There are some that wanted to see Joe Girardi go. But be careful what you ask for.
At 6’7″, 282 lbs., New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is a very imposing figure. And with the starting of training camps in the National Football League more than a month away from beginning, Judge has the physical stature to be a defensive end for the New York Giants. However Judge’s first love is baseball in spite of the fact that he was able to excel at the high school level in football and basketball. But it was Judge’s baseball talents that took him to Fresno State University. There Judge would catch the eye of Major League Baseball scouts as his mammoth home runs were difficult to ignore. In 2013, the Yankees would select Judge 32nd overall in the MLB Draft as he was expected to be a building block for the the future.
Judge would develop in the Yankees minor-league system, but he began to earn a reputation of having power at the plate and not being able to hit for average.
Judge would get his chance to show what he could do at the Major League level when he made his debut with the Yanks last August. In Judge’s first career at-bat, he hit a home run off of Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Andriese. In 27 games with the Yankees in 2016, Judge would hit .179 with 4 home runs and 10 runs batted in. However the fact that he hit a home run in his first at-bat would be a harbinger of things to come here in 2017.
In just 60 games in 2017, Judge has gone from being a guy who only had power to a player that is the front runner to be the American League’s MVP.
Judge’s 22 home runs lead the American League, and the same can be said about his .341 batting average, while his 49 runs batted in as he also finds himself in contention to win the Triple Crown. But it is not that Judge is simply hitting home runs as they are seismic. This past Sunday, Judge launched a home run against the Baltimore Orioles that was measured at 496 feet as it cleared the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, while it was marked as the longest home run hit since Major League Baseball began to measure homers in 2009. Like catcher Gary Sanchez who made his debut with the Yankees last year and created a buzz for himself due to his power, Judge is doing the same for himself as he has become a household name rather quickly. And Judge is also making Yankees general manager Brian Cashman look like a genius as he stuck to his guns as far as not trading the team’s young prospects in favor of established veterans.
Since 1995, the Yankees have 18 playoff appearances which has produced five World Series Championships. However in the last four seasons the Yankees only have one trip to the postseason. This has put Cashman under fire as he has not been spending money like we’ve seen him do in the past with the Yankees focusing on developing young talent such as Judge. And it is paying off in a big way.
The emergence of Judge has now given the Yankees an opportunity to create a new core of players who could potentially win another World Series Championship, and there might not have been a better team for him to have been drafted into Major League Baseball by.
The Yankees have a long history of having some of the game’s best sluggers suit up for them. The names are iconic in baseball such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Reggie Jackson just to name a few as they were known to hit powerful homers, and in the words of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, “they put meat in the seats”.
This is exactly what Judge is doing as he now has his own section in the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium which are known as “The Judge’s Chambers”. Fans in the section will dress up in judicial robes with white wigs to show their support of the youngster, while his batting practice sessions are an event of its very own. And now with the emergence of Judge, the Yankees marketing machine can go to work in promoting their phenom.
As the Yankees are currently sitting atop the American League East with Judge having a big hand, or in this case a huge bat in the the equation, it has resparked their fan base. And with the retirement of shortstop Derek Jeter in 2014, New York City needs a clean-cut baseball player that is wearing the Yankee pinstripes as Madison Avenue and the Bronx Bombers go hand in hand. But aside from the marketing aspect, Judge’s emergence can help New York in other ways as well.
All-Star caliber players such as Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado are set become free agents in 2019 and the Yanks have long been rumored to have them on their radar. And as the backdrop of playing in the Big Apple for the Yankees is extremely enticing, being in a lineup with a player such as Judge could be the icing on the cake.
Judge has really turned heads around baseball during the first two months of the season and at the very least Judge is going to be the American League’s Rookie of the Year, while the thumb injury to Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has opened the door for to possibly be the A.L. MVP. And the scary thing about Judge is that he is only going to get better.
