The Baby Bombers have been the backbone for the New York Yankees in 2017 but their true test begins in the postseason.
On Sept. 23, the New York Yankees punched their ticket to the MLB Postseason for a historic 53rd time. This extends their lead over the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who have 31 playoff appearances.
In those 53 postseason trips, a few select Yankees have managed to rise above the rest. These men proved to have a certain clutch gene that is missing in so many players.
Nobody knows how a player will perform in the playoffs until they actually get there. 2017 will be the test that the Yankees need for their new stars. This year, three new, homegrown talents emerged from the farm system: right fielder Aaron Judge, catcher Gary Sanchez and starting pitcher Luis Severino. All three were All-Stars, had incredible seasons and will even be up for league-wide awards.
Sanchez has become arguably the best offensive catcher in baseball and will probably win the Silver Slugger for American League at his position. Severino has established himself as one of the top strikeout pitchers in the game and deserves some A.L. Cy Young consideration. Judge is all but a lock for A.L. Rookie of the Year and a Silver Slugger award, he could get a Gold Glove and will most certainly be a name discussed in the A.L. Most Valuable Player award as well.
However, once the last out is made on October 1, none of that will matter. The regular season will officially end and all statistics will reset to zero. This is where the test for Judge, Sanchez and Severino begins.
Because those three were all homegrown talent and have seen success early in their careers, they are going to be compared to the last wave of super successful homegrown talent: the “Core Four” of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.
The Core Four is so beloved and revered because not only did they all dominate the game during the regular season but they elevated their game in the postseason. The foursome became arguably some of the greatest playoff performers of all time, were clutch when they needed to be and won five championships.
Jeter has a lifetime .308 average in the 158 career playoff games, with 20 home runs and 61 RBI. Rivera had a 0.70 ERA in 96 career playoff games, racking up 42 saves with an 8-1 record. Pettite went 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA in 44 games while striking out 183 in 276.2 innings pitched. Posada hit 11 home runs with 42 RBI in 125 playoff games. These men performed when it mattered and essentially have entire seasons worth of good stats in just the postseason alone.
However, not all players can do what they did. Take former Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez for example. Rodriguez produced some of the greatest offensive seasons in Yankee history in 2005 (48 home runs, 130 RBI, .321 average) and 2007 (54 home runs, 156 RBI, .314 average) en route to winning the A.L. MVP both years. However, when it came time for the playoffs, it was as if he was never there. In ‘05, Rodriguez hit .133 with no home runs or RBI in the ALDS. In ‘07, he hit a modest .267 with one home run and one RBI. These were far cries from the monster seasons he had just put up.
Rodriguez eventually saw a successful postseason run in 2009, helping lead the Yankees to World Series number 27, but never reached success like that again. He will always go down as one of the biggest stars who couldn’t perform in October.
This entire season has been gravy for the Yankees. Nobody expected them to be a playoff team this early, let alone being one of the more dangerous threats in October. The American League Wild Card game, and any subsequent rounds they may be involved in, will serve as a perfect place to see what these new Baby Bombers are made of. Will Judge fulfill the prophecy bestowed on him and become the next Jeter in this way too, or will he struggle like Rodriguez?
The only way to find out is to watch ESPN on October 3 and see what happens when the MLB postseason officially kicks off.