NEW YORK – Nobody wants to accuse the
So long as it’s still legal, though, and not punishable by prison time – or even worse, being forced to watch the
The latest illustration revealed itself Wednesday evening, when Game 5 of the ALCS brought full circle one of the redemptive arcs that dot this Yankees roster. In May, when the Houston Astros shelled
And never mind that this is merely a preview, that
At its core, this idea that a
Because of the Yankees’ history, and because their rosters since the end of the late ’90s dynasty often confirmed the very worst thoughts about them, and because they’ve literally spent billions of dollars over the last decade chasing a championship they claimed just once, making an argument in favor of the Yankees being underdogs of any variety is akin to fighting a jaywalking ticket when a camera caught every step. The optics aren’t good. But sometimes the context tells a larger story.
The larger story Wednesday was Tanaka. Unlike in Game 1, when Astros starter
“You go out there and you fight and you empty the tank,” Tanaka said, and that could just as well serve as the motto for the Yankees this postseason. They were distinct long shots against the 102-win Indians, and they entered the ALCS the same against the 101-win Astros, and even if
The idea that this makes the Yankees what they are – that they’re somehow parlaying this status into motivation to win – is silly. No, this is something instead that’s embedded in them, that for years has motivated them, because so many on the Yankees roster found themselves at a nadir similar to Tanaka’s in May.
For Judge, first it was the horror of last season, when in his major league debut he struck out in half his at-bats, and then, after an MVP-type season this year, the clowns that conflated a week’s worth of postseason struggles with an inability to perform in October. It was dumb then, and Judge proved in dumber in the third inning, when he doubled home
For Sanchez, it was down in the minor leagues, where he had stagnated and his prospect luster had dimmed. Scouts never doubted his talent. They did wonder whether he would fulfill it. As his RBI single in the fifth that helped chase Keuchel and his solo home run in the seventh that provided the Yankees’ final run attested: Yes. Yes he would.
Masahiro Tanaka twirls seven frames of scoreless ball, giving up three hits and punching out eight to earn the win in Game 5 of the ALCS
It’s easy to highlight those three, seeing as they’re still pups, none older than 25, each having worked out his kinks at a formative enough point in his career that these were more speed bumps than road blocks. And that’s a fair point to make. Except it’s not just them. It’s
“We can’t worry if we’re supposed to be here,” Sabathia said. “We are here.”
They are here, all right, turning Yankee Stadium back into a place where 49,647 screamed themselves hoarse and left the Astros scrambling to get out of the Bronx ASAP. They are, as Bird said, “just a bunch of kids playing baseball,” something that resonates among old generations of Yankees fans that still revere the Core Four along with a new generation of Yankees fans just beginning to understand what the organization’s 27 championships mean.
There are things to dislike.
Because in New York these days, life is good. Over the summer, as Tanaka’s ERA ballooned even higher, the fear was that he would not opt out of his contract this winter and would saddle the Yankees with three more years of mediocrity. On Wednesday, he exited the Yankees’ clubhouse a hero, carrying a framed version of a lineup card, shaking the hands of admirers, the toast of the town. Nights like this were why he came here, why he turned down the hundred million-plus dollars offers elsewhere to join the New York Yankees, even if they were the bad guys.
Not anymore, at least not yet. Perhaps eventually they’ll return to the bloated, odious villain they’ve always been – large market happy to squash the small ones, narcissistic behemoth that believes the baseball world exists only if embellished with frieze. In the meantime, enjoy the respite. The New York Yankees are likable. It’s worth saying because it’s true.