The Rise of the Unicorns…

Giancarlo Stanton & Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Nam Y. Huh, AP

Enjoying the Yankees Ride…

For a team that generally starts slowly, the 2022 New York Yankees are different. Of course, I mean it in the best conceivable way. Their 24–8 record through thirty-two games is the first time it has happened since the legendary 1998 championship season. They were matched by only three other teams in franchise history (1928, 1939, and 1958). World Series championships awaited those four teams. Time will tell if the 2022 team joins that achievement, but the season, thus far, has been a tremendously fun ride. Surprisingly, the famed 1927 Murderers’ Row Yankees who won 110 games in a 154-game schedule and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series only had twenty-one wins after 32 games.

1928 Yankees, 101–53, Swept St Louis Cardinals in the World Series

1939 Yankees, 106–45, Swept Cincinnati Reds in the World Series

1958 Yankees, 92–62, Beat Milwaukee Braves in 7-game World Series

1998 Yankees, 114–48, Swept San Diego Padres in the World Series

It is way too early to talk about the World Series this year. Too many games between now and October. Yet, it is obvious that this team has an exceptional quality, and the team cohesiveness seems to be its strongest since the 2017 Baby Bombers made a deep October push that was thwarted by trash cans.

Leading the charge are Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. When both guys homered in last night’s 10–4 win over the Chicago White Sox, it improved the Yankees’ record to 5–0 in games when both giants go yard. Since Stanton joined the Yankees in 2018, the team is 21–1 in games when both men homer. Putting this season into further legendary status, Judge (12 home runs) and Stanton (10) are the first Yankees duo with double digit home runs after 32 games since Mickey Mantle (16) and Yogi Berra (12) in 1956. The only other time it happened was 1930 when Babe Ruth (14) and Lou Gehrig (10) achieved it. Standing among the Legends…

Stanton & Judge / Photo Credit: Si.com
Yogi Berra & Mickey Mantle / Photo Credit: AP
Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth / Photo Credit: Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center

In speaking about what it must be like for opposing pitchers to face Judge and Stanton, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, last night’s winner, offered, “It’s brutal. There’s a lot of power. There’s different types of hitters, and Judge and Stanton are obviously kind of unicorns.” His inner dialogue was probably, “I am fuckin’ glad that I don’t have to face them!”

According to Fangraphs, the Yankees lead Major League Baseball with 7.6 fWAR. The closest team is the Houston Astros at 7.0. Comparing the Yankees to their AL East Rivals (courtesy of Fangraphs), I would say it is a clear and distinct advantage Yankees.

If the Yankees can get Josh Donaldson and Joey Gallo going (both men homered last night), the offense becomes even more formidable. I love watching away game crowds flood the exit gates early like we have seen the last two games at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

While I felt the Yankees had given Aaron Judge a fair contract offer prior to the season, there is no doubt Judge has let his play put the pressure on the Yankees to raise the ante.

This year’s trade deadline should be fun. Given how much last year’s moves helped the Yankees, it seems a few of the team’s current flaws could be eliminated with the right moves come July. Despite last night’s multi-hit performance and three-game hitting streak, Joey Gallo heads my list of regulars who could be dealt. A frequently rumored outfield target, Andrew Benintendi, defeated the Kansas City Royals in his arbitration case yesterday which increases the likelihood he will be moved. Benintendi, the former Red Sox outfielder, will make $8.5 million (or $1.2 million more than the Royals were offering). He will be a true rental since he will become a free agent following the season.

As Gallo, it is tough. I really like the guy. He plays good defense and has an enjoyable personality. The home runs, when they happen, are beautiful, and the walks are nice, but the strikeouts are too much. Through last night’s game, Gallo has a 37.5% strikeout ratio. It is pretty much his career norm (lifetime percentage is 36.9%) so the Yankees clearly knew what they were getting when they acquired him. Yet, this is his last year with the Yankees. Either they trade him in July or let him walk in the off-season when he reaches free agency. I cannot see an extension on the horizon for him. Gallo could potentially flourish in a less-pressurized environment so I would prefer to get something for him rather than nothing.

The Yankees should include Chad Green in any Gallo deal. I remember when I dreaded it when Chad Green would start a game. The switch to the bullpen was magical for a couple of seasons, but now I get the same dread I used to when Green enters a game in relief. No lead is safe. Zack Britton could possibly return in August, and there will be other guys available later this summer like Domingo German and Stephen Ridings. At some point, there will be no room for Green. He is another guy who could benefit from a change in scenery.

I am not ready to give up on Jonathan Loáisiga. He is too talented, and I am confident he will find his way back to his standout 2021 performance. If the Yankees can get him right, it will be the latest testament to the success of pitching coach Matt Blake and the new superior philosophies developed and implemented by organizational pitching leadership team. The Yankees most likely need a new closer in 2023. Earlier this year, I had thought the natural successor for free agent-to-be Aroldis Chapman would be Loáisiga. Right now, he does not seem to be a viable candidate, but he can change that perception. I hope he does.

Jonathan Loáisiga / Photo Credit: Si.com

Setback for Ben Rortvedt. I feel badly for the young Yankees catcher. When he was dealt to the Yankees with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, he seemed primed for a tremendous opportunity in Pinstripes. The oblique injury delayed his start and forced the Yankees to acquire elite framer Jose Trevino from the Texas Rangers, who has essentially become a Major League block for Rortvedt. Rortvedt finally got into two rehab games for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons, picking up two hits including a home run, but has been sidelined again, this time for a knee injury.

This is shaping up to be a lost year for Rortvedt. Hopefully, the knee issue is not serious, and he can get back to his rehab games soon. If he is healthy and ready, he would be the first call if/when the Yankees need catching help. I really want to see him get to that place so that he can be prepared for his opportunity when it arrives. Get well soon, Ben.

Ben Rortvedt / Photo Credit: Si.com

Robinson Canó finds a new team. When the New York Mets designated Canó for assignment and subsequently released him, it appeared to be the end of the road for the one-time Yank. No way I wanted the Yankees to consider reuniting with the 39-year-old infielder (they did not have the room for him anyway), but I am surprised that a first-place club, the San Diego Padres, rolled the dice. The Padres have been struggling with consistent offense despite sharing the NL West lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they look to Canó for bench support and leadership. I hope it works out for him. This may be his last chance for another World Series championship. The Padres are hoping Canó can provide them what Albert Pujols gave the Dodgers last year.

Robinson Canó / Photo Credit: San Diego Padres

Canó will always be an ultimate ‘what if’ player for me. What if he had stayed with the Yankees and not traveled down the PED highway. What if he had kept up his numbers and performance through natural means. There is no doubt, in my mind, we would be talking about making room for him in Monument Park and pulling #24 out of circulation. I wish him the best in sunny San Diego as he attempts what might be his last opportunity in Major League Baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

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