Put down the digital pitchforks and let this baby marinate.
As we approach Opening Day, the Yankees of 2017 are creating a buzz the franchise has not had since the glory days in the mid-nineties. Millennials may not remember the brutal eighties and the first half of the 1990s. Just ask your dad what that was like. Those fans in their twenties and early thirties, like myself, do not remember the agony of knowing Don Mattingly would never win a World Series. We were born into baseball’s equivalent of a silver spoon – a team with historic talent during an era when the bad teams remained bad for years, creating the perfect conditions for a dynasty.
Now that the franchise has been humbled the past few years as the Mona Lisa roster continued to age and deteriorate, the youth injection from the “Baby Bombers” is as promising as things have been in the Bronx in years.
But sometimes being born into privilege isn’t always an advantage, especially when adversity rears its ugly head. George Steinbrenner’s win at all cost (no matter the cost) mindset is no longer a viable guiding philosophy in today’s MLB.
So my plea to Yankees fans young and old (but mostly young) is: if and when things go sour this season, remember this is part of the process.
Ugh, the dreaded sports phrase of the 2010s: “The Process” (See the 76er’s). The old way, the way of The Boss, was to retool, but never rebuild. Patch the holes with big free agent signings, stay relevant, often to the detriment of actually putting together a sustainable roster, and make sure the Mets do not steal the back page of the Post or Daily News.
The current regime of Hal Steinbrenner has signaled a different approach. An approach some disgruntled fans have viewed as too fiscally conservative, and a departure from George’s cult-like commitment to winning. A commitment to winning that George, despite his flaws, never undermined.
I say this because there are early signs that Yankees fans will not be patient. Take the case of Gleyber Torres. The pot of gold at the end of the Aroldis Chapman-to-the-Cubs rainbow trade last season has been nothing short of fantastic this spring (.448, 9 RBI). It is likely we will see him sometime this season, but fans are already clamoring on social media for Torres to replace the recently injured Didi Gregorius. We should remember Torres has never played a game above A ball and has never (ever) played a game in cold weather. What’s the rush? Let him dominate AA and AAA before giving him a roster spot.
Judging by callers on New York sports radio and social media, waiting for Torres is not an option. We want him now goddamnit! Relax; even Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant rode the bus in the minors for a little while.
When Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin or even dare I say Gary Sanchez, fall into the inevitable mid-season malaise, will the social media, sports radio rabble call for Brian Cashman’s head for putting together another subpar product? Will you as a Yankees fan itch for the big trade of youth for veteran talent in hopes the team could win now? If yes, you are living in a different, bygone era of Yankees baseball.
Let this baby marinate. Let’s turn down the heat to a low simmer and allow it to cook. Making the playoffs just to get bounced in the first round has never sat well with Yankees fans. Be prepared for that to happen, with no blockbuster trades to rectify it. If we want to return to the glory days, patience is needed for that team to materialize.
If we as fans have to suffer growing pains with a young roster that doesn’t have the historic consciousness of the glory days, then so be it. And it could get ugly this season. The Red Sox and Orioles are better positioned to win the division and Toronto, despite losing Encarnacion, can still pitch (see Long Island’s own Marcus Stroman’s WBC performance versus Puerto Rico) and hit (see Josh Donaldson). Of all the teams in the division, the Yankees have the widest win-loss spectrum of the bunch. They could be an 85-win team or a 75-win team. 84 wins was enough to finish 4th in the division in 2016.
But, when things go south just look to the Cubs. Letting “The Process” marinate has lead to an immensely young and talented roster that is positioned to compete and win for the foreseeable future.
I know, to fans from less fortunate franchises (I’m being nice here), I sound like the typical whiney Yankees fan pleading with its fan base to stay positive through “tough times.” Well, George Steinbrenner whined and complained for over 30 years and it lead to 5 rings. The only difference now is that you can’t throw money at the problem.