The New York Yankees and all of the world have been suffering now for some time with the ever-present coronavirus pandemic. This article doesn’t deal with that or the effect on sports and the Yankees. We have all had our life disrupted by the dread virus for ten months now. Months of wearing masks, staying away from crowds, and washing everything in sight. We all need relief, so today, this idle fantasy mind has decided to look at what a 2021 baseball season for Yankee fans might look like.
Before the season started, the Yankees were slow to make any moves to improve the team as they waited for DJ LeMahieu to re-sign with the team. The hold out lasted until 10 days before the start of spring training when DJ signed a four-year deal worth $100 million. With the slower than normal offseason for free agents, there were still players available. Just two days after DJ signed, the New York Yankees announced that they had just signed Yadier Molina to a one-year deal worth $8 million with a team option for 2022. It was a move that turned out beneficial as he mentored Gary Sanchez throughout the season with satisfactory results.
New York Yankees fans had waited what seemed to be an eternity for baseball. They found out that there would be a 162 game season with a limited number of fans in the stands at the start of the Yankees season. Although MLB allowed fans in the stadiums, it was up to each locale to set the rules. New York Governor Cuomo set a limit of 40% for both Yankees Stadium and City Field for the first two months of the season, a wait and see move while determining the vaccine’s success.
Finally, it was February 27th, the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training. In an unusual move, the YES Network set up special programming to cover the pitchers and catcher’s first day of practice and provide footage for the YES program Yankees Magazine. They had the pitchers line up on the third baseline and the catchers on the first baseline to start the program. Of course, Michael Kay and John Sterling. were there along with all the other Yankee dignitaries. Hal wasn’t there but representing the family was George’s daughter Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
Michael and John took turns introducing the Yankee catchers; their backs were to the camera until they were introduced, then they turned to the camera. But when it was time to introduce the pitcher’s general manager Brian Cashman walked up to the podium and asked for the microphone. He stood silent for a moment, then said, “For our first pitcher, I would like to introduce to Yankees fans Cory Kluber.” The Yankees had signed Kluber during the night. Kluber boarded a plane and arrived at Steinbrenner Field just 20 minutes before the broadcast. Kluber got a three year $22 million contract from the Yankees.
Yankee fans worldwide were delighted that the team would have pitching help behind ace Gerrit Cole. Spring training went on with little incident. However, during the spring Yankee fans would learn that Miguel Andujar had been traded to the Cleveland Indians for a minor league catcher, outfielder, and a player to be named later. During the last few exhibition games, the Yankee starting rotation was released it would be Gerrit Cole, Domingo German, Cory Kluber, Jordan Montgomery, and Deivi Garcia.
Finally, it was here April 1, opening day. The New York Yankees opened at home against the Houston Astros. With gathering restrictions mostly lifted, Yankee fans 18 000 strong filtered into the Stadium. To celebrate the occasion, the Yankees are offered a Yankee cap, a hot dog, and a soda for just $2.
Welcoming Yankee fans to the Stadium, the traditional message from Bob Shepard was played: “Ladies and Gentleman welcome to Yankee Stadium.” Upon hearing his voice via recording, the Yankee faithful both cheered wildly while tears of happiness flowed. After a short pause, public address announcer Paul Oden echos the welcome and announces the opening day celebration. As part of the opening day celebration, the West Point Glee Club sings the National Anthem as a formation of F-15 jets from Westover Airbase flies over Yankee stadium with a ruffling Olympic pool size American Flag donning the field.
There is a podium set up at the home base. Michael Kay takes to the podium and introduces Yankee great Bernie Williams.
The crowd starts to cheer “Bernie” “Bernie” when the crowd settles, Williams gives an emotional speech summarizing all the world and the team has gone through during this difficult time. At the end of his speech, he says, “Let’s play ball,” to the roar of the game hungry crowd. As the cheering fans began to settle, the PA announced Derek Jeter as throwing out the first pitch to Yankee catcher Jorge Posada and the crowd erupted again.
