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Yankees have chance for all-time special season

MLB

Yankees have chance for all-time special season

BALTIMORE – It’s too early to call the 2022 Yankees special, but it’s never too early to measure their chances of being special. This is New York, the city that has not seen a major-sport championship in forever. And those are the Yankees, the franchise that has won 27 of them.

So yes, they will be judged on whether they can end their own drought, which dates back to 2009 and feels biblical, and on whether they can end the metropolitan area’s drought, which dates back to the 2011 Giants and feels, you know, biblical .

Unless the Rangers beat them to it in the coming weeks.

The Yankees are 27-9 after Tuesday night’s 5-4 victory over the Orioles – made possible by two Aaron Judge home runs that should’ve been three – marked the second time since 1940 that they have won 27 of their first 36 games. The other time, of course, was 1998, the signature season of the Jeter-Mariano-Torre era. Those Yankees went 114-48 and swept the Padres in the World Series.

Can these Yanks dominate the same way? Probably not. The ’98 team had championship muscle memory (from their 1996 breakthrough), two of the seven greatest players in franchise history (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera), a Hall-of-Fame manager in Joe Torre and a titanic force in the owner’s box (George Steinbrenner). The ’22 team has none of those things.

But then again, today’s Yankees do pass the eye test. They look more versatile and more dangerous than the pinstriped pretenders of the recent past.

Yankees
Aaron Judge and the Yankees beat the Orioles on Tuesday.
AP

“I think it’s a special group, I do,” Aaron Boone said before his team won for the 20th time in its past 23 games. “There is a long, long way to go, so we’ve got a ton to prove. To this point, I think we’ve proven to whoever and to ourselves that we can win games in a lot of different ways, and I think it’s shown up even on this road trip. ”

The Yankees won a game in Chicago with two hits and eight innings from a pitcher, Nestor Cortes, who had never gone eight. They won a game in Baltimore on Monday night with Gleyber Torres making a diving first-inning catch to start a double play that, to all concerned, felt bigger than the three homers his teammates would hit.

Tuesday night, only Camden Yards’ taller, deeper new left-field wall could keep Judge in the ballpark, “holding” him to an RBI double in the first – on a ball that would’ve been gone in 29 MLB parks – before he twice cleared the fence in more forgiving parts of the yard.

“Almost three,” Boone said, “but Build Your Own Park got him there.

“It’s special to be able to write him in there every day. What he’s doing I think just lets everyone else just chip in. ”

Yankees
The Yankees celebrate winning the 1998 World Series.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post
MLB
Derek Jeter and the Yankees celebrate the 1998 World Series.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Judge’s monster, four-hit night allowed his team to survive a mini-meltdown in the ninth from Aroldis Chapman, the early voting leader for Most Likely to Cost the Yanks in October. That situation needs to be monitored closely. Meanwhile, the Yankees fans in the building Tuesday night were chanting “MVP” for Judge in the end. Nothing wrong with having a superstar playing at a superstar level in a contract push while enhancing all team-centric goals.

The Yankees are leading MLB with 54 home runs (14 from Judge, baseball’s leader), yet 17 other teams have struck out more often than they have. Nobody is saying they are unathletic, one-dimensional slugs anymore.

“Loved their ability to impact the ball but not enough ability to contact it!” Bill Livesey, the former scouting director who helped build the 1990s dynasty, texted The Post about recent Yankees teams. Livesey also said he “did not think NYY would ever win with [Gary] Sanchez behind the plate! ”

That’s no longer a hurdle that needs to be cleared. Nor is anyone questioning whether the current team’s clubhouse chemistry is the real thing.

Yankees
Giancarlo Stanton
AP

“It really was [from] Day 1 really noticeable to me, what I thought we had going on in there, ”Boone said. “And I think it’s a credit to those guys, their level of commitment to one another both in a supportive way, and in holding each other to account and getting after one another, competing with one another, or investing time with one another. You’ve seen that stuff early and often. ”

Precisely why the Yankees are the best team in the sport. Asked what had impressed him the most in his brief time as third-base coach, former Mets manager Luis Rojas responded, “I’ve got to say unity. There’s been different heroes almost every day.

“Our group is very humble. I’m the new guy here, but I think it has to do with the uniform. I think you’re carrying so much tradition, and I think the guys feel a sense of responsibility in wearing this uniform. ”

Truth is, after the Yankees have feasted on a steady diet of Orioles in a soft part of the schedule, nobody truly knows where this is all heading. In 2019, the eventual champion Nationals were 14-22 after 36 games. Last year, the eventual champion Braves were 17-19.

Baseball is a fickle and funny game, and the Yankees could very well end up as one-and-done postseason busts. The only thing they’ve proven so far is that they have a chance to be special.

A chance to party like it’s 1998.

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