The Yankees are playing meaningful September games. Who would have ever have thought that after the trades they made in late July?
Are they a playoff team? I don’t think so. They certainly have not shown that they are with their play the last week. After the sweep last weekend at the hands of the Red Sox in Fenway Park, you certainly got the feeling that an October playoff appearance was not going to happen.
It does not matter because this season is a success without a playoff appearance. What did I just type? You read it, the Yankees' 2016 season is a success without a playoff appearance. That goes completely against what the Yankees have been about as an organization under George Steinbrenner when every season was about winning the World Series. If you did not win the Fall Classic, the season was considered a failure.
Why is it different this season? It is different because of the very fact that the Yankees have not been a championship caliber team in quite some time. Now for the Yankees, they have not won the World Series since 2009. Since that championship it has been a slow decline to what we have witnessed in 2016. What the Yankees represent this season is hope.
The Kraken is a legendary sea monster of giant size that was said to have dwelled off the coast of Norway and Greenland. The Kraken now resides in the Bronx and Yankees GM Brian Cashman talked about releasing the Kraken, well he has and the Yankees and major league baseball will never be the same.
For that reason, it is the rookie Gary Sanchez who leads the procession of hope. If you would've told me I would have been writing about Sanchez having this kind of impact eight months ago, I would have told you that you were crazy. But, he has been that good, historically good. Good to the point that his at-bats are now drop-what-you-are-doing-and-watch moments. He has been so locked-in that even if there was a book on how to pitch to Sanchez, it has been rewritten at least a half a dozen times. He hits everything that is thrown at him and does it with a confidence for a rookie that we have not witnessed in this city in quite some time.
Rare is the feat that a rookie can capture the imagination of this city as quickly as Sanchez has. Maybe it was the low expectations since he struggled in spring training down in Tampa and did not break camp with the club. Maybe it was the reports from scouts that he had a major league bat, but there was a concern about his defense. If you have seen him make one throw, you know there is not one concern about his defense. His bat has been on display for all of us to bear witness. Maybe it was the fact that Yankees fans have heard about Sanchez since they signed him as a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic in 2010 and this has been a slow-moving process to get to where he is now.
In 45 games and 172 at-bats he has 19 home runs and 38 RBI and is hitting .337 with an OPS of 1.152. Who ever saw this coming? If the Yankees thought he was going to be this good, this soon, Sanchez would have been called up a lot sooner than he was. He wasn’t and they didn’t. But here he is flashing his brilliance on a game-by-game basis. He has played in just 45 games, but even with that being the case he will draw serious consideration to win Rookie of the Year in the American League because his impact is unquestioned.
In Sanchez, the Yankees and their fans see hope. Hope that he is the first big piece to an "uber" team that GM Brian Cashman has talked about that is a championship contender year in and year out. Hope that the 28th World Series title is not that far off. Hope that what we have all witnessed is not just a flash in the pan, but the beginning of a brilliant career.
That might be a lot to put on the shoulders of a 23-year-old rookie. But with every snap throw to first to pickoff a runner, the legend builds. With every rocket throw to second to catch a base stealer, the legend grows. With every long majestic homer to center, left or right field, the legend builds even more. What we have witnessed this late summer is a thing of legend and it was the play of Sanchez that built the narrative.
He deserves the accolades and the praise. He helped lead the way in changing the narrative of this Yankees season. Instead of it being a lost season widely viewed as unsuccessful, it is the complete opposite. Sanchez represents hope and is the face of the future. Yankees fans and management are excited and they have every right to be. Sanchez continues to provide the answer to the question, "who will be the next great Yankees homegrown player?" 2016 has provided that answer.