When Aaron Boone was hired as manager of the Yankees after the 2017 season, he saw the job as one of the pinnacles of the sporting world.
The Yankees are, after all, Yankees. The team went to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series a year earlier and had an exciting youth center, including Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery, all of whom were 25 or younger at the time.
“I believe we are entering a special time in the history of the New York Yankees, and I am very excited to be a part of it,” Boone said when he took the job,
While the Yankees have made it to the playoffs in each of Boone’s four seasons, his tenure so far cannot be described as a “special time” in the history of the franchise. This is a franchise that sees itself as the league’s gold standard, with anything less than the championship seen as a major disappointment.
That’s why two ALDS losses (to split rivals, no less), an ALCS loss to the hated Astros and an humiliating wild card game loss to the Red Sox are more persuasive failures than achievements for the Yankees. Merely making the playoffs isn’t enough, and certainly not the reason the Yankees hired Boone when Joe Girardi nearly piloted the 2017 group to the World Series.
This year, however, things look, feel and sound different. Not that the Yankees are entering Tuesday’s slate of games 26-9. Certainly, they have the best record, run differential and wRC+ in the league, and are on pace to win 120 games. But the way they’re doing it, and a complete departure from last season’s talented but less-achievable ways, is starting to make 2022 feel like the real start of a special time in Yankees history.
The Yankees are happy and healthy, thus avoiding any major injuries and, with each victory, begin to believe they are closer and closer to invincibility. Postgame victory music at the clubhouse seems more like a routine than a reward these days, with players, coaches and journalists alike becoming accustomed to Kodak Black and Kevin Gates’ musical style after a Yankee victory.
This is probably what Boone envisioned when he swapped his ESPN credentials for lineup cards and sleeveless hoodies. The Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton just a week after Boone was recruited, and now, finally, he and Judge look ready for their first All-Star Game as teammates. Superstars have always been the Yankees’ calling cards, and even though their current big three (Judge, Stanton and Gerrit Cole) have been around since 2020, this is the first year the team’s record looks like it has three of the game’s brightest stars.
Plus, the influence of a rejuvenated Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu and Gleber Torres have allowed the Bombers to go from good, but defeatable, to downright terrifying. Rizzo already has ten home runs and if his early-season prowess—considering the league-wide offensive suppression that came with cold weather and yet another winning baseball, his career— The high could surpass 32 – continues through the coming months. LeMahieu is back as the prototypical leadoff hitter that made him impossible during his first two years in pinstripes, slashing, chopping and lining hits in every part of the stadium. Torres – whether it stems from the mental ease of going back to second base, or his 127-game slump last year – is striking less often than ever and only judges, Stanton and Rizzo for the team lead in the RBI. is behind. ,
A manager’s true dream, however, is to profit from the top, middle and bottom of the roster. As Stanton and Cole look like $300 million men, and the judges are probably playing their way to a bigger contract, there’s also Nestor Cortés Jr. and his $727,500 salary. Cortés, full stop, has been one of the best pitchers alive. There isn’t a Yankee Hurler joint grotto fan acclaim with legitimately excellent results on the mound since the recent days of El Duque or Peak Joba Chamberlain.
Michael King has also been one of the best people in the world at his job. In fact, King is the best reliever in the game according to Fangraph’s version of Vince Above the Replacement. He’ll bring home $722,500 this year, an absolute steal for a guy with a 36.5% strike rate who can easily go several innings at a time.
The Yankees are an embarrassment of riches. Starting pitchers have posted the most battles of any American League unit, as have relievers. The hitters lead the entire league in wRC+ and still haven’t gotten much out of either Joey Gallo or Aaron Hicks. With each series win, the 1998 team comparisons will get louder and less exaggerated. The thing is, Boone and his charges don’t consider themselves the team of 1998. Louis Gill, who helped the Yankees defeat the White Sox on May 12, wasn’t even born in the middle of that magic carpet ride.
The people at Yankee Clubhouse always believe they can win 162 games, no matter what the year or circumstances. This is especially true of Boone, who is one of the more proud men in any MLB dugout. They finally have the team of their dreams, composed of equally savvy business pickups for classic Yankee firepower and former mid-to-late-round draft picks.
Any correct evaluation of the 2022 squad will have to wait till October. But until then, words like “special” and “different” will continue to fly in the five boroughs like Judge and Stanton’s trademark slam.