The players for both teams took to the baselines. Over the public address system, the Astros players were announced, the crowd was eerily quiet. Then each of the Yankees who were all healthy and ready to beat the Astros. Then the game started as Jose Altuve was announced. The loudest boos ever heard at Yankee stadium bounced off River Avenue buildings. The PA warned Yankee fans from throwing anything onto the field. Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole was expected by fans to bean Altuve with a wild pitch, but it didn’t happen; instead, he struck him out on three pitches, much to Yankee fans’ delight.
The game ended after eleven innings, with Gerrit Cole having a complete game of 118 pitches. At the bottom of the eleventh inning, and with the bases loaded with Yankees, first baseman Luke Voit walked to the plate. As I said, the bases were loaded, and reliever Roberto Osuna had the Yankees down to their last out. Voit swung at the first two pitches missing both; down to the last strike, Luke swung and blasted one into the Astros bullpen for the 5-1 Yankee walk-off win.
The New York Yankees played great ball during April and May. It seemed as if it was going to be a season where Cole and Kluber for the most wins, just like the Mantle Maris race for the most home runs in 1961. With two months of starts, they were neck and neck with identical records of 9-2, although Cole had the lower ERA. Domingo German had the only complete-game shutout of the young season. Clarke Schmidt got to join the rotation at the end of May when Jordan Montgomery sprained his shoulder.
The Yankees suffered few injuries; however, Aaron Judge was unfortunately on the IL with a wrist injury when the Ray’s Tyler Glasnow hit him with a pitch. With just two weeks to the All-Star break, Luis Severino returned to replace the injured Jordan Montgomery. The New York York Yankees were 52 and 24. Surprisingly Deivi Garcia was the Yankee’s leading pitcher; he alone was 11-5. Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton were tied for the most home runs with 18 apiece; Gleyber Torres found his form hitting 12 with Gio Urshela right behind with 11 long balls.
As the season came to an end, the Yankees won the East Division by six games over the Tampa Bay Rays. Giancarlo leads the team with 39 home runs. DJ LeMahieu again led all of baseball with a 338 batting average. Most surprising was the seven home runs of Tyler Wade with 13 stolen bases on the season. In the last game of the season, Mike Ford hit a walk-off win against the Detroit Tigers.
The Toronto Blue Jays won a berth in the Wild Card game. But the Yankees rolled over them two straight games. Nine days later, the Yankees won the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox four games to three. In the ALCS, Aaron Judge hit four home runs, two in the last winning game. This set the stage for the Yankees to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. In game one, Gerrit Cole lost to Clayton Kershaw 12-7. The Yankees came back with Severino winning game 2 3-2. The Dodgers won the next two games. Jordan Montgomery pitched game 5. It was his best game of the season. He went seven innings of one-hit ball. The Yankees won 1-0.
Game 6 was another elimination game; with Deivi Garcia on the mound, he went six innings giving up just two hits, one a homer to Mookie Betts. Luis Cessa pitched a scoreless seventh followed by a scoreless eighth by Chad Green setting up Aroldis Chapman to close the game for the Yankees. Chapman gave up a homer to catcher Will Smith, but the Yankees came back in the bottom of the ninth. Pitch hitter Mike Tauchman hit an inside the park home run, his first in his career for the Yankee 4-2 win.
October 29th marked the World Series’s last day with the Dodgers and Yankees tied at three games apiece. Gerrit Cole was to start for the Yankees, and Kershaw again faced him. It was not an exciting day for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gerrit Cole did what he was hired to do; he went eight inning throwing 121 pitches only giving up 3 hits and no runs. The score was 1-0, and Yankee fans sat on their hands, waiting to see who would close against the upcoming Mookie Betts. When the Fox Network came back from the commercial, Zack Britton was on the mound. In a take no prisoners attempt, Britton struck out the side, and the Yankees won their 28th World Championship.
EmpireSpotsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.