The New York Yankees, as well as all the MLB teams, have been waiting to play ball for months due to a coronavirus shutdown and baseball negotiations that seemed to go on forever, between the owners and the players. One of those issues is behind us for the time being, the other will be a factor for the entire season and postseason.
Both of those factors have caused Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to impose an unprecedented 60 game season to be played in just 66 days. It is a crapshoot as to if the season can be completed in a pandemic environment. New York Yankee Manager Aaron Boone has said recently, paraphrasing, that I don’t think about it much, we are focused on getting to a World Championship for the Yankees and their fans. This is bound to be an emotional season for players and their families, but with Boone’s focus that Championship can be accomplished.
The Yankees will have to perform with the intensity of postseason play. Getting out of the box early takes on a new meaning in a season that will demand that. Getting off to a slow start or having a prolonged slump could be season-ending.
The Yankees have a great starting rotation headed by newly acquired pitching ace Gerrit Cole. Following him in the rotation are pitchers that can come out hot like James Paxton that won 11 games in a row last season, or Masahiro Tanaka that can get hot and be dominate. Each game will be so important to win. The Cole factor will be reduced in a season where he may get only eleven starts. But on the other hand, he could come out of the box and win his first six in a row.
Whether its pitching or hitting, just a few players being hot for a time could carry the team for the season. Imagine if Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Gleyber Torres get hot at the same time. The big-time players will guide the season. But, that is not to diminish the importance of the New York Yankee bench. The Yankees have a great bench filled with talented players that could come out of the woodwork and be impactful should some of the big boys be injured or become infected with the virus.
Believe it or not, injuries may play a more significant factor than last year that saw the Yankees have an unprecedented number of injuries to nearly everyone on the team at one point or another. With star pitchers going deeper into to games, to have an impact and position players trying to make spectacular plays, and hitting for the fences, the simple fact is that they are more likely to be injured. This is where the deep bench comes in and could make a huge difference in a season that is so short.
The New York Yankees may have an edge with a deep bench. Miguel Andujar may be a key factor in the outcome of the season. Manager Boone can use him in different ways, both playing in the outfield and serving as DH. With the team mostly healthy now, a bright season seems to be in the future for the boys of the Bronx.
That bench includes players like Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Mike Tauchman, any of these players could have a breakout season. Imagine just for a moment, Giancarlo’s 2017 season where he hit 59 home runs, Aaron Judge’s 2017 season that saw him hit 52 home runs. Miguel Andujar’s 2018 season of 27 home runs. 38 home runs highlighted Gleyber Torres’s season in 2019. What is in common with all of these stats is that they were healthy seasons for all the players involved. There is no guarantee that any of these players will replicate those numbers this year. But, a healthy season increases that likelihood.
Anything can happen in a season as short as this one. Additional positive coronavirus tests are almost a certainty. Players like last year’s MVP DJ LeMahieu and reliever Luis Cessa who have not yet reached Yankee Stadium due to positive tests after recovery are not likely to come out of it at full strength. Injuries and the coronavirus will most likely be a deciding factor with which team comes out on top.
No matter how you look at it, the New York Yankees are going into the great unknown in such a short season. The Yankees will depend on their star pitchers to pitch their hearts out while knowing they have a more than effective bullpen to back them up when they falter. The big bats will have to prevail and if they don’t the Gio Ushelas will have to come to the rescue to propel the Yankees over the top.
With a good start and a healthy season, the Yankees will be able to see that bight light at the end of the rainbow, and it’s a big number 28!
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.
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