TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait during photo day on February 20, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Everything is set up for the New York Yankees to come out swinging and win it all in 2021. Now, they just have to do it.

The New York Yankees had better win it all in 2021 or there may be hell to pay.

This isn’t something you hear very often in the Bronx. Even with the team’s longstanding standard of “World Series or bust,” the Yankees seem a bit more serious about it this year.

The last few seasons have teased fans with the potential of this team, leading to a natural culmination in 2021.

In 2017, the Baby Bombers arrived and the Yankees got within one game of the World Series. They lost to the cheating Houston Astros, ending the Joe Girardi Era in the Bronx.

They upped the ante in 2018 with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. Injuries and a Boston Red Sox team that had its own “unique access to signs” kept them out of the Fall Classic. The 2019 season was wrecked by even more injuries and more potential Houston shenanigans.

We all saw the potential. We were “this close” to making the jump to champions.

So Brian Cashman goes all-in and adds Gerrit Cole before the 2020 season. Cole was marvelous; the rest of the story was brutal. We don’t need to rehash details of what was an awful, awful year for all involved.

Which is why the 2021 season is the New York Yankees turning over a new leaf. It’s a newer team than we’ve seen in years, especially among the pitching staff. The lineup feels as confident as ever. These are the new-look New York Yankees, and not a new look like when your dad turned 45 and getting his ear pierced was a good idea.

And this new look comes with a new mindset: there are no more excuses.

Win it all in 2021.

It’s Cole’s house now

The Yankees made the most visible changes in their starting rotation, of which Cole is the unquestioned leader. He’s still the established ace, but his supporting cast has changed.

Letting fan favorite and playoff legend Masahiro Tanaka return to Japan was a hard decision. However, adding two-time Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber on a one-year deal is a high-upside upgrade.

Injury-prone James Paxton and aging J.A. Happ are out, and Cole’s longtime friend Jameson Taillon is in. Jordan Montgomery will continue to improve. The fifth starter’s job is up for grabs, and watching it play out in spring training will be riveting.

No more Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle? No problem! Veteran sidearmer Darren O’Day and a returning Justin Wilson have closer Aroldis Chapman’s back.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Gerrit Cole clearly had a hand in helping general manager Brian Cashman build this staff, especially in trading for Taillon. This is a group built on a collective obsession with pitching.

Now, let’s see how they do with winning.

Murderer’s Row 2.0

But enough about the pitching. Let’s talk about the lineup.

And before we start, save the remarks about Stanton and Aaron Judge’s health. I’m more tired of hearing that Yankees Twitter nonsense than I am of HBO showing What About Bob? every few hours. It’s fine the first couple of times, but gets old fast.

All this to say the 2021 season is also the first full year the New York Yankees have with trainer extraordinaire Eric Cressey. Last year, The Athletic did a great profile of him and how he would fully modernize the team’s training staff.

Sure enough, as Cressey himself said in an appearance on YES Network, both sluggers shifted their workouts (again) to include more yoga. With more stretching and less weights, perhaps the increased flexibility can keep them in the lineup all year.

Meanwhile, DJ LeMahieu is back on a six-year deal. Gleyber Torres is back and in shape. In case you missed it, Gary Sanchez is already batting .400 with a pair of long home runs in spring training.

Don’t forget Aaron “The Walk Machine” Hicks. Or Luke “Guns Out” Voit. Gio “Slowhand” Urshela. Yes, I’m making up nicknames for this team on the spot.

The history books will demand it when all’s said and done.

Why? Because they’re the New York Yankees.

Final thoughts

All this to say that this New York Yankees team was made for this moment. The last few years have been a disappointment. I would say how I really feel, but they insist I keep the show PG around here.

The time for disappointment is over. The time for focus, winning, and championships is now.

Let it be known loud and clear. The New York Yankees mean business in 2021. The lineup is one of the deadliest in the game when everyone’s locked in. The pitching staff raises questions, but is made up of guys who are serious on game day.

Everyone say it with me.

No. More. Excuses.

The New York Yankees are ready, so the rest of MLB had better be too.

See you on Opening Day.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.