With the excitement of Steven Matz and the Phenom-Five happening in Queens, it’s starting to look like 1985 for the New York Yankees.
By Robby Sabo
With a record of 41-35, placing them only a half-game out of first in the AL East, there’s been very little to complain about if you call the New York Yankees your team.
Vets like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have recaptured their youth; the back-end of the bullpen has been brilliant; and the fourth-oldest team in Major League Baseball (average age of 29.3) has remained relatively healthy up until this point, via ESPN.
They’ve even slipped past their little brothers from Queens after seeing them get off to a red-hot 13-3 start.
So why do things feel so unsettling right now?
There’s a loud noise coming from Citi Field, that’s why. So loud not even Yankees fans can ignore it.
It’s the enthusiasm of youth – super prospects who have now fully entrenched themselves in New York Mets uniforms.
The Mets unveiled their latest pitching prospect on Sunday in the form of Steven Matz. All he did was throw 110 balls over 7.2 innings while giving up two-runs and striking out six.
— 120 Sports (@120Sports) June 29, 2015
And oh yeah, he had the building jumping as he drove in four-runs with a 3-3 day at the plate.
It’s this type of youthful enthusiasm that has many coming up with catchy nicknames for the new boys of flushing. Just as the Yanks had their Core-Four, the Mets young rotation could soon be dubbed the Phenom-Five.
Despite the current records of each club – though they are relatively similar – the little brothers have been the story the majority of news days during this 2015 baseball season.
It’s a narrative that provides substance.
The long-suffering fan-base who simply can not take it anymore. They call for the heads of the owners, managers and general managers alike because they haven’t seen October baseball in almost a decade (2006). They start flooding the airwaves with conspiracy stories that the Wilpon’s have no money left thanks to some cat from the past named Bernie Madoff.
Mets fans then start dreaming of the day the Big Apple will once again be called a Mets-Town.
They picked up a taste of it early in the season, but then reality hit: they’re not there yet.
Still, at this point, the similarities between 2015 and 1984 cannot be overlooked.
During the 1983 season baseball in New York City remained status-quo. The Yankees were coming off a great run in the late 1970s and the Mets had been suffering since the Miracle-Mets.
The Yanks finished 1983 with a pretty solid 91-71 record which was good enough for third in the AL East. Don Mattingly was an unknown rookie who hadn’t yet made a dent in Monument Park.
The Mets on the other hand settled for a disastrous 68-94 mark. This was good enough for last in the NL East. An aging Tom Seaver was the opening day starter which eventually led to the Mets seventh-straight losing season.
Despite the elder Seaver, the imprints of general manager Frank Cashen had already started to take effect.
Even Keith Hernandez was acquired during the season.
Then 1984 came.
The Yankees once again toiled on the line of good ball-club who couldn’t take home the division. Their 87-75 record finished 17-games behind the eventual champion Detroit Tigers.
Meanwhile, the Mets took that eventual leap into superstardom. A 90-72 record was only bested by one team within the NL East, the Chicago Cubs (96-65).
Behind their own young gun in Mattingly, the Yankees then continuously rolled out good teams. In 1985 they won 97-games; ’86 they won 90; and in ’87 they went 89-73. The Pinstripers were always good, yet never good enough.
The problem lied in development.
Mattingly was basically their only guy, their backbone for who they relied upon. George Steinbrenner’s impatience with the prospect player led to horrid pitching and a mix-mosh of lineup pieces.
This approach led to mediocrity instead of sustained success. Instead, the winning-spoils went to the team that played at Shea thanks to a patient youth-movement that led to a winning formula over many years.
Fast-forward three-decades and it seems as though the that same story is taking place.
The 2015 Yankees supposedly have prospects named Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird, but only god knows where or when they’ll get their chance to shine. Every position is clogged up by a veteran guy making a ton of money.
The 2015 version of the Bronx Bombers is just as, if not more scared to death of having empty seats than those ’80s teams were. They’ll be damned if they have empty seats at The Stadium in August and September and will continue the washed-up superstar madness until they’re forced to give it up.
The inability to entrench youth in this lineup is plaguing them just as it did three-decades ago.
To be fair, the Yanks are playing better than most had originally forecasted. And of course they have talent. At the same time though, they possess a ton of age and scarcity in the pipeline like those ’80s teams did.
Very few believe this Yankees team has a legitimate World Series chance.
It took the Steinbrenner suspension to allow the organization a real chance to build the team the right way. Buck Showalter and Gene “Stick” Michael were the architects of the Core-Four that led to New York swaying back into their direction after four-championships in five-seasons.
Sandy Alderson and his all-star cast of front office execs are hoping to do the same with their Phenom-Five.
When we look at a guy like Matz on Sunday we see the hope that Gooden brought. When the drama flies fast and furious around A-Rod we think of drama-filled times Steinbrenner, Winfield and Henderson manufactured.
When Matt Harvey roams the mound we see a championship-caliber Seaver-like competitor.
Times are changing for New York baseball and it feels strangely-tied to 1984. Who knows, maybe Judge will be the next Mattingly.
This Yankees team is solid, but only solid is what those 1980s teams were all about.
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