Aaron Boone, Brett Gardner
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Yankees season ended far earlier than anticipated and maybe it was because they deviated from their savage ways.

Allison Case

The Fall Classic will commence on Tuesday evening and the New York Yankees will be watching like the rest of us: on their couch with GrubHub at the ready.

In what could be classified as a failure of a season (according to Aaron Judge) or a waste of time, the 2019 season was once full of incredible promise, grit and determination. That season ended in the most heartbreaking fashion, with a Jose Altuve walk-off blast.

In the grand scheme of things, what the Yankees were able to accomplish all season long with a plethora of injuries and setbacks was absolutely incredible. The “Next Man Up” mentality paid off in dividends. When one player went down, the next stepped right in to perform even better.

This crew was not anticipated to make it far prior to the season beginning. When superstars went down early, the Bombers “Triple-A” team were supposed to keep the team afloat until the return of the stars. Well, they accomplished so much more and could not have made it to the ALCS without this band of savages.

Gio Urshela transformed from a forgotten signing into a defensive wizard and reliable contact batter. DJ LeMahieu eliminated any questions about his play away from Coors Field by putting together an MVP-caliber season. Brett Gardner turned from a fourth outfielder into a legitimate power threat and everyday starter. Gleyber Torres emerged as a bona fide superstar at just 22 years old.

The stories of the season revolved around who the Yankees were missing instead of who was picking up the slack. And those are the guys that legitimately propelled this Yankees team to the postseason with a dominant 103-59 record.

But when you look at the postseason roster, who was on it? Edwin Encarnacion. Aaron Hicks. Gary Sanchez. Giancarlo Stanton. Didi Gregorius. The guys that were on it were the ones who have the big contracts, certainly, and who define who the New York Yankees are as a team.

But these aren’t the guys who put this team in this position. They weren’t the original “savages” who stepped up and dominated when the going was tough in the Bronx.

And that makes all the difference in this postseason.

It’s easy to think the culprit of the early postseason exit is the lack of an offense. That absolutely played a huge role in the losses against the Astros. With a combined batting average of .214, the Yankees could not serve up clutch hits when the moment arrived, despite their pitching holding the best offensive team in baseball in check through much of the series.

But there was something missing this postseason. It wasn’t just the clutch hits but more so the savage attitude that defined them all season long. Some of the life from these young, exciting players was not in the dugout like it has been all season long.

Of course, it is understandable in a way that certain players were given top priority, especially due to the amount of money the front office shelled out to get them. Edwin Encarnacion is a well-respected veteran with a powerful bat. Giancarlo Stanton is the product of a massive trade. Aaron Hicks was just signed to a hefty extension. They are the players the Yankees imagined starting in the playoffs and carrying them to a championship.

But Hicks was hurt, expected to be gone for the postseason. Edwin’s bat cooled off, not to mention the fact that he found himself in pinstripes halfway through the season, when the lineup was already set. Stanton played in only 18 total games in the regular season due to knee issues. Didi hopped in halfway through the season and never quite looked up to par.

And yet, these were the guys that were there. Luke Voit was left off the roster, despite his 118 games manning first base. Mike Tauchman ended up succumbing to injury late in the season but was their true sparkplug, especially in the middle of the year. Mike Ford had some signature Yankee moments all season long. Heck, even Austin Romine put together some decent performances during the regular season, filling in with ease while Gary Sanchez spent various stints on the injured list. Or give Cameron Maybin a few more at-bats or late-game entrances for defensive purposes.

Instead of playing with the team that got them there, they chose to go with the other guys, the big names. And it bit them.

When it came to the postseason, the New York Yankees weren’t the savages we know and love. Instead, they were the team built by who has the biggest contracts. While that isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t define the Yankees team that overcame so much this season.

The 2019 season was one of overcoming adversity, bringing in players who were rejected from other teams and turning them into everyday ballplayers. That was not the tone of the postseason.

The chances of the 2020 season being anything like this year is highly unlikely. This #NextManUp movement is likely a one-and-done type of deal. This was an opportunity to fight for a World Series title with a whole different type of Yankees team. Instead, the Bombers went back to what they’ve known and done for the past several years and gotten the same results: an early exit.

This regular season will not be forgotten anytime soon but the postseason had the potential to be far more memorable. The savages should’ve won a World Series title. Instead, the savages turned into a money game and were outdueled by the Houston Astros.

Better luck next year, my friends.


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