Riding a six-game winning streak, the New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball and are only half a game back from having the best record in baseball. Rocking a 5-0 record at home and a plus 14 scoring difference, the Yankees are doing this without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregarious, which begs the question: is this just an early season fluke or are the Yankees back?
I grew up a Chicago Cubs fan during the years of Sammy Sosa. He was a spectacle to watch, with each at bat providing a chance for a home run or a memorable play. Throughout his early career, Slammin’ Sammy was fighting Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds for the home run crown, hitting 64 home runs in 2001.
My dad and I traveled to Wrigley Field for baseball games, as my love for the Cubs was real, but things changed in June of 2003 when Sosa was ejected for using a corked bat. Although 76 of his other bats were not found with corks, it put tarnish on his mystical persona. Next year he would suffer an injury while chatting with reporters and would never return to the same player he was.
My house in New Jersey always had the Yankees on because they were the team of choice for my parents throughout their lives. I remember receiving a poster of the Subway Series in 2000, watching Luis Gonzales hit a blooper over Derek Jeter to defeat the Yankees in 2001 and the Angels beat the Yankees in 2002. A ticket from what would have been Game 7 between the Yankees and the Florida Marlins hangs up in my basement that is more of a game remembrance than a relic fro my dad.
Following Sosa, I was a nine year old kid without a team and oddly the Yankees loss in the 2004 playoffs made me a Yankees fan. Over the next few years I had the chance to attend games in the historic old Yankee Stadium and be in awe of Jeter, Mariano Rivera and my favorite Bernie Williams. I fell in love with the team when they were not winning championships but that was great because I knew when they would get back on top and when they did it would be worth it.
The Yankees have only won two World Series titles this century, in 2000 and 2009, as they have not been their dominant self since the turn of the century. After a plethora of retirements from Jeter, Rivera, Rodriguez and Teixeira, the Yankees were struggling to find youth and an identity.
Instead of going the usual Yankees route and spending as much money as humanly possible, New York decided to trade away players such as Andrew Miller in order to get younger. Now the Yankees have one of the best farm systems in Major League Baseball which is the key to winning these days, evident by the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs.
Pundits this season did not give the Yankees a chance, due to their lack of starting pitching, youth and absence of stardom. They said they are too young and not ready for a 162 game season, and they they could be right, but for now the Yankees look scary good and I think that is good for baseball.
When the Lakers and Celtics are in the playoffs for basketball, it gives the NBA a certain something. This is the same for baseball with the Red Sox and Yankees, and for football with the Cowboys and Steelers. These teams do not have to win titles but they have to be in contention.
As mentioned before, the season is only just underway; to be exact 6.2 percent, with most teams playing around 10 games. Early on, Baltimore leads the league with a 7-3 record, while the Blue Jays are in last with a 2-9 record, but teams got hot, teams get cold, that is the nature of baseball.
The question poised at the start of the column was: is this just an early season fluke or are the Yankees back? To answer it, I think the Yankees are still a year away. They need another starting pitcher and one more hitter to challenge opposing teams.
I understand fans of other teams should not be rooting for the Yankees to get better but neutral fans should be because baseball is better with the Yankees being competitive for two reasons. It makes the best rivalry in sports, the Yankees and Red Sox, fun to watch and the evil empire is the most hated and loved team in all of sports, making them one of the best to watch.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.