With Gary Sanchez headed to the shelf, the true identity of the 2017 New York Yankees will be unveiled.
All it took was one awkward swing by Gary Sanchez on Saturday afternoon at Camden Yards. A swing that has since generated a tremendous deal of uncertainty surrounding the New York Yankees only five games into their campaign.
The team’s young phenom strained his right bicep, earning a spot on the 10-day DL as a result.
Sanchez, already struggling amidst sky-high expectations, was 3-for-20 (.150) on the young season.
What Yankee fans failed to realize heading in, though, is that the 24-year-old’s production was not simply an incentive, much like it was last year — when he suddenly became a number three hitter in taking the league and the organization by storm. His presence is no longer expendable.
The essence of a youth movement includes reliance on that very youth.
Manager Joe Girardi has proceeded to roll out Sanchez and Greg Bird in the No. 2 and 3 spots in the lineup, respectively, so as to rely on their production during the heat of this integral transitional time. Their struggles have come to the surprise of the fanbase and have shed light on the sheer fact that their success and the team’s success go hand in hand.
Now, without the man who blasted 20 homers in 53 games last season and sparked an unforeseen playoff push, the true identity of these 2017 Yankees will be leaked.
An offense that was built around a kid who did not see everyday big league reps until August of 2016 will have to adjust, with contributions from unlikely sources becoming essential. Additionally, the veterans that were supposed to be the bedrock of this unit — the stabilizing factor meant to keep the ship afloat — must produce results now more than ever.
If last year proved anything, it was that an early hole can and will come back to bite a team in the “more pivotal stages.” 1-4 can just as easily spiral into the 9-17 clip that doomed last year’s pinstripes.
For the 10 days (or more) that Sanchez is sidelined, the construction of this team will be tested. Did Brian Cashman build a team that was built to last? Or were his eyes simply set on 2018 and beyond?
Was the idea that Sanchez and Bird would be the tandem to lead this team to the promise land? Or were backup solutions fixated in case of the worst? Well, the worst has hit New York sooner than anyone would have imagined.
Didi Gregorius was not afforded the chance to break camp with the club, Bird struggled out of the gates through an ankle injury, Sanchez was trying to do far too much, likely leading to his mechanically-induced injury, and Aaron Judge has been no different than the man who was buried in each and every two-strike count last year.
Remember, this is leaving the already cringeworthy starting rotation out of the equation.
Sanchez was groomed into this position, and now the uncanny reliance on one factor has left the Yankees empty-handed.
The solutions, or lack thereof, will come at the major league level. Only a week into the season, the structure of this team can be properly assessed.
How the squad fares without its rock will be a large indicator as to just how much of a threat they are moving forward.
Simply put, judgments will be made during this time period and in all likelihood, they will prove to be accurate. As far as talent is concerned, there is little to no wiggle room for this team.
The 2017 New York Yankees are on the clock.