Yankee Universe feels great. Why not? The Yankees are in first place in the AL East, and they are coming off a great stretch, which they won six of eight against teams in their division recently. Aaron Judge is on a home run tear, and the Yankees pitching has been better than expected.
Now, New York Daily News baseball writer John Harper reports in today’s newspaper that the Yankees could make a big-time acquisition this summer for a championship run by acquiring Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.
Life is great for a Yankees fan. Not only is the team winning, but the Yankees are excitable. Maybe they can just win their 28th championship this season rather than in a few years. Sure, we are getting ahead of ourselves here, but it’s not a bad thing to dream after years of unwatchable baseball with old, overpaid athletes clogging the roster.
For the first time since 1998, the Yankees fans can finally appreciate the meaning of regular season games. This is what happens when the Yankees finally caught up with the other 29 teams in baseball in understanding they have to build around homegrown athletes, not mercenaries. The intrigue of Gary Sanchez Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and Judge have piqued the interest of your average Yankees fan.
Regular season games certainly have its meaning now, but after a few years, Yankees fans are going to be bored watching regular season games just like they were after the 1998 season. The regular season games will become exhibition games, which means the playoffs is all that matters for the Yankees. It will come down to winning championships just like the good old days. That’s the way it goes in a demanding sports town like New York.
The Yankees were not appreciated after the 1998 season. They were taken for granted. It became expected by Yankees fans that their team should win a championship every year. It wore on the players in the end. It wasn’t fun for the fans, either. It was hard to enjoy a baseball game again when the playoffs only mattered. That is why attendance has been in a decline in recent years.
Expect more of the same in a few years. Winning regular season games become boring. It’s hard to get excited about winning the regular season if the team can’t win a championship in the end. A team equipped to only win in the regular season does not get anyone excited, especially in New York.
The players are flourishing right now because there are no expectations. Yankees fans just want to see their homegrown players improve each month, so that they can have something to be excited for the next few years. That’s a good situation to be for players such as Sanchez, Judge, Bird, Severino and Montgomery to be in.
The trick will be how these guys handle high expectations when the Yankees have success. How they do will determine if they can build a dynasty. That’s what made Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera special. They were able to handle ridiculous expectations from the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and their fans. Even then, it wore on them in the end.
One has to wonder if the early success is a good thing for the young core players. Once Yankees fans experienced success, they are going to demand more. It’s the nature of the beast. As great as the young players are doing, teams are going to figure them out and it will be on them to adapt. That will not be easy.
Yankees fans are enjoying the ride now. They know there is a good chance the Yankees won’t sustain this all season long with their starting pitching still a question mark. But they don’t want to think about what’s going to happen now. They want to live in the moment, and it’s a good approach to take. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen in the future, so there’s no point sweating the small stuff.
Nothing lasts forever. The honeymoon is going to end as soon as the Yankees win championship No. 28. Then, fans are going to demand more. It’s the nature of the beast in this town.
Pity the Yankees and their spoiled fans when that day comes.