Aaron Judge New York Yankees
Vincent Carchietta | USA TODAY Sports

2021 has been a rough year, but New York Yankees fans can still be thankful for plenty.

Ah, Thanksgiving.

Isn’t it great? One day with the three best things in the world all under one roof: food, football, and family drama. Your cousin comes home from college with some loud opinions about something or other, everyone hounds Mom to make pancakes with all the fixings on Thursday morning even though she’s elbow deep in a bird. Amidst all the chaos, there’s a fight over not only who has to pick up Aunt Bethany, but sit next to her at dinner.

And if you’re a New York Yankees fan, this Turkey Day isn’t particularly festive. The Bronx Bombers lost to the Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game after the most disappointing full season in years. Even worse, those disgusting cheating Houston Astros made it back to the World Series.

But even so, this Yankees fan isn’t frowning on Thursday. No, even as the clock ticks on an imminent MLB lockout, we fans have plenty for which to be thankful.

We’ve got our health, we’ve got our family, and we’ve got the New York Yankees who, bad finish aside, aren’t all that bad.

Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet

Once again, the New York Yankees are big-game hunters on the free agent market. The team is in dire need of a shortstop and the market features Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager. Each will almost certainly demand $200-$300 million, maybe more, and big checks mean getting owner Hal Steinbrenner’s OK.

Fortunately for general manager Brian Cashman, more cash appears to be on the way. He spoke to reporters at the GM Meetings in California and said that he had “some latitude” regarding offseason spending.

And what latitude Steinbrenner has given Cashman, indeed. Longtime MLB insider Jon Heyman reported the Yankees offered Justin Verlander a one-year deal worth $25 million before he re-upped with Houston. That’s a big deal for someone 39 years old and fresh off Tommy John surgery.

On top of that, Cashman spoke to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com and confirmed there would be extension talks with star slugger Aaron Judge this offseason. Payroll was second in MLB in 2021 at $205 million and thanks to Steinbrenner’s long history of spending big, expect that number to rise next year.

Aaron Judge

Speak of the devil, how great is Aaron Judge? Even if last year was a one-off, it appears trainer Eric Cressey’s new regimen is working for the star outfielder. The oft-injured Judge didn’t spend a single day on the injured list last year and sat out only for general soreness or maintenance days.

Adding load management to the equation saw Judge bat a career-best .287 with 39 home runs and 98 RBI. He’s still only 29 and a year from free agency. It is absolutely imperative that he be extended this offseason and be with the New York Yankees for his whole career.

Fortunately, as was just mentioned, Cashman is preparing to discuss a contract extension with Judge’s representatives. Furthermore, Judge himself has been very clear about wanting to spend his whole career in New York. We at ESNY are never ones to count our chickens before they hatch but in this case, it certainly seems more a matter of “when” rather than “if.”

Gerrit Cole

And on the other side of the coin, every New York Yankees fan should be thankful for Gerrit Cole. He is not only the ace of the pitching staff, but a team leader completely devoted to his craft who expects nothing less of his fellow pitchers.

Forget about the Spider Tack crap. Don’t get on him for pitching with a bum hamstring and having a bad close to the season and even worse playoff performance. He was still the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award and his dominance on the mound speaks for itself.

Even better, Cole is a lifelong New York Yankees fan with seven years left on his contract. All signs point to him being the Bronx’s top guy on the mound for years to come.

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.