From 1996-2009, the New York Yankees were at the top of the mountain in Major League Baseball. The Yankees won five World Series Championships which was more than any other club over that stretch. And when it was all said and done, the Yankees had 27 World Series Titles which is more than any other MLB club. But since then the Yankees have a taken a step back which includes missing the playoffs in three of the last four years. However in the early stage of the 2017 MLB season, the Yanks are showing that they are once again a force to be reckoned with.
The Yankees record of 21-11 is good enough to lead most divisions in Major League Baseball, but not the American League East as they are 1.5-games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the top spot and they have the second best winning percentage in baseball. After beginning the season with a record of 1-4, New York has gone on to win seven of their last nine series which included sweeps of the Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs. The sweep of the Cubs put the rest of MLB on notice in regards to the Yankees as the Cubbies are the defending World Series Champions, and this occurred at their home ballpark of Wrigley Field. And although that it is only May, the folks in New York City are beginning to envision seeing this team make it to October.
At the request of Yankees owners Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, team general manager Brian Cashman has not been as active in free agency over the past few winters as New York has begun to focus on trading veteran players for prospects, while developing them in their system along with the ones whom they drafted.
We’ve begun to see these youngsters take flight for the Yankees and it began late last season with the emergence of catcher Gary Sanchez. Last year in just 53 games, Sanchez batted .299 with 20 home runs and 42 runs batted in to finish second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. This season injuries have limited Sanchez to just 11 games, but he is expected to once again be a force to be reckoned with. Outfielder Aaron Judge made his Major League Baseball debut last year as he was only able to bat .179 in 27 games. However this season Judge has also been the jury and execution for New York as his 13 home runs lead the American League and he is a solid candidate to be named A.L. MVP.
The Yankees also have a surplus of talent in their minor league system that could soon be ready to help the big club. Pitcher Ben Heller outfielder Clint Frazier were a part of the Yankees compensation that they received for sending relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians last year. And like Sanchez and Judge, Frazier and Heller have the potential to be future building blocks for the Yankees. But aside from the youngsters, the Yankees are getting solid contributions from the veterans in their lineup.
After the Yankees signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the rival Red Sox, they have not gotten their money’s worth. Ellsbury helped Boston win the World Series in 2013, and he cashed in when he joined the Yanks to the tune of $153 million over seven years immediately following that. Ellsbury was supposed to be a table setter for the Yankees, but his first three years in New York saw him have a batting average of only .265, with an on-base percentage of .328. And this was on the heels of Ellsbury swiping 52 bases in 2013 which led the American League.
However this season Ellsbury is batting .280 to go along with an on-base percentage of .368 which is his best while wearing Yankee pinstripes and he has been a spark for them in their lineup.
Last year the Yankees acquired second baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs. Castro enjoyed a solid first season with the Yankees as he batted .270 with 21 homers and 70 runs batted in. But here in 2017, Castro is off to a blazing start as his .351 batting average is second in the American League and his presence at the plate has given New York more depth.
Overall the offense of the Yankees is fierce as they are leading the American League in home runs (52), runs (182), and on-base percentage (.356). Cashman has put together a solid offense together, and even though that he wasn’t very active in free agency, he did make a key signing in picking up veteran outfielder Matt Holliday.
Holliday has always been a solid player which has seen him be a seven-time All-Star, while also helping the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series in 2011. Holliday is 37-years of age, but he is off to a solid start at the plate as he is batting .286 with 6 home runs and 19 runs batted in. I expect Yankees manager Joe Girardi to give Holliday some time at designated hitter throughout the season in order to keep him fresh as having a veteran like him in the lineup as much as possible will be very beneficial to the club.
Coming into the 2017 Major League Baseball season I expected the Yankees pitching to be either feast of famine, and so far they have feasted. The Yankees team earned run average of 3.56 is third in the American League as they are receiving solid starting pitching.
Starting pitcher Michael Pineda has been the ultimate wild card for the Yankees throughout his career with them. But with Pineda scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season, he has been dialed in on the mound. Pineda is 3-2 this season with an earned run average of 3.27, while striking out 50 batters. The same can be said for starting pitcher Luis Severino who is 2-2 this season with an earned run average of 3.40. This past Sunday, Severino got a no-decision against the Cubs, but he was still able to limit their potent lineup to just a single run over seven innings, while striking out nine batters.
