Are The Yankees For Real?

yankeesThe firm answer is….probably not, but definitely maybe.

Strumings readers know my passion for the Bronx Bombers. I attended my first game in 1960 and fell in love. I do “Thank the lord for making me a Yankee (fan)”, so obviously I want the answer to the headline to be, hell yeah.

But I am also a realist which is why I’ve not posted my annual “Why the Yankees will be World Champs” Struming for a few years. Obviously from 1996-2012 there was reason to believe they could reign in any year and they did 5 times. But as Jeter, Bernie, A Rod, Teixeira, Posada, Rivera, Pettite, et al aged, the Yankees became more painful to watch. They had enough talent to be marginally OK, but hardly enough juice to play deep into October. They were aging, slowing and injuries began to take their toll as they do for all older players. In fact the Yankees were fortunate to get high levels of performance deep into the 30s and even 40s for some of their players.

Nonetheless even haters have to admire the fact that they haven’t had a losing season in 25 years. It appeared that heading into 2017 that even that 25 year non-losing season streak could come to an end, and still might. Clearly the Yankees are a team “in transition”. But the Yankees are proving (at least to date) that transition and rebuilding are not the same. The Yankees seek to contend every year but I surely thought this year may not be case. However, there’s nothing better than a 20-9 record, coming off a sweep of the Cubs, and being in first place with the best record in baseball to make their fans happy. I am excited, yet I know there are 133 games yet to be played. Lots of baseball ahead. Hopefully not too many 18 inning nail biters.

The 2017 Yankees now combine youth in Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Montgomery, Severino, players aged 26-30 (Didi, Castro, Hicks) and ones early 30s (Headley, Gardner and Ellsbury). There are only two players who are older than 35, CC and Matt Holiday who are both 37–and their contracts end at the end of this season. So the position players are now far better aligned to perform with many players having the best years ahead of them.

On the mound their bullpen is second to none in baseball, but the starting pitching is good, not great. But having a great bullpen makes it far easier for their starters to go 6 innings rather than 7 or 8.

Regarding their supernovas, Judge and Sanchez, one can only dream. Is Aaron Judge the next Babe Ruth? Is Gary Sanchez the next Yogi Berra? Not likely in either case. But I am more than OK if they evolve into “just” very good players and don’t fall off a cliff as rookies often do. Time will tell. What’s also exciting is that the Yankees have now stockpiled top future talent in AAA and AA. (PS: I even went to see the Yankees AA team, Trenton Thunder, a couple of weeks ago to see 20-year old Gleyber Torres (#3 ranked prospect in baseball). He looked very smooth—he had the look of a major leaguer.

Will all the young players become stars? No. Will they all flame out? Probably not. Even a 50% success rate on “can’t miss” young players is good. But for the first time in a long time, the future is bright and the next generation of Yankees stars is quickly emerging, with more to come. What’s also interesting is that the Yankees have not splurged in the free agent market recently either. Their pockets are still deep and I am happy to do my part through my partial season tickets. I suspect they will only splurge—at least with an extended contracts–with “younger” (sub 30) free agents in the future. A few mega stars will become young free agents within 2-3 years, so I look for the Yankees open their wallets as they seek to attract the highest level free agents. (PS: For Yankees haters, The Yankees are no longer the largest spenders in baseball, they are #3 behind LA Dodgers and even the Detroit Tigers)

I am more excited than ever to go see them live, and I have already been to Yankee Stadium 5 times this year (of their 15 home games) and plan on many more trips to the Bronx in the near future, primarily with Yankees super fan Carolyn Strum. There is now excitement in the Bronx and a bright future, even if real success is still a year or two in the horizon.

But as they look to the future, the Yankees also represent tradition and American history and we will be going to the Derek Jeter’s number retirement ceremony this Sunday May 14. Nothing like celebrating the past (and there’s no team with a history like the Yankees) while at the same time looking forward to a genuinely bright future.

Will the Yankees bring home Championship #28 in 2017? Probably not, and it may not be many years off until they do. But I will be there to see it.

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  1. Ira says:

    I don’t like your conclusion of a nice article that Yanks probably won’t win #28 .this year. To borrow a phrase from our cross town Met buddies … Ya Gotta Believe!!! These Yanks are tearin’ it up in every aspect. And minor leaguers ready to replace injured guys any time. Go Bombers …. lovin’ it!

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Ira, I would love to be wrong and see the Bombers win #28 this year. As you know I watch them in person as often as I can.

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