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 hasn’t seen a major sports championship in ages. And this is the Yankees, the franchise that 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 if they can end the metro area drought, which dates back to the Giants in 2011 and feels biblical.
Unless Rangers beat them in the coming weeks beforehand.
The Yankees are 27-9 to 27-9 after Tuesday night’s 5-4 win over the Orioles – made possible by two Aaron Judge home runs that should have been three. That was the second time since 1940 that they had won 27 of their first 36 games. The other time was of course 1998, the prime season of the Jeter Mariano Torre era. These Yankees went 114-48 and swept the Padres in the World Series.
Can these Americans dominate as well? Probably not. The 1998 team had masterful muscle memory (since its 1996 breakthrough), two of the seven greatest players in franchise history (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera), a Hall of Fame executive in Joe Torre, and a titanic force in the Box of the owner (Georg Steinbrenner). The 22 team has none of it.
But then again, today’s Yankees pass the eye test. They look more versatile and dangerous than the pinstriped pretenders of recent years.
“I think it’s a special group, I do,” Aaron Boone said before his team won for the 20th time in their last 23 games. “It’s a long, long road, so we have a lot to prove. I think we’ve proved to everyone and to ourselves that we can win games in many different ways and I think it even showed on this road trip.”
The Yankees won a game in Chicago by two hits and eight innings from a pitcher, Nestor Cortes, who had never played an eight. They won a game in Baltimore Monday night, with Gleyber Torres making a dive in the first inning to start a double play that felt bigger for all involved than the three homers his teammates would hit.
Tuesday night, only Camden Yards Judge’s higher, lower new left fieldwall could keep Judge in the ballpark and “hold” him on an RBI double in the first — on a ball that would have been 29 MLB parks away — before him twice the fence in cleared of more forgiving parts of the yard.
“Almost three,” Boone said, “but Build Your Own Park got him there.
“It’s something special to be able to write him in there every day. I think what he’s doing just lets everyone else flow in.”
Judge’s monster, a four-hit night, allowed his team to survive a mini-meltdown in the ninth round of Aroldis Chapman, the early pick for October’s Most Likely to Cost the Yanks. This situation needs to be closely monitored. Meanwhile, Tuesday night in the building, Yankees fans chanted “MVP” to Judge at the end. There’s nothing wrong with having a Superstar play at Superstar level in a Contract Boost while still improving any team-oriented goals.
The Yankees lead the MLB with 54 homers (14 by baseball leader Judge), but 17 other teams have hit more times than they have. No one says they’re unsportsmanlike, one-dimensional snails anymore.
“I loved their ability to hit the ball but not enough ability to touch it!” Bill Livesey, the former director of scouting who helped build the 1990s dynasty, wrote The Post about recent Yankees teams. Livesey also said he “didn’t think NYY was ever going to win [Gary] Sanchez behind the plate!”
This is no longer a hurdle to be overcome. There’s also no questioning whether the current team’s clubhouse chemistry is right.
“It was really [from] Day 1 really struck me as what I thought we were looking at in there,” Boone said. “And I think it’s a credit to these guys to support their level of commitment to each other, hold each other accountable and look out for each other, compete with each other, spend time together. You saw that stuff early and often.”
That’s exactly why the Yankees are the best team in the sport. When asked what impressed him most in his short tenure as third base coach, former Mets manager Luis Rojas replied, “I have to say unity. Almost every day there were other heroes.
“Our group is very humble. I’m the new guy here, but I think it has to do with the uniform. I think you carry so much tradition and I think the boys feel responsible when they wear that uniform.”
The truth is, after the Yankees feasted on a steady Orioles diet in one soft part of the schedule, no one really knows where this is all going. In 2019, the eventual champion Nationals was 14-22 after 36 games. Last year, eventual champion Braves was between 17 and 19.
Baseball is a moody and fun game, and the Yankees could very well end up being the definitive 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.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/17/spirit-of-98-yankees-have-chance-for-all-time-special-season/ Yankees have a chance at a special season ever