The youth movement Yankees baseball saw this season was great for a few reasons. First of all, who woudn’t be excited to see a 23-year old flame-throwing ace, a 24-year old catcher who is already one of the best players at his position in baseball, a 25-year old who broke the rookie home run record.. you get my point. Not only did the youth movement bring talent and results (89 wins and counting), it brought a fun environment back to the Bronx.
From the very beginning of the season, when the Yanks were in the honeymoon phase where they just didn’t seem to lose games, I said this was easily my favorite Yankees team since 2009. Even through all the ups and downs this season brought, this is still undoubtedly true. The last few years have brought more drama and depression than anything. 2014 was all about Jeter, and ultimately ended in a depressing fashion. Don’t get me wrong, Jeter is and always will be my favorite athlete and I’ve watched his walk-off single in his last home game more times than I could count. But for a guy whose career was defined by winning, it was upsetting to not even see the Yankees in the playoffs in his final season. They returned to the playoffs in 2015, but did anyone ever really think that team was going anywhere? Stephen Drew played in 131 games as the starting second baseman that year, batting .201. Let that sink in. That’s like a full year of Chris Carter. And 2016 was a mess, as we saw Mark Teixeira and A-Rod stumble into retirement in a season where the only real bright spot was Gary Sanchez going on a tear with 20 HR in just 53 games.
But 2017 has been different. The team got a lot younger, saying goodbye to Teixeira, A-Rod, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and (briefly) Greg Bird all stepped into starting roles. The team started to win, and they had fun doing it.
As a huge Jeter guy, I’d never imagine that his replacement would become my new favorite Yankee, but Didi Gregorious has done just that. This guy is not only one of the most talented shortstops in the game offensively and defensively (best AL shortstop not named Correa don’t @me), he plays the game hard and with a positive energy that’s more contagious than mono in a freshman dorm. From his post-win tweets
To his home-run celebrations
Didi, along with Judge and Ronald Torreyes, have made Yankees baseball fun again. (The celebrations reached a new level the other night with Didi and Toe interviewing their teammates in the dugout after homers.)
The chemistry this team has is unlike any I’ve seen since the 2009 team, with Nick Swisher clowning around and AJ Burnett’s walk-off pies in the face. Am I saying this chemistry is all it takes to beat the Indians, or even the Twins in the wild-card game? Absolutely not. But as we saw in 2009, it certainly helps.
I really hope the Yankees’ season doesn’t end Tuesday night. I’ve had way too much fun watching this team all year, and I’d love to see what they can do in the playoffs. But even if it does, I think I speak for all true Yankee fans when I said I haven’t enjoyed a season this much in a long time.