Tonight the Yankees begin their 55th postseason in franchise history seeking a 28th world championship. And if they don’t add No. 28, this season will be largely a disappointment.
Last week, my esteemed colleague and long-suffering Mets fan Jorge Eckardt wrote a column entitled “The Mets aren’t going to make the playoffs and that’s OK.” In it, he argued for considering this season a “success” because the Mets finished a whole 10 games over .500 and that the future is bright.
Well, I’m sorry Jorge, but that’s what you said last year. And the year before that. And you’ll say it again next year. When a team has built up your hopes only to brutally demolish them time and time again, it’s understandable to adopt the “next year is our year” trap.
In the Bronx, however, expectations are a little higher. The Yankees won 103 games this season, the most since 2009, which happens to be the last time the Bombers won the World Series.
In the last 15 seasons, the Yankees have made it to the Fall Classic exactly once. While they’ve made the postseason in all but four of those seasons, it’s been a decade marked by promising teams and disappointing finishes. That’s the norm in Queens, not the Bronx.
Since 2016, however, these last three seasons have felt different. The regular seasons have been fun, the rosters have been full of characters and running jokes, the teams have shown flashes of true greatness. But for the last two seasons, the Yankees have been eliminated by the ultimate World Series champs; first the dominant 2017 Astros and then the (regrettably) great 2018 Red Sox.
This is the season that Aaron Boone and the Yanks must get over the hump. And this is the team capable of doing that.
Despite a regular season in which seemingly every single player on the roster took a trip to the IL, the Yankees won the AL East by seven games, and that includes the 96-win Rays who’re headed to the ALDS.
With an Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton-less lineup for much of the season, the Yankees plated more runs than any other team, crushed the second-most homers (the Twins hit one more) and had the third-highest team OPS in the league.
For every player that went down, a Gio Urshela or Mike Tauchman stepped up. DJ LeMahieu had an MVP-caliber season. Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner had strong bounce-back seasons. Gleyber Torres showed no signs of a sophomore slump.
Without Andujar, German, Sabathia, Betances, Hicks, Ellsbury (kidding), you could make the argument that the Yankees are still far from full strength. But in October, especially given the injury bug which has lingered all season long, this is as healthy as it’s going to get. There are no excuses.
Pitching has, unfortunately, been a rollercoaster. Luis Severino missed essentially the entire regular season. He’ll be the third starter for now, but it’s frighteningly unclear how close to 100% he really is. CC Sabathia’s health has been an issue, J.A. Happ has been an utter catastrophe, Domingo German struggled in the second half before being suspended indefinitely. Thankfully, Masahiro Tanaka has remained healthy and James Paxton has been superb over the last two months. He will deservedly be the Yankees’ No. 1 arm in the playoffs.
If the starters can limit the damage before handing it over to Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton and Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees’ offense is good enough to beat any pitching in the league — even Houston.
Speaking of Houston, let’s talk opposition. The Twins are, in a sense, a tough draw for the Yankees. Only the Rays surrender less home runs per nine innings than Minnesota, so the Bombers will have to generate some offense without relying on the long ball.
The Twins are also, frankly, a much better team than the ones the Yankees are used to facing (and beating) in the postseason. Given their rotation issues and power up and down the lineup, they look awfully like the 2019 Yankees. But if the regular season is any indication, this series will be an absolute shootout, and I’ll take the Yankees in a shootout over any team in baseball.
So then we get to (presumably) the Astros. Houston is, well, very good. Perhaps unbeatable in a seven-game series. If the Yankees get past the Astros, they’ll win the World Series.
Is the season a complete failure if they lose to Houston? No, if only because the 107-win Astros are simply so good. But an exit to the Twins would certainly be a failed season, and even a defeat to Houston would feel like yet another disappointing ending.
Now to pull a Jorge: This team is going to be good for years to come, there’s no doubt about that. There is always next year. But this was the offseason that Brian Cashman went out and got weapons, this was the team that pushed through all the adversity, this is the team talented enough to bring a 28th ‘ship to the Bronx. This is a win-now season, and it’s time for the Yankees to win now.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @asmor24.