We’ve been through a lot this offseason as both Yankees and baseball fans. Between lockouts, big free agents going to rivals, and lack of extensions of guys named Aaron, we’ve finally made it to the season for better or for worse.
While many fans, myself included, are not totally convinced that the moves made were significant enough to truly contend this year, the end goal is obviously to bring home a World Series. To anyone taking time out to read this, anything short of that World Series is a clear failure – and rightfully so. That being said, there are a few things that I personally am looking for in this upcoming season that would be major wins in their own right (and likely lead to success).
1) Show some life
Regardless of how optimistic of a fan you are, we can all agree that things in 2021 got stale – to put it mildly. This is something that the front office clearly saw as well – evidenced by them trading for guys like Josh Donaldson. Say what you want about Donaldson’s beef with Cole, his age, his contract or whatever, but he does have that edge the Yankees have been lacking for a few years now.
Again, this is not to pick apart a guy’s performance or his role on the team, but he has a point. The last time you can even remotely argue the Yankees had this mindset was 2019. Since that year though, it has been more or less a sense of complacency and a lack of urgency from this team. I think it would be refreshing for all of us to see a team come out and play with a little heart and have some fun. So far this spring, it looks like they may be doing just that. Maybe this chip on their shoulder actually has lit a fire under them? We won’t know until June or July whether this is faux excitement or real, but we can all agree on this. 2021 was almost unbearable at times, any sort of improvement in this teams mentality is a plus.
Maybe I’m grasping at straws, but I feel like this could be a great sign of things to come.
2) Gerrit Cole’s first Cy Young
If it feels like this is a yearly wish, that’s because it is. He obviously has the stuff, the talent, and the team behind him, he just has not been able to close it out. I not only hope this is his year, but I truly believe Cole is due for a Cy Young. He’s finished in the top 5 in voting four straight years and he isn’t showing any signs of regression (knock on wood).
Prior to his injury late last year, he was the runaway favorite for the award. While it may look like an excuse, the stats back it up. Cole was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the American League before his Hamstring flared up in early September. Below are his pre and post injury splits:
ERA – 2.73
FIP – 2.54
K/9 – 12.48
HR/9 – 1.05
ERA – 6.15
FIP – 5.14
K/9 – 9.57
HR/9 – 2.05
These are just a few of the metrics, but the regression here is undeniable. Enough about the sticky stuff, Gerrit Cole is a damn good pitcher with or without it. He comes in the year as the Cy Young favorite at +495 (bet $100 win $495) and barring injury, I don’t see any real reason that he should not be able to bring home the award.
3) A full healthy year for Sevy
When Sevy is on the mound, he is up there among the best in the game. That is the issue though, being on the mound. Since 2019, Severino has throw a grand total of 18 innings. While those 18 innings have been dominant, it is surely not going to get the job done for a team that has World Series aspirations.
Prior to 2019, Sevy threw almost 4 seasons in the majors to the tune of a 3.51 ERA, a 3.38 FIP, and a K/9 around 10. This is also factoring in his rookie year and his struggles early on as he bounced between AAA and the majors. Once becoming a full time starter in 2017, he was dominant, finishing 3rd and 9th in Cy Young voting in back to back years.
There is no question about his talent. He’s still 28 years old, he’s still routinely touching 98, he’s still snapping off nasty sliders; if he can come out and put up somewhere in the neighborhood of the 144 innings that steamer has him projected at, that would be a massive massive win for a club in desperate need of a true #2 starter. I truly believe that Luis Severino is one of, if not the biggest X factor going into the 2022 season. If he comes out and gives us a full season, the Yankees will go far. If not, I expect another early exit from the playoffs.
4) Gleyber Torres resurgence
This is obvious, but if Gleyber is right, he has the ability to carry this team. Look at 2019 – yes, he hit 38 homeruns and had a dominant season statistically, but where he really made the difference was the postseason. At 22 years old, he backpacked this team through games against the Twins and Astros.
Underrated moment here. If this doesn’t make you miss baseball I don’t know what will
Moving back to second base is the best thing that could have ever happened for him. We’ve seen Gleyber make mental mistakes time and time again throughout his career. Do I think he’ll ever hit .300 or get close to 40 homeruns again? Not necessarily. But without having to worry about leading the infield, I believe that we’re looking at a perennial all-star again and a true middle of the order presence.
Spring Training stats mean nothing in the grand scheme of things but he did perform well over the last 3 weeks. In 12 games, Gleyber batted .294 with 3 homeruns and an OPS north of .900. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, I understand that Spring Training stats are not the most important thing in the world, HOWEVER, it is certainly an encouraging sign. He looks like he’s having fun again and he’s spraying hard hit balls across the yard. Both very important to a 25 year old trying to reestablish himself amongst the games elite.
5) Front office commitment and transparency
Last year especially, the Yankees took the approach of “sit and wait”, and that lead them to a .500 first half, a panic buy of Rizzo and Gallo, and a Wild Card exit. It doesn’t take a baseball guru to tell you that Gleyber Torres is not a shortstop, or that Andrew Heaney cannot be pitching to major league hitters every fifth day. Management and the front office are equally at fault for this. In 2022, I want to see them commit to doing things that make the team better. No more half measures, no more keeping players in to protect egos, if things are not working, then make a change and commit to it.
Beyond committing to things that they know need to be done, I think a year of honesty would go a long way in winning the fanbase back. No more telling us you’re going to be aggressive spenders in free agency and coming up empty. No more telling us that “Judgey has a side thing” when he’s sidelined 5 months with an oblique strain.
Brian Cashman says he's engaged "two separate" conversations with agents representing free agent shortstops pic.twitter.com/Muop58Ejjn
Enough of this. Fans are already understandably frustrated at the lack of splashy moves and from the way that Boone and Cashman handle the media. This is just one of the more recent examples too, we all know that they’ve been doing this for a while now and it’s frustrating.
I know that these are grown adults and that this is their job, but this has to be in the back of some players’ minds during the season. This team is going to be streaky, that is just how they are built, toying with the fanbase is going to make that frustration boil over, right or wrong.
Commit to what you’re saying and do it. Stop being stubborn and playing the Andrew Heaney’s of the world just to make a point. This is a very pivotal season for the Yankees coming up with so many question marks about their future. Deceiving the fanbase again this year will all but certainly drive away the casual fan.