Yankees 2022: Return to Hope and Glory

Ultimately, what fans want is World Series baseball in the Bronx in ’22.

Optimism dimmed and glory eluded the Yankees in ’21 as they were swiftly eliminated from the postseason with a loss in the Wild Card game to hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox.

An optimism based on the fact that most fans agree, the Yankees, with their current talent, are in a championship window and that they have a core of players who are at or near the peak of their careers — and I’m thinking of Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, and Giancarlo Stanton, players with elite abilities who can change a game single-handedly.

The Yankees, however, struggled in spite of the personal accolades Judge received, and indeed, he won the Fielding Bible Award for his work in right field and a second Silver Slugger award. Both well deserved, but not enough to lift the team on his shoulders and carry them to a World Series.

After all, it’s winning that matters and the Yankees didn’t do enough of it in ’21. With a 92-70 record, landing 8 games back of the division winning Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees underperformed in spite of the wild card appearance.

As a fan watching the Yankees daily, it was no secret that the Yankees were underperforming. The inconsistency with which they played, the seemingly endless losing streaks balanced by bursts of winning that were dazzling, kept fans guessing what the identity of the 2021 Yankee team was.

Among the individual underperformers were Gleyber Torres, who struggled at the plate and in the field, eventually being moved to second base in the hopes that he would improve defensively.

DJ LeMahieu was likewise a disappointment in ’21, but with the bat, hitting .264, a daily grind (painful to watch at times) at the plate, not with the ease with which fans saw him hit .364 in 2020 and take home a Silver Slugger award. It was only after the season that fans learned he had been dealing with a hernia during the season that likely impacted his production.

Aroldis Chapman, Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez are other players who underperformed and who are now the target of fans’ offseason speculations that they may be traded.

Sure, injuries, such as Aaron Hicks’ season-ending wrist injury, Luke Voit’s oblique strain and knee injury, which left the Yankees vulnerable at first base, and Corey Kluber’s shoulder injury, which kept him out from June 5th-August 30th, negatively impacted the season.

It wasn’t until the Yankees acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo at the trade deadline that there was some hope that the first base and outfield issues had been addressed.

However, even with the addition of Gallo and Rizzo, the Yankees were unable to mount a successful run at the postseason.

There were some sparks of optimism, however, as the season wound down. Luis Severino returned to pitch on September 20, 2021 and fans were once again cheering the 27 year old as glimpses of his once great talent were apparent. Nestor Cortes, Jr. emerged as a surprise success story in ’21.

I look forward to the 2021-2022 offseason as I have not looked forward to one since Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were available free agents.

The Yankees have identified their biggest areas of concern for 2022 as shortshop, first base, and starting pitching and the free agent class is teeming with elite talent, especially at shortstop, where Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Javier Baez lead the class.

The ’22 Yankee team has no identity at all as it will coalesce as the offseason acquisitions play out.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but look back to a time when the Yankees fans looked forward to Opening Day every year featuring two of the game’s greatest players, and also two stalwarts of the game, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Fans of the day were practically guaranteed that Ruth and Gehrig would bring a championship to the Yankees, and thus the expectation for generations of Yankees teams was born. Winning, as George Steinbrenner would famously say, after breathing, is the most important thing.

As fans look toward the 2022 season with hope, what they are hoping for is that the team will return to that glory represented by Ruth and Gehrig, that they will capture the elusive 28th title. Yankee fans expect titles and a .568 winning percentage is not acceptable.

Ultimately, what fans want is World Series baseball in the Bronx in ’22. It’s the same thing they wanted in ’21 and ’20 and, well, you get the idea.

So sit back Yankee fans and let the hot stove warm you while you dream of rings and championship things and let Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman work his magic.

DJ LeMahieu: A Yankees fan’s reaction to his return

DJ LeMahieu, a Yankee for life, or so it would seem from his 6 year, $90M contract.

I was up early on January 15, 2021 and was among the first to see new that DJ LeMahieu was finalizing a deal with the New York Yankees. This news was soon confirmed and I smiled all day.

DJ LeMahieu, a Yankee for life, or so it would seem, from his 6 year, $90M contract. LeMahieu is the epitome of Yankee greatness, a player focused on performing at the top of his game every time out and focused on winning. His personal success, accolades, and awards only serve to solidify how important his contributions are to the winning culture of the Yankees.

The LeMahieu signing begins to clarify the Yankees infield for 2021. There was a time when impatient Yankee fans speculated that LeMahieu would not be returning and that Gleyber Torres would be moved back to second base where he had been more effective defensively than he was at short stop in his first full season. LeMahieu’s return makes that scenario unlikely, however the rumor mill continues to churn on speculations about what the Yankees might do with Gleyber Torres.

