The resiliency demonstrated by the New York Yankees since 2016’s trade deadline is utterly defying all the expectations.August 1, 2016, marked the dawn of a new era for the most storied franchise in sports, the New York Yankees.
Entering play that day, they were fresh off being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time since 2014, owned a 2.5 percent chance at making the postseason and seemed destined to finish with their first losing record since 1992.
To add insult to injury, general manager Brian Cashman waved the white flag on the season and traded his three best players: Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran. Sure, the farm system was refurbished with super prospects like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and more, but it almost guaranteed the 2016 season would end in depressing fashion. Then, Gary Sanchez happened.
In the month of August, the rookie sensation slashed .389/.458/.832 with 11 home runs, 21 RBIs and an OPS of 1.290 en route to winning the American League Rookie Of The Month honors. Sanchez later tied Wally Berger as the fastest player in baseball history to reach 20 home runs (20).
More importantly, the Yankees, who traded two players that would serve as cornerstones in the World Series, was lifted from the cellar by this astronomical performance and pulled within one game of a postseason spot. They didn’t care about the odds. They were resilient.
Entering 2017, it was more of the same.
Question marks surrounding Sanchez’s follow up campaign, Greg Bird‘s return, the starting rotation and Aaron Judge‘s follow-up to a dismal start to his career clouded many expert’s belief that this young team (youngest Yankees’ lineup since 1986) can compete in the AL East.
However, when the odds are against them (25-to-1, as a matter of fact), the Baby Bombers are too naive to know any better.
Through 26 games of the 2017 regular season, the Yankees are in sole possession of first place in the division, own the best run differential (+45) in the league and lead the AL in home runs (45) thanks to the monstrous Aaron Judge, who has served as the spark plug this team needed.
Coming off his first cup of coffee in the majors when he struck out in 44.2 percent of his plate appearances, Judge is currently leading the majors in home runs (13), overall WAR (2.5) and has helped the Yankees lead all of baseball in defensive runs saved from the right field position (six).
The new fan-favorite, like Sanchez did 2016, is also making Baby Bomber history.
When he smacked his 13th home run of the season during an 8-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, it gave the 25-year-old the second-most home runs by a Yankee within the team’s first 26 games of the season.
It broke the tie with legends Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and puts him just one away from Alex Rodriguez (14) for the most.
When @TheJudge44 is in the batter’s box … you’ve got 99 problems. pic.twitter.com/8f7jGeqCMP
— MLB (@MLB) May 4, 2017
Furthermore, Aaron Judge became the youngest player in Major League history to hit 13 home runs in his team’s first 26 games of a season. Throw that in with Gary Sanchez becoming the fastest to reach 20, and this “rebuild” feels exactly like the opposite for these Yankees.
Since last year’s trade deadline, the Yankees own a 49-35 (.583) record, good enough for the second-best in the AL behind the Boston Red Sox and the fourth-best in all of baseball behind Boston, the Washington Nationals and the defending World Champion Chicago Cubs. Of their 17 wins this season, eight of them have been come-from-behind victories.
Yes, the team that “wasn’t ready to compete,” the team that through the first month of the season has been crippled by injuries, the team that let their best players walk out the door no less than nine months ago have done nothing but prove the doubters wrong and sustain impeccable resiliency since breaking down the roster.
What’s the best part? The best is yet to come.
Greg Bird, deemed by many to be the organization’s best pure hitter in the farm system when guys like Judge, Sanchez and others were budding, has yet to break out of his early-season slump. He evidently will return to his form and that will likely come when Sanchez returns from injury to join Judge in his domination of the league.
That’s just looking at this season, though. Don’t forget, Glebyer Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield are climbing up the prospect ladder, the massive contracts of Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia are coming off the books this offseason and the core of the next Yankees dynasty is about to get supplemented by the top free agents the game has to offer.
So sit back, Yankees fans. This is your rebuild. A fun, athletic group of promising kids with lovable veterans that cannot be counted out at any moment — even when the odds to win a contest sits at