The New York Yankees are going to play baseball in October for the 53rd time in franchise history. Before the season started, not many had expected really anything from the rebuilding Yankees. The Yankees proved those that counted them out wrong. The Yankees have insanely exceeded their expectations this year, thanks to well thought out trades from the Yankees front office to acquire Sonny Gray, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle, and surprising seasons from the likes of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino, and Jordan Montgomery. Players like Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and Gary Sanchez also played very well. These factors carried the Yankees into the postseason, a place where no one thought they would be at the end of the 2017.
Several Yankees had incredible seasons, seasons that many did not expect them to have. Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, and Jordan Montgomery were outstanding. Judge dominated, and is in contention for AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. With 52 home runs in the regular season, Judge won the AL home run title, he broke the MLB rookie record for home runs and he broke the Yankees’ rookie record for home runs. Luis Severino stepped up, earning himself the number one spot in the Yankees’ rotation. After not doing so well the year before, going 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA, Severino bounced back to become the Yankees’ unquestioned ace, going 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA, and going to the All Star game in Miami. Aaron Hicks had set career highs in nearly every offensive statistic, taking the starting center fielder role for himself. Jordan Montgomery had a solid rookie campaign, going 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA. Gary Sanchez led all catchers in home runs with 33 and also had 90 Runs Batted In. Didi Gregorius, like Aaron Hicks, had set career highs in nearly every offensive statistic, and had become more of a leader for the Yankees both on and off the field. Starlin Castro improved greatly from his first year with the Yankees, batting .300 with 25 less strikeouts than the year before. All of these players have shown that they wanted to prove all of the doubters wrong, and make it to the postseason while everyone counted them out. (All stats from Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com)
Aaron Judge had an absolutely stellar rookie season, which not many people were expecting from the 6’7”, 282 pound, 25 year old rookie. Over the course of the season, Judge has been in the American League Rookie of the Year conversation as well as the American League Most Valuable Player conversation. There is not a great deal of competition for Judge for Rookie of the Year, as he blew most of the AL rookies out of the water with the way he played and propelled the Yankees to a Wild Card spot. As for MVP, Judge is up against Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, who won the American League batting title with a .346 batting average, and Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians, who was a very important piece to the Indians’ season and record breaking 22 game win streak. Judge has established himself as a powerhouse in the MLB, and has a chance to take home both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player titles.
In July, the Yankees made two trades to help their chances to clinch a playoff berth. The first trade sent one of the Yankees’ best prospects, Blake Rutherford, relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, minor league pitcher Ian Clarkin, and outfielder Tito Polito to the Chicago White Sox for former Yankee relief ace David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier, and relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle. The Yankees strengthened the bullpen with the additions of Robertson and Kahnle, and the addition of Frazier allowed the Yankees to fix their problem at third base and focus on first base. The problem at first base was soon fixed by Greg Bird, who came back very strong and helped the Yankees secure their playoff spot. Todd Frazier also became a leader for the Yankees. He wanted to be a Yankee his whole life, and when he finally became one, he started the rallying cry for them. When Frazier hit a home run at Citi Field against the Tampa Bay Rays, a fan in the stands put his thumb down, as he was not happy about Frazier’s home run. Since then, whenever a Yankee records a hit, he sends a thumbs down to the dugout and everyone there sends him a thumbs down as well. The next trade came right before the trade deadline, and the Yankees sent infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo, outfielder Dustin Fowler, and pitcher James Kaprielian to the Oakland A’s for starting pitcher Sonny Gray. Bringing Sonny Gray into the Yankees’ rotation added a powerhouse to their pitching staff. These trades gave the Yankees an even greater chance to make it to the playoffs, and Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Sonny Gray helped the Yankees secure their 53rd playoff berth.
Eric Matesic is a die-hard Yankees fan. He was very surprised at the fact that the Yankees were able to play in the postseason this year. The Yankees surprised him, “I did not expect this team to make the playoffs, I was just hoping to go over .500 before the season started. I didn’t think they were going to make it till at least next year, but I was pleasantly surprised.” Also, Eric believes that Aaron Judge should indeed win American League MVP. “Last time I checked being the MVP is about who is the best player in the league, and someone who can help their team win. Aaron Judge leads Jose Altuve in every stat except batting average, hits, and strikeouts.” Eric had also said that Indians player Jose Ramirez is pretty much out of the race, and the MVP is either going to be Judge or Altuve. With the success that the Yankees had achieved this season, Eric believes that the pressure is on the Yankees for years to come. “Next season, this young team will be put to the test, and pressured to do the same they did this year, only better, anything less is a failure. The Yankees are a future playoff team and favorites to win the World Series. It will be tough, but I have great hope in my team and I hope to attend my 4th parade next fall.”
Written by Nick Giovanelli
Photo Courtesy of Nick Giovanelli