LeMahieu provides elite defense behind the American League’s best pitcher in Gerrit Cole, and profiles to improve on his 2020 defensive numbers, which were down from previous years.

I’ve wondered what effect, if any, Torres’ first year at shortstop might have had on LeMahieu at 2B, contributing, perhaps, to the slight downturn in Fielding Percentage (.971 in 2020 and .993 in 2019) and Defensive Runs Saved (0 in 2020 and 3 in 2019). It will be interesting to see how Torres and LeMahieu perform together in their second year together on the infield.

But it’s the offense of the player nicknamed “LeMachine” that excites Yankee fans. His stoic focus at the plate resulted in a Silver Slugger Award in 2020. He finished third in Most Valuable Player voting, but he has the potential not only to be a MVP candidate again in 2021, but to win it.

Yankee fans across Twitter and Facebook were united in their relief that LeMahieu had at last been signed, knowing that he is the fuse in an offense with explosive power. The 2021 Yankees roster is far from being carved in stone, but with LeMahieu anchoring it, at least Yankee fans know they’ll get a winning attitude, a championship attitude.

Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery Highlight New York Yankees Spring Training Game Two

Montgomery is going to surprise a lot of people in 2020

My first thought was why a game debuting Gerrit Cole in pinstripes was not televised?  I shared the frustration of many fans who couldn’t watch or listen to Cole’s first pitch.  Despite the fact that he threw only 20 pitches in a one inning outing, I wanted to see every strike (there were two), every ball (there was one) and every pop-up to short (there was one).

Cole dialed it up to 98 mph on the radar gun and was everything the Yankees hoped for and paid for.  Cole was followed up by Jordan Montgomery for two innings of the best kind of come-back pitching, three strikeouts, two ground-outs, a hit-by-pitch and a fly out.  Montgomery hit 94 mph on the radar gun and was sharp with all his pitches.

As Eric Boland reported for Newsday, Montgomery told reporters after the game:

“Feel good about my arm strength and my mechanics, and they’re only going to get cleaner.”

Yankee fans look forward to a strong, healthy Montgomery to fill a rotation spot now that Luis Severino is a question mark and James Paxton is out healing from back surgery.   Let’s remember that Montgomery finished sixth in 2017 in Rookie of the Year voting on the strength of an impressive rookie campaign.  Montgomery is going to surprise a lot of people with his performance in 2020 as he looks to regain and surpass his rookie achievements.

New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole takes the ball in first steps toward number 28

Gerrit Cole takes the first step toward number 28 tonight

When Gerrit Cole appears for the Yankees tonight against mound opponent, Chris Archer, many fans believe it is the first step toward landing on the moon, so to speak, the first step toward number 28.

What does Gerrit Cole mean to Yankee fans: elite baseball every appearance, a master at the top of his craft taking the mound.  Cole means wins, especially with the noted absence of Luis Severino, who is suffering from forearm soreness and has been sent to New York for tests.

Cole pitched to a .179 average against the Yankees in 2019 and the Yankees are looking forward to watching Cole decimate opponents in similar fashion in 2020.  Cole’s statistics from 2019 are the stuff dreams are made of: 212.1 IP, 2.50 ERA, 13.82 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, 2.64 FIP, 7.4 WAR, opponents hit .185 against him.

Gerrit Cole, anchoring this rotation, armed with the largest pitching deal ever made, has been acquired to bring a championship to the Bronx.  Tonight against the Pirates, he takes his first steps on what promises to be a long, exciting road to number 28.

 

New York Yankees Postgame Thoughts

Chris Gittens smoked one out in the ninth inning for the Yankees.

On a bright day in Tampa, the Yankees opened the season with the first Spring Training game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Jays won 2-1 this afternoon, but who’s counting such things?  Baseball is back and for that I give thanks!

While I had predicted that Gary Sanchez would hit the first homer of the season, he didn’t even make the lineup today and that honor went to 1B Chris Gittens who smoked one out in the ninth inning for the Yankees.

When hits come exclusively from Gittens, Ben Ruta and Rosell Herrera, you know it’s February and not April.

J.A. Happ started the game and was sharp for two innings and was followed effectively by Michael King (1.2 IP) and Luis Cessa (1.1 IP).  The Blue Jays managed six hits against the likes of: Luis Avilan, Kaleb Ort, Domingo Acevedo and Brooks Kriske.

Had so much fun watching this matchup today.  Yankees baseball is making the journey back to championship form.  Looking forward to Gerrit Cole‘s debut on Monday night.