New York Yankees: A Team Reborn? Young core looks to lead team back to the top of the American League

Evin Hartsock, Managing Editor

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     Whether people like to admit it or not, traditional powers performing at a high level are good for sports. The NBA is always more interesting when the Lakers and the Celtics are in the playoffs as opposed to a franchise like the Utah Jazz or Memphis Grizzlies. The same goes for the NFL when teams like the 49ers and Steelers are dominating their respective conferences. The nation saw that this year with the rise of the Dallas Cowboys as television ratings for their games were higher than that of any other team.

     March Madness is always more exciting with the likes of Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and so on in the mix. Ratings for the tournament reached new highs this year, partially because UNC was featured in the title game.

     Traditional powers bring along with them wide fan bases that often breathe life into a league whenever their team is doing well. One of those traditional powers in the MLB, the New York Yankees, are starting to look like the Yankees of old; and when New York is playing well, baseball is just a little more fun to watch, whether you love them or hate them.

     So what’s been the key to the Yankees’ revival? Going back to a young core.

     Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Yankees were winning titles frequently, they relied on a solid farm system that produced the likes of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettit, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. These four would go on to be known as the “Core Four” and would be a staple of the Yankees’ roster for decades.

     New York strayed away from that system, especially for their 2009 World Series title team, in which they attempted to build teams purely from free agency. As their core began to age, and they were not able to land free agents, the organization realized this strategy would  promote a sustainable team for the future.

     Through various trades with teams like the Cubs and the Indians, as well as effective scouting and drafting, New York has been able to produce a new young core that has concrete MLB talent. This new core features the likes of Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro and  Aaron Judge.

     Judge, the 6-foot-7, 282-pound rookie, has been the most impressive of the Yankees’ younger players so far this season. Last year’s breakout star, catcher Gary Sanchez, has been sidelined with a bicep injury for the first month of the season. Judge has already had multiple multi-home run games and leads the American League in home runs. He is also batting .313 and leads the Yankees in RBI too. This is a big improvement from his four home runs and .179 average in 84 at-bats from last season.

     His production, along with Castro (16 RBI), and Hicks (11 RBI), has gotten New York off to a hot start as they boast one of the best records in the MLB and are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East Division. They rank in the top half of the league in many offensive categories, as they are fourth in runs (140), third in batting average (.270), second in on base percentage (.349) and second in slugging percentage (.466).

     On the other side of the ball, last year’s Yankee team was abysmal when it came to pitching. It looked as though former ace CC Sabathia was really falling off and their current ace, Masahiro Tanaka, was plagued with injuries most of the season. Rotation pitchers Luis Severino and Michael Pineda were not living up to expectations, putting the Yanks in trouble for future seasons. However, the New York bullpen has turned things around this season in what has seemed a revival for a once lack-luster staff. Pineda has seen the most improvement, as he currently leads the team in strikeouts with 37 and ERA with .317. Severino is finally going in the direction the Yankees had hoped as he has recovered from his 3-8 season last year, starting off 2-2 this season. Tanaka has been able to remain healthy so far and leads the team in wins. Sabathia has looked better as well.

     These starters are supported by arguably one of the best bullpens in the league that contains strike out-closer Aroldis Chapman, relief-pitcher Adam Warren, and Dellin Betances.

      Last season, New York’s trajectory did not look so great as they missed the playoffs, finishing with an 84-78 record. However, this season looks like it could be different as the Yankees’ young core and additional veteran players could have them in the position to make a post-season run.
Who wouldn’t want to see a New York v. Boston match-up in the playoffs? A battle between those traditional powers would be sure to make an interesting series.