Last night, The New York Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-2 to win the best of five American League Division Series. I’ve had almost 14 hours to process it and I still can’t believe that it happened. The New York Yankees are four wins away from being Champions of the American League. It’s not going to be easy, it never is with the 2017 Yankees, but if you would have said that to me back in February I would have said you were crazy.
In July of 2016 the Yankees broke down and for the first time that I can ever remember, they told their fan base, “this isn’t our year.” Granted, the last five years have been rough in the context of Yankees history, but they never flat out told us not to expect a championship. They traded Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova, Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran. I didn’t know how I felt about it. I’ve never seen the Yankees rebuild but as the prevalent baseball fan in me took over, I knew it was necessary. You could see it, the Yankees got old. They weren’t that exciting anymore. I still loved them, but they were as stale as month old bread. It was time to breathe new life into the team and slowly but surely it happened. Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge got called up and we got a taste of the Baby Bombers. Austin and Judge weren’t anything to write home about, other than their debut AB home runs, but here was Sanchez. The phenom catcher with a power bat and rocket arm. That’s when we all realized you might just have your next superstar Yankee.
The 2016 season ended and the Yankees were a fourth place team, although staying a playoff contender down to the wire. But what would the 2017 Yankees be? The youth movement continued as Brian McCann was traded in the offseason to the Houston Astros. The Yankees then made a curious move, they resigned Aroldis Chapman. All the experts laughed and said it was a bad contract because by the time the Yankees were going to be ready to compete, Chapman wouldn’t be worth the money they were paying him. Did Brian Cashman know something we didn’t? Probably not. He just figured he needed a closer because Dellin Betances had been so bad after the Miller and Chapman dealings.
You head to Spring Training and for the first time you’re actually paying attention to these games because you want to see who these young guys are and how they’re doing. They all look good at different points but it becomes an “if” game. IF Greg Bird can stay healthy…IF Aaron Judge can cut down on his strikeouts…IF Gary Sanchez can hit like that over a full season. You realized that 2017 would be about answering those “IFs”. You just wanted to see these guys show you that they can all be Major League ball players. That’s what the 2017 season became about, seeing if these highly touted prospects were worthy of the hype. There were many questions that needed to be answered in 2017 but the answers weren’t supposed to bring you glory until AT LEAST 2018. Even more realistic in some people’s eyes, 2019.
The 2017 season quickly became about exceeding expectations. The Yankees were 16 games over .500 on June 12th and were the talk of MLB. However, through the middle of the summer, they didn’t win a series for about five weeks. This team was figured to win 80-83 games and some people had them even lower, maybe they were right. Just when you started to give in to the notion that their time was still a year or two away, they rope you back in and go on a tear to win 91 games.
People thought that, best case scenario, the Yankees would compete for a Wild Card. They won the top Wild Card by six games over the Minnesota Twins.
Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino were All-Stars in 2017.
These are all things that show how expectations were exceeded. Once you exceed now, more is expected of you. We wanted them to make it to a full playoff series. They did that. And to be honest, that’s all they had to do this year. Go and show that you belong on the field with the Cleveland Indians. They did more than that. They outplayed Cleveland in 4 of the 5 games of the series. If Joe Girardi doesn’t have that meltdown in the sixth inning of Game 2, this series is likely over in four games. But he did have that meltdown, and the Yankees were down 0-2 facing arguably the best team in the AL with arguably the best pitcher in the AL, rested, and waiting in a Game 5 should they be fortunate enough to get there. However, if you thought the Yankees were going to roll over and die, then you haven’t paid much attention to the 2017 Yankees. They came back strong after that slide where they couldn’t win a series. Aaron Judge went from monster, to mouse, and back to monster again. Chapman went from being a guy that you couldn’t trust to a guy you wanted on the mound to close out a playoff series. These Yankees never laid down, and they didn’t stop fighting in the ALDS, when they had every right too. There was no expectation of them coming backing from 0-2 vs. Cleveland, but once again…expectations exceeded.
Now, we head to Houston for a best of 7 series, and a chance at the AL pennant. This Yankees team has done everything you could’ve possibly hoped for in a “rebuilding year”. They’re in MLB’s Final Four. That’s not something anyone expected in February, but they’re here. How can you possibly expect more from them? I don’t know, but they themselves expect more. That’s why they won 91 games. That’s why they won the ALDS after being down 0-2. It’s what these Yankees do.
There’s 8 to 28 and it’s been an incredible ride thus far. If it ends in the ALCS, then so be it, but I have a feeling there’s a bit more exceeding to be done by this group of Bronx Bombers.
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