Bradford: How did Yankees leapfrog Red Sox?

Rob Bradford
October 20, 2017 - 9:27 am

Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports

This was supposed to be the Red Sox, wasn't it?

The Yankees are one win away from becoming a real, live World Series team. One win away! How did this happen? At this time last year New York was a rebuilding shell of its former self, clinging to unproven and broken down starting pitchers while awkwardly waiting out a luxury tax death knell.

Take a look at this team's Opening Day lineup. At first base the Yankees rolled out a player (Greg Bird) who hadn't even played in 2016, and would end up hitting just .190 in 48 games in 2017. He was hitting third on Day 1. Their big position pickup was at designated hitter in the form of 37-year-old Matt Holliday, whose best days were long behind him. The top prospect Brian Cashman had siphoned from the Cubs in exchange for Aroldis Chapman, shortstop Gleyber Torres,  eventually was out for the year with Tommy John surgery, with the starter, Didi Gregorius, not playing his first game until April 28.

Jacoby Ellsbury was there, but he represented more of a payroll albatross than offensive solution. And, oh yeah, the Yankees were forced to rely on a No. 8 hitter who had struck out 42 times in his first 27 games the season before, finishing that first big league foray with a .179 batting average. His name was Aaron Judge.

Sure, the Yankees spent a good chunk of change on Aroldis Chapman, once again making up for perceived mediocre starting pitching with a formidable back-end of the bullpen. But that seemed more of a stretch than ever thanks to a group of starters that were as uncertain as any rotation in the American League East. 

A 36-year-old CC Sabathia hadn't pitched 200 innings since 2013, and couldn't claim a legitimate good season since one year before that. Masahiro Tanaka was perhaps the Yankees' best hope at uncovering a top-of-the-rotation threat, but, as his year-end 4.74 ERA suggests, that was no slam dunk. There was a promising rookie in Jordan Montgomery, but he had pitched in exactly six games above Triple-A prior to this season.

And then they had Luis Severino. In case you forgot, the guy who ultimately became the ace was coming off a season in which he pitched 71 innings and totaled a 5.83 ERA.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox were trading for one of the best pitchers in the American League, Chris Sale, without giving up a single piece off their big league roster. Oh yeah, they also reeled in another eighth-inning reliever (Tyler Thornburg) while understandably expecting the likes of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. to continue down the logical path of improvement.

Their starting rotation was an embarrassment of riches. Sale, the reigning Cy Young Award winner (Rick Porcello), two 2016 All-Stars (Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright), the $217 million man (David Price), and the next top-of-the-rotation lefty (Eduardo Rodriguez). 

"Boston's like the Golden State Warriors now in baseball. They got their Durant and their Green and Thompson and Curry."

There was a reason Cashman busted out that quote at the winter meetings. That's how it felt.

Three hundred and 14 days later, the Yankees are the team a single win away from winning the American League pennant.

What should be scary for the Red Sox is that this turn of events doesn't figure to be doing an about-face in the years to come. The Yankees found their ace in Severino, and a reliable youngster with Montgomery. Tanaka has offered glimpses of what might be throughout this postseason, is still just 28 years old and under contract through 2019. Sonny Gray is also comitted through '19, having proven in his brief stint with New York that he can be a reliable American League East starter.

As for that bullpen, David Robertson (who managed a 1.03 ERA since coming back to the Yankees), has another year left on his contract, keeping the three-closer option in play for at least one more season.

Offensively, the Yankees don't have to give up half their team for Giancarlo Stanton because they already have him in Judge. They don't need to chase power in the free agent market because Gary Sanchez is sitting there as well. Oh, and two of the top prospects in the game, Torres and outfielder Clint Frazier, are ready to become 2018 major league difference-makers.

Perhaps if you took a snapshot of the Yankees on Oct. 7, the day after they dropped the first two games to the Indians in the American League Division Series, while their manager, Joe Giardi, was trending toward the unemployment line after his ill-advised decision not to use instant replay, this whole narrative is back to where we thought it would be. A nice little season for the over-achieving New Yorkers, but nothing that should make Red Sox fans feel too uneasy.

Well, that story has certaintly changed.

The Red Sox are watching their division rivals while looking for a manager, key players tweet photos from hospital beds and wondering if those pre-2017 expectations will ever resurface. 

It's gotten uncomfortable for the Golden State Warriors of Major League Baseball, an uneasiness that will only be amped up with Friday night champagne showers in Houston.


OMF - Angry Lou returns; The Yankees are everything the Red Sox are not. 10-19-17

HOUR 3:Lou doesn't remember his halloween costumes as a kid. The Yankees are good and likeable, unlike the Red Sox.Yankees vs Dodgers World Series would be HUGE ratings
Patriots ratings are down. Glenn “Watching the yankees, the sox need to sign a "Stanton" player” Glenn “Alex Cora will be announced as the manager on Monday.” The Red Sox need to be likeable for business to be good. NFL ratings are down due to the protests per the latest study. Angry Lou returns

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