At 36-yeas of age, veteran starting pitcher CC Sabathia might not be in the running to win the American League’s Cy Young Award like he was earlier in his career, but he knows how to pitch. Sabathia is 2-2 this season with an earned run average of 5.77. And whatever that Sabathia can’t do when he takes the mound every fifth day for the Yanks, he can pass on his knowledge of the game to the youngsters.
Arm issues along with Major League Baseball hitters getting adjusted to starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka have meant that he has had to change his approach on the mound. Tanaka does have 5 victories so far this season, be he has benefited from the strong Yankees lineup as he is sporting an earned run average of 4.31.
Prior to trading relief pitchers Miller and Aroldis Chapman last year, the Yankees had the best bullpen in baseball. But after the trade that sent Miller to the Indians, along with the deal which sent Chapman to the Cubs, New York’s bullpen struggled as relief pitcher Dellin Betances was unable to shoulder the load. However with the Yankees bringing Chapman back in free agency, he is once again locking down the ninth inning as Betances is setting things up for him in the eighth. Chapman already has 7 saves this season, while Betances has 6 holds, and this combo will be vital in order for the Yankees to keep doing damage this season.
The Yankees are going to continue to hit this season as they have one of the best lineups in baseball. However it will come down to pitching in order for the Yankees to get back to the postseason. During the off-season Cashman avoided the temptation of giving up prospects to obtain the services of starting pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox as he eventually was traded to the Red Sox. But regardless of whether or not that the Yankees current starting rotation which has had issues in recent years as far as staying healthy and pitching deep into games will be able to hold up, New York is going to need another frontline starter in order to be legitimate contenders for the World Series.
The American League East will once again be fierce as the Yankees are currently battling for the top spot in the division with the Orioles, while the Red Sox are laying in the weeds. The Rays might not have a playoff caliber team on paper, but they always play their divisional foes tough. And although that the Toronto Blue Jays have gotten off to a slow start, they are not out of the mix, while they can also play spoiler.
Coming into this Major League Baseball season, all of the talk in the Big Apple was focused on the New York Mets who have the sizzle, but through nearly six weeks it has been the Yankees who’ve been taking care of business. And although that the youngsters such as Judge and Sanchez are still wet behind the ears, it hasn’t prevented them from becoming household names in New York City as 2017 is setting up to be a very promising year for them and their teammates with the Yankees.
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Texas Rangers
4. New York Yankees
5. Toronto Blue Jays
American League Wild Card Game: Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees
Unlike when the Yankees made the Wild Card Game in 2015, there is a different buzz around this team now.
American League Divisional Series
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox (Red Sox wins series 3-2)
This is only the fourth time that the Yankees and Red Sox will meet in the postseason, and like the previous three, this one will be worth the price of admission.
Texas Rangers vs. Cleveland Indians (Indians win series 3-1)
The Rangers have been one of the best teams in this era, but they’ve simply been unable to get over the hump.
American League Championship Series
Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox (Red Sox win series 4-2)
In a rematch from last year’s divisional round, the Red Sox will be able to reverse the tide and get back to the Fall Classic.
2. Washington Nationals
3. San Francisco Giants
4. New York Mets
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
National League Wild Card Game: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets
There’s no love lost between the Dodgers and Mets which should make for a very interesting and intense contest.
National League Divisional Series
New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs (Cubs win series 3-1)
The Cubs have exercised their demons from the past and the Mets won’t be able to stop them.
San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals (Giants win series 3-2)
As talented as the Nationals are, they still can’t get over the hump in the playoffs.
National League Championship Series San Francisco Giants (Cubs win series 4-2)
Just like last year in the playoffs, the superiority of the Cubs will take over and allow them to get past the Giants.
2017 World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago Cubs (Cubs win 4-3)
In the Theo Epstein Classic, his new team in the Cubs will get the best of his old team.