The New York Yankees for several years has been a team in the rearview mirror. A team that was less hated because it couldn’t even get to play in a world series for the last eleven years. The Yankees have won the East only 3 times since 2009, and in each of those times, they lost in the ALDS or ALCS. Then, it was a team that would fail in the end even though it could reach the postseason. More recently, it seemed to be a team in somewhat disarray without cohesiveness, many times due to a ridiculous number of injuries. Well, friends make no mistake about it the “Evil Empire” is back!
The New York Yankees of today are a team that is mostly healthy, more healthy than they have been since 2017. It’s a team that is clicking on all cylinders. The Yankees put the baseball world on notice at the trade deadline that they meant business. They did the most of any team to add key parts to the team by adding three pitchers and two lefty hitters that would change the lineup for the rest of the season that would be more difficult for opposing pitchers with a new right lefty look that would be much more difficult to navigate.
After a listless start of the season, the team playing today is a different team, one that has won 13 consecutive games before last night’s one-run loss. Then, it was a team that couldn’t score runs. That is no longer the case. Today it is a team that can pile on the home runs and wins games at what should be an alarming rate for its rivals.
Here are some changes that have dramatically changed the team’s outlook. Number one is that the old guard is functioning well. Slugger Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are both healthy and on the team at the same time. Plus, they are both hot at the same time. The duo, during August, both have 8 home runs. Judge’s OPS is 1.029, Stanton’s is 1.032. When Judge and Stanton both hit home runs in a game, the New York Yankees are 12-1 in those games.
Another plus for the team is that Aaron Boone is managing better than he ever has. Using his bullpen well and making the right decisions at the right times. This is partly due to him having more options. He also can put out a complex lineup that he has not been able to employ in several years.
The Yankees have also been able to use sparks previously not available to them. Lefty hitter Rougned Odor has changed the look of the Yankees and provided new energy not seen before. Tyler Wade, given playing time, has shown that he can be a star player too. His running and base stealing has added new challenges to opposing teams. Also adding energy and excellence defense to the team is Andrew Velazquez. Joey Gallo in left field has improved the outfield defense. The Yankees now have a defender at first base in Anthony Rizzo, the best defender since the Yankees had Mark Teixeira.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not a team without problems. Their closer situation is very iffy at best. After giving up only one run in the first half of the season, Aroldis Chapman has become a big question mark failing to get the job done in close games. But the Yankees, to a degree, have found a way to mitigate that situation with so many options available to Boone. Jonathan Loaisiga, Lucas Luetge, Chad Green, and Wandy Peralta closed games during August for the Yankees.
Getting back to the 13 game winning streak, the Yankees didn’t do it against fluff teams. They have won against the number one AL Central White Sox, the number one NL East Atlanta Braves, in addition to the Minnesota Twins, Red Sox, and Oakland Athletics. The New York Yankees are now 30 and 9 since July 17th. In their return to the Evil Empire, they are now the winningest baseball team over the term. And friends, it may get better.
All winning streaks end, and it ended for the Yankees when they fell short a run yesterday. But as we advance, they have a good chance of a new winning streak. After tonight’s game, they go on to a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees are 2-2 against the Angels this season, but the Angels will face a very different Yankee team this time. After the Angels, the Yankees get back to Yankees Stadium to face the Baltimore Orioles for six games over two weeks. Finally, sandwiched in is a series with the Blue Jays and the lowly Mets.
If the New York Yankee can get by the Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays, they may have an excellent chance at taking the AL East. But, as I have said before, the Rays must cooperate. During the 13 game winning streak, the Yankees have only gained 2 games on the Rays. The Yankees, with the loss yesterday, are 5 games behind the Rays. The Yankees are 9-1 in their last 10 games; the Rays are also 9-1 in their last 10. The Rays must lose more games during September than the Yankees by five. If they continue to match the Yankees, the Yankees will have to settle for the wild card.
There is one thing for sure, the month of September will be the most exciting baseball for Yankee fans since 2009. Go Yankees!! It is a season that may be determined in the last three days of the season at Yankee Stadium.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.