I look at the Yankees going into the 2023 season and am reminded of a scene from the 2004 action classic Troy.
The Greek armies are about to land on the shores of Troy and original super-soldier Achilles, played by prime-blonde era Brad Pitt, rallies his men. Some may say into a frenzy.
“Do you know what’s waiting beyond that beach?” he asks the determined army. “Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!”
Now, while there’s no complete parallel between baseball and an over-the-top movie based on Homer’s Iliad, look at that quote again. Then, look at the American League landscape up to this point.
Suddenly, we realize that the AL is indeed the Yankees’ to lose in 2023. The Houston Astros lost Justin Verlander to the Mets and will soon be baseball’s Dallas Cowboys. New York, meanwhile, has reloaded and isn’t done building next year’s team yet.
The obvious long-term goal is to win the World Series. Yet, in the spirit of the new year, the Yankees would also be wise to set the following resolutions.
Produce at least two 20-game winners. Wins are an ancient stat and thus meaningless, yet everyone applauds when a pitcher gets 20 in a season. The Yankees have, arguably, the best rotation in baseball on top of a stacked lineup. They’re very much capable of turning out two arms who reach that milestone.
Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon are practically No. 1 and No. 1A starters, and Luis Severino also has ace qualities. How quickly we forget Frankie Montas was the ace in Oakland before joining the back end in New York. And who’s to say Nestor Cortes won’t turn in another All-Star campaign.
The 1971 Orioles churned out four 20-game winners before losing the World Series. The Yankees can thus easily produce two out of their this year, along with a matching will to win.
Giancarlo Stanton, MVP? Stanton’s final season with the Marlins wasn’t unlike Judge’s recent MVP campaign. He led MLB with 59 home runs and 132 RBI while batting a modest .281 en route to being named MVP himself. The Marlins then began another rebuild and he was traded to the Yankees for peanuts.
And while Stanton has not been bad since donning the pinstripes, he’s been streaky and had issues staying healthy. Excluding the shortened 2020 season, he’s averaged 106 games a year as a Yankee. He particularly struggled in 110 games last year, batting a career-low .211 despite 31 homers and 78 RBI.
This means that since Aaron Judge had his MVP season with the Yankees, it’s now Stanton’s turn. His goal should be to play in at least 145 games this year and return to true MVP form. If he and Judge can make a competition out of it, all the better.
Let the kids play. Remember how all bemoaned Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s overcooked noodle of a bat all last year? While fans’ pleas fell on Brian Cashman’s deaf ears, Oswald Peraza was having a career season in the minors. He hit 19 home runs and posted a .778 OPS before finally getting called up in September.
In just 18 MLB games, Peraza hit .306 with a home run and a .832 OPS.
IKF is back on a $6 million deal, but there can be no more of this in 2023. The analytics don’t run the show anymore, performance does. Stick with someone’s awful hitting just because they might make a good play in the field every few games? Fughetaboutit. Let the Perazas and Anthony Volpes of the organization play if they’re playing well down on the farm.
Show the Astros who’s boss. We said at the start how the American League is the Yankees’ to lose in 2023. Let’s shift back to pitching to show how.
The Astros had the best pitching in the AL last year with a 2.90 staff ERA, largely boosted by Justin Verlander posting an individual mark of 1.75. Take his numbers away and Houston’s team ERA jumps to 3.51, suddenly below the Yankees and their 3.30 staff ERA. It also doesn’t take much to see the Yankees have done way more this offseason to win in ’23 than the Astros have to defend their title.
Look at it this way. Houston’s dynasty just won the World Series with its weakest team yet. They’ve since swapped out the aging Yuli Gurriel for the aging Jose Abreu and let Verlander walk too. Who’s the ace of the staff? Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier are exciting young arms, but can they lead a rotation?
New York, meanwhile, re-signed Judge in free agency, added Rodon and still needs a left fielder. They’re in a perfect position to use the Astros’ complacency against them next season.
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