Up next: Shortstop Didi Gregorious will be out for the first month of the season, which is more than enough time for the tabloids to organize a groundswell for Gleyber Torres. He’s the shortstop acquired from the Cubs for Aroldis Chapman last summer, who has supplanted Jorge Mateo — a pedestrian .254/306/379 at Class A –as the next Derek Jeter (you get the feeling every good young Yankee shortstop will be anointed the next Jeter the way every Republican presidential candidate aspires to be the next Reagan). Torres is only 20 and will likely start in AA after he hit .270 with 11 homers, 58 walks and 21 steals (13 caught stealings) in Class A last summer. “If I wanted to use an injury as a reason to get him up higher, I would do that right now,” GM Brian Cashman said. “But that’s not the plan we have for him.” Cashman is right, but we all know plans can change in a New York Yankee minute.
What he said: “I’m not asking him to change . . . do we have a traditional five hitter? Maybe not, but we have a couple of guys who can really run, so you do things a little bit different.” Joe Girardi on batting Jacoby Ellsbury fifth in the lineup. What he meant: “He’s got a .326 on-base percentage the last three years. I’d drop him lower if I could.”
Outlook: Are these really the Yankees?
Did the organization so profligate that it spent $153 million on Jacoby Ellsbury three years ago temper its spending this winter to $13 million on Matt Holliday and $86 million on Aroldis Chapman, the latter of which could be considered a gratuity for bringing in Gleyber Torres?
Did the team that that once changed managers as if they hadn’t been properly vetted — 13 in 11 playoff-less seasons from 1982-1992 — not fire Joe Girardi again after his team missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons?
Did the Yankees really build a farm system ranked No. 2 in MLB by ESPN.com’s Keith Law and not dismantle it in the same offseason?
Are the Yankees really capable of patience, foresight and ignoring the cauldron of tabloid back pages and sports-talk radio?
So far they are, though they’re still the Yankees, as top prospect Clint Frazier, commanded to cut his hair, can attest. Frazier is the young outfielder who came from Cleveland last summer for Andrew Miller, long on talent and locks (strikeouts, too). The hair was trimmed when someone in the front office was reminded the Yankees had a team policy that no one thought to change because, like so many workplaces, that’s the way it’s always been done.
Maybe when Pedro Martinez called them daddy, someone with the Yankees took the role too literally.
The Yankees, as an organization, seemed more upset about the length of Frazier’s hair than they did the domestic assault allegations against Chapman, whom they’ve now acquired twice since they were made. That isn’t an altogether unusual mindset in the sporting world. One sports writer once wrote that he doubted Colin Kapernick’s ability to lead a football team because of the QB’s tattoos; it wasn’t long thereafter that the 49ers were in the Super Bowl.
The rest of the world may have evolved, but sometimes the sports world lags behind.
You have to wonder how stubborn the Yankees would be about the arcane team rule if Gary Sanchez showed up at camp looking like Noah Syndergaard. Methinks they might relent. Or if when they play the Mets they’re more envious of their fastballs or manes.
Sanchez hit 20 homers in 201 at-bats last year for the Yankees after hitting 10 in 284 in AAA — there’s no metric to explain that — and he’s the biggest reason to think the Yankees will make it 25 winning seasons in a row this year.
That’s an impressive streak, but the last four have been illusory: the Yankees have been outscored in three of them, haven’t won a playoff game since 2012 and have scored 700 runs just once in the last four years (in the 20 years previous to that, they failed to score 700 runs just once and that was because they only played 113 games in the strike year of 1994 when they scored 670. Only two other times before the last four years in that span have they failed to score 800 runs, let alone 700).
New York doesn’t go for long rebuilds which gives the Yankees a year or two of grace. The Yankees of 2017 seem short on pitching but long on potential, although youth often has a way of disappointing since it’s natural to overrate strengths and minimize flaws.
The Yankees have enough of good young talent — Sanchez, Greg Bird (slugged .529 in 48 games in 2015), Aaron Judge (think an Adam Dunn who walks less), Frazier, Torres, Luis Severino (2.89 ERA in 11 starts in 2015, 8.50 in 11 starts in 2016) — that there’s nothing to do but play it, evaluate it and be patient.
It’s the last part that’s always hardest in New York.
Team song: Sonny Rollins: The Bridge