There’s always pressure on the Yankees. The big payroll, past success, rabid fan base. Love them or hate them, everybody always expects the Bombers to succeed. For a variety of reasons, expectations are even higher than usual in the Bronx this year.
Since unexpectedly coming within a game of the World Series in 2017, the Yankees have suffered three straight heartbreaking postseason eliminations. The question has become not when, but if this group will ever win a championship. On top of that, they’re the clear-cut favorites in the American League this season.
The Rays just traded a Cy Young winner
The Blue Jays are short on pitching/maybe a year away
The Astros are still missing Verlander/likely letting Springer walk
This is the year to win the American League. Make the necessary moves, get it done
It’s clear that there is immense pressure on Aaron Boone and the 2021 Yankees. Which Yankee is feeling the most heat heading into the new season? In my opinion, there are three possible options.
I wrote a blog a few weeks back on how Sanchez has become over-hated. While his career has been wildly inconsistent, we’ve seen Sanchez play at an elite level as recently as 2019. It would’ve been foolish for the Yankees to move on from him at this juncture. That being said, 2021 is the last chance for the Yankee backstop.
I’m not saying Sanchez has to return to his 2016/17 level of dominance. But he absolutely can’t be as bad as he was in 2020. That won’t fly over a full 162. Hopefully Gary lands somewhere in the middle and produces similar to his 2019 season. Not a bad compromise considering he was the starting catcher in the All-Star game that year.
7/9/19: Gary rips a leadoff double off Walker Buehler in the All-Star game. Listen to the way the announcers talk about him. Crazy how hot and cold the perception of him can be pic.twitter.com/YBrDU0IJsv
Another huge factor for Gary – and this’ll be a common theme in this blog – is his health. Sure, he stayed healthy in 2020. But Sanchez battled injury in 2018, contributing to his struggles that season. Then in 2019, he came off the IL with just days left in the regular season, causing him to have an abysmal postseason. Injuries happen, especially with catchers. But Sanchez needs to stay on the field as best he can in 2021.
If Gary can’t hit or stay healthy, it could easily be the last we see of him in pinstripes. Hopefully, that’s not the case.
I’ll open this one up with health. It’s been Stanton’s main problem as a Yankee. After playing 158 games his first season in the Bronx, Stanton has played in 41 contests the past two seasons. That’s just about 18% of games. There’s pressure on Stanton for one big reason – his contract.
Stanton is owed $218 million over the next seven seasons. He was acquired coming off his 59-homer NL MVP performance in 2017. Stanton’s first season as a Yankee was good, but underwhelming. He’s had major trouble staying on the field ever since. So how can Stanton win over Yankee fans? It’s simple. Stay healthy. I have absolutely zero doubts he’s going to produce when healthy. We got a little taste of that in the playoffs last season.
Stanton’s 2020 postseason was probably the best one we’ve seen from a Yankee since Alex Rodriguez in 2009. However, like A-Rod, with a big contract comes big expectations from Yankee fans. Stanton is here to stay, and given his ability, that should make you excited. I also desperately hope he can stay healthy. It does appear Stanton has slimmed down, and he’s still absolutely ripping the ball.
Nervous that Giancarlo Stanton could miss Opening Day considering he’s probably wanted for the murder of this baseball in the state of Florida pic.twitter.com/S3sl9rNpnV
The most polarizing player on the Yankees is Aaron Judge. Not only is he the best hitter in the lineup, but a clear leader in the clubhouse. Gerrit Cole has described his presence as “superhero like.” #99 has an enormous impact on this team. Still, there is a ton of pressure on the Yankee right fielder going into 2021.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but health has been a concern for Judge the past three years. There’s nothing he could’ve done about the broken wrist in 2018, so there’s no reason to harp on it. Since then, Judge had an oblique injury that cost him about two months in 2019. After that, he cracked a rib diving for a ball in September of the same year. While he played through it, it lingered going into 2020 and would’ve cost him a ton of time if not for the pandemic. Finally, he once again landed on the IL with a lower body injury in 2020.
Judge has two years left on his contract. He’s had trouble with injuries in his career. He’s also shown that he is one of the best players in MLB when healthy. If Judge wants to get paid like one of the league’s best players, he has to be on the field more. I’ll say the same thing for him that I said in regards to Stanton – if he’s on the field, I have no doubts he’ll perform.
Gerrit Cole is the most important Yankee in their quest for 28 this season. After him, the next most important is surely Aaron Judge.