Yankees GM Brian Cashman made three big deals in July
It has now been almost five years since the New York Yankees last captured an American League East Division crown. There has been just one World Series championship in the Bronx in the last seventeen years.
While the majority of MLB fan bases would be fine with their team having won a division title as recently as five years ago and a world championship just eight years ago, this isn’t most teams.
The New York Yankees are supposed to be the gold standard of Major League Baseball. The franchise has captured 27 World Series titles, sixteen more than the next highest club. They have won 40 American League pennants.
The two decades between 1994 and 2002 were particularly spectacular for the Yankees. The team finished in first place in the AL East in 14 of those 19 seasons. They won the AL pennant and advanced to the Fall Classic seven times, winning the World Series five times.
But over the last four full seasons, the Yanks won between 84 and 87 games. They finished second twice, third once, and then last season had fallen to fourth place in the division.
In those four seasons, there was just one playoff game. The Houston Astros shut the Yankees out 3-0 in the 2015 AL Wildcard Game.
SURPRISE 2017 CONTENDERS
Coming into this season, the Yankees were seen by many as having an aging core. Most had manager Joe Girardi‘s club finishing between 3rd and 5th place in the AL East in this 2017 season. When the team lost four of their first five games, there seemed like nothing was happening to contradict those predictions.
But then the Yankees began to win. Led by tremendous performances from the lineups two youngest members, catcher Gary Sanchez and right fielder Aaron Judge, the club reeled off eight straight victories after that slow start.
The winning came with consistency for the Yankees over the next two months. The new version of the Bronx Bombers spent most of the period between mid-April and late June at the top. At one point, they opened up a four game lead in the division.
In mid-June, however, the Yankees began to slow down. From June 13 through July 19, the team went just 10-22. They plummeted to third place, 4.5 games behind the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, who seemed ready to run away with the division.
But over the last 10 days or so, the Yanks have righted their ship. Following Monday’s 7-3 victory at Yankee Stadium over the visiting Detroit Tigers, the club has won nine of their last 11 games.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Inspired by his team’s play this year, general manager Brian Cashman decided to do whatever he could to move up their timetable for championship contention.
In the last two days, Cashman acted to plug up holes in the starting rotation. First he sent prospect arms Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday for nine-year veteran lefty Jaime Garcia.
After a decade of losing in which the franchise fell to its lowest-ever depths, the Yankees began to win again with regularity in the mid-1970’s under their late, legendary owner George Steinbrenner.
His spending on big-ticket free agents brought the Yankees the unflattering nickname “The Evil Empire”, based on the original blockbuster “Star Wars” movie released in 1977.
These modern-day Yankees were not willing to fade and let the Red Sox run away and hide. They were not going to tread water, hoping to scrape into a Wildcard spot. They were unwilling to wait for more prospects to develop, and possibly win in a year or two
With his moves of the last couple weeks, Cashman is clearly signaling that under the stewardship of himself and Steinbrenner’s sons, Hal and Hank, the Empire is striking back – now.
The latest winning spurt has pushed the Yankees back to the top of the AL East standings. Headed into Tuesday’s action they hold a half-game lead over Boston.
With these latest moves, management and ownership has done their part to help ensure that the Yankees have the pieces to contend for the division crown to the end. Perhaps even to make a deep October run.