The Yankees have received hosannas for taking the Houston Astros to seven games in the American League Champions Series last season, never mind they choked a 3-2 series lead and lost in a series they should have won.
They continued to accept praise this offseason by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, signing a fringe player in Neil Walker and acquiring a fringe player in Brandon Drury. Even if they did nothing this offseason, there might have as well be a parade for them after what they accomplished in the ALCS.
It’s been amusing to hear everyone crown the Yankees as this year’s World Series champions even though they have not played a regular season game yet this season. We know Yankees fans are rubes, but for the national media and local media to favor the Yankees as this year’s champs is strange.
We are here to offer a cruel reality that a Yankees fan won’t see in Yankeecentric blogs and New York newspapers. The Yankees are a playoff team, but they are not a championship team despite what the media and Yankees fans think. In fact, they may not be a World Series team.
Now things can change during course of the season. The Yankees likely could acquire Cole Hamels or Michael Fulmer since they have the farm system and resources to get either of their targets. Maybe then they can be a championship team, but right now, they have questions marks than people want to admit.
The reigning World Series champion Astros are still going to be good, and they got even better by acquiring Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who the Yankees should have acquired instead of getting Stanton. Their starting rotation is slightly better than the Yankees. We know they are going to hit.
Everyone has forgotten about the Cleveland Indians for whatever reason other than they don’t play in New York. This is a team that has the best starting rotation in baseball, and this is a team that has lights-out bullpen. Plus, they can hit. If Indians ace Corey Kluber was not battling a back injury, he would have shut the Yankees down in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, and we wouldn’t be talking about the Yankees playing the Astros in the ALCS last year.
For my money, the Indians are the team to beat. They were in the World Series couple of years ago despite blowing a 3-1 World Series lead and lost the series to the Chicago Cubs.
We all know the Yankees are a talented team, but talent does not make them a sure thing. Here are the questions that the Yankees have to answer for them to be taken seriously as a World Series championship team:
Can their hitters be money come postseason? Their hitters are easy to strike out. They can mash the ball against awful pitching, but when it comes to elite pitchers who bring in the heat, they whiff too much. That’s what happened in Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS last year. Plus, it remains to be seen if Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Stanton can provide their Yankee moment the way Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez did in October back in the Yankees dynasty days. We know Greg Bird can, but then again he could be the next Nick Johnson as being injury-prone, as he will miss the first six to eight weeks of the regular season with an ankle injury.
Will the starting pitching be difference makers? Their starting rotation is not going to remind anyone of the good old days. Sonny Gray is their best pitcher, but he does not scare anyone. Neither does CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery or Luis Severino. As great as Masahiro Tanaka is, he is capable of being hurt. There’s a reason the Yankees tried to trade for Cole this offseason until the Astros beat them to him. Their consolation prize could be Fulmer or Hamels.
Will Aaron Boone make a good manager? Then, there’s Boone managing the Yankees despite never managing a day in his life. He is in for a hard crash course. Not only does he have to know how to manage pitching, but he has to learn to deal with the media, which is not easy as Yankees manager Joe Girardi demonstrated in his Yankee tenure.
I loved making fun of Girardi as much as Wallace Matthews or any Girardi critic, but say this about him: He had his team prepared for games, and he knew how to put pitchers in a right situation. This is something Boone will have to figure it out, especially when it comes to the bullpen. Boone is also going to have to match wits with good managers such as Terry Francona, Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia and A.J. Hinch, and it remains to be seen if he can like Girardi did, who flourished managing against them.
So many questions. So many answers the Yankees have to provide. It’s time for them to get to work to show they are worthy of the hype.
They may be the offseason champions, but that does not make them World Series champions.
Odds are good they will disappoint than celebrate championship No. 28.