their first major league at-bats. But I know that Judge will figure it out. He struggled in AAA last year before dominating this year. Austin will most certainly yield 1B to the returning Greg Bird next spring, but I also think that he’ll figure it out. He would slot nicely on the team as the backup first baseman, but someone who could also see time in a corner outfield role and DH. While their bats have been quiet in recent days, their youthful presence on the formerly aged Yankees roster has been huge. They have helped restore excitement in the Bronx.
I can’t say enough about how well Luis Cessa and Chad Green have been for the starting rotation. Like everyone else, I was dismayed when lefty reliever Justin Wilson was shipped to the Detroit Tigers last off-season for two minor league prospects. While neither Cessa nor Green carry the potential for elite stuff, they’ve been exactly what the team needed after losing Nathan Eovaldi and trading away Ivan Nova. Andy Pettitte proved long ago that you don’t need elite stuff to be a very successful major league pitcher. I am not saying that either Cessa or Green will ever be the pitcher that Pettitte was, but it’s good to see young pitchers succeed. I can still remember when Al Leiter first came up and had some early success. But he also struggled, and the team had no patience under the George Steinbrenner regime so Leiter was traded away. He went on to have a very successful major league career. Under Hal Steinbrenner, Cessa and Green will be given every opportunity…and the time…to prove they belong to stay.
Training camp next spring should bring a renewed enthusiasm for young players. Now is not the time to be an aging veteran on the Yankees’ roster. It would be great if the Yankees could figure out a way to unload veterans like Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, but sadly, they’ll probably be stuck with those contracts to the end. I am already looking forward to the day that Clint Frazier takes over center field. 3B prospect Miguel Andujar looks like the eventual successor to third, barring any trades, but he’s still a few years away.
I have full confidence that GM Brian Cashman will continue to make the right moves to restore the winning tradition in Yankee Stadium. Excitement and optimism can be contagious, and Cashman has started something special for the future.
It’s a good time to be a Yankees fan!