By Zach Percy
At the beginning of the year, I had mixed feelings about how this season would play out. So many factors came into play, so much of the success of the team was reliant on mainly injuries and how the aging veterans would perform. Although players like A-Rod, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira were reaching the twilight of their career, I still held onto hope that they would have a positive impact on the season.
For a player coming off a year-long suspension at the age of 38, many believed A-Rod would underperform greatly. Once the 2015 season came around, he proved many wrong. A-Rod last year parked 33 big flies, bringing in 86 RBI’s with a surprisingly solid OBP of .356. His batting average was…well…average (Sick joke am I right?) at .250. His strikeouts really stood out, sitting at 145 in 523 ABs, meaning he struck out nearly 3 out of every 10 at-bats. Now, to be quite honest, strikeout numbers don’t really mean much to me, or at least, in this day in age, players do not fear the strikeout as much and are willing to take a chance in their at-bats. (That discussion is for another day, however) Along with this, he posted a WAR of 3.1, which was clearly nowhere near the top of the pack, but was still quite decent for a player at his age. To top it all off, he finished in a whopping 28th place for the AL MVP. I know, I know, he was so close, how could I ever doubt his ability? With a great bounce-back season after his year long suspension in 2014. With a great bounce-back season coming off a season-long suspension, A-Rod looked to be in good shape for the 2016 season.
As for Mark Teixeira, he finished with stats quite similar to A-Rod (So similar he too finished 28th in the MVP voting), lots of power (31 HR), solid OBP (.357) and decent AVG (.255). Teixeira, however, had a slightly better slugging than his counterpart, .548 compared to A-Rod’s .423. He also featured less strikeouts, but you have to take into account that Teixeira played in 40 less games than A-Rod. This was due to Teixeira’s inability to escape the injury bug, which has plagued him for much of his time as a Yankee. Teixeira, however, has a larger value than Rodriguez, due to his ability to play the field and give the Yankees consistent confidence that their first baseman will get the job done and then some. Teixeira’s defensive abilities at the corner is something that you simply cannot find anywhere, making him a key piece for the 2016 season.
Finally, CC Sabathia. The once Cy Young Award winner who has begun to reach his twilight over the past few years. A pitcher once known for his velocity, now finds himself averaging a mere 90 mph on his four seam. CC is quite an interesting key player for the Yankees. Although he is no longer the number one of the rotation, since the addition of Masahiro Tanaka, he still plays a vital role for the Yankees. Although his numbers right off the bat do not show it, CC is still quite capable of being an effective pitcher. In 2015, he started off rough, but as the season went on, he would show flashes of his former self and have a stellar outing where he would strike out 8 or 9 while giving up little to no runs. CC especially displayed this ability in the second half of the season. With CC appearing to be on the upside, things looked hopeful for his 2016 season.
Now, here we are nearing the end of the 2016 season and oh how things have turned out. A-Rod is not longer with the team, Teixeira has announced this season to be his last, and CC…is still…pitching. There’s not much to say about CC as of late, but at the beginning of the year he was outstanding, one of the hottest pitchers in the league at the time, leading me, personally, to believe that the Yankees should trade him while he was hot. But at the moment, the Yankees were on the fence when it came to buying and selling, sitting in the middle of the pack, so they held off on moving anyone. As the season wore on, though, CC regressed and began getting lit up day after day, and with his performance declining, his trade value followed suit. If the Yankees had decided sooner that they were sellers, god only knows how much bigger of a prospect haul the Yankees would’ve got.
As the season wore on, the more and more my interest in the team faded. There was no life to them. They appeared to be just coasting, going through the motions. They weren’t the Yankees I grew up with, so energetic and exciting to watch. This Yankee team was different. This Yankee team looked old, sluggish, and bored. They were not a team that I wanted to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Yankees, but I honestly found myself rooting for them to lose, just so Steinbrenner was more convinced to be a seller at the trade deadline. It was the biggest conflict of interest for me. One part of me rooted for the pinstripes, while the other, and clearly more dangerous, part of me, wanted to watch the team burn. As the deadline grew nearer I began to get a feeling as though a change was about to come.
After the dust settled on the morning of August 2nd, Chapman was gone, Miller was gone, Nova was gone, Beltran was gone. The Evil Empire had finally done what no one had ever thought they would; Sell. I was absolutely shocked, yet so joyful at the time. I did not think it would ever be done. The beast had evolved. It shed it’s skin and began rebuilding. With new additions to the farm system, with guys like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees looked poised for the future.
And I thought that was the end of it. But it wasn’t. This story had another chapter. An ongoing, exciting chapter that I don’t want to end.
On August 3rd, Gary “Pablo” Sanchez, was brought up. Thus beginning the Baby Bomber era. Gary immediately caught fire and began boosting a team that desperately needed one. Sanchez began lifting the team from the depths of mediocrity and straight into playoff contention. Since joining the club, he has posted incredible stats highlighted by 11 home runs, an AVG of .362, and an OPS of 1.194. Sanchez also took home back to back Player of the week awards in August as well as both AL Rookie and Player of the Month for August. Sanchez also set the record of fastest to 11 career home runs by doing so in a mere 23 games, breaking the longstanding record held by Trevor Story. If he keeps putting up numbers like that, and leads the Yankees to the postseason, one could argue that he is much deserving of winning Rookie of the Year.
Shortly behind Sanchez, came the big bats of Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin, who were believed to provide the Yankees with a power boost, which Sanchez has, in fact, gladly given the Yankees instead. The duo surely made a great impression when they went back-to-back in front of the home crowd in their first career at-bats. I know they sure impressed me, although I was already excited for Judge to come up. In fact I was practically giggling like a little schoolgirl when I heard he was being called up, but that’s beside the point. These rookies now gave me and a lot of other Yankee fans a reason to watch. They were exciting again. They were competitive and energetic. Sanchez and the other rookies display the passion and the drive that I hope to see out of every player. The drive that just wasn’t there earlier in the year. And although Judge and Austin may not be doing well at the moment, they still give me hope. They still give me a reason to watch and a reason to say why I am proud to be a Yankee fan.
A team that seemed destined to be stuff in the limbo that is mediocrity, a team that appeared to throw in the towel and sell their assets, suddenly find themselves in the middle of a chase for the postseason. For once the Yankees may be the underdogs in the league, but not for long, for soon, the Evil Empire will strike back.
2nd Image Provided by Arturo Pardavila on Flickr