As the Yankees get set for their Wild Card playoff game Tuesday evening, we need to take a step back and appreciate the year this Yankee team had.
Before the start of the season, their win number in Las Vegas was 81.5. This was not a team where there were thoughts of October baseball.
They were too old and had way too many question marks. Yes, they have spent well over $200 million dollars on their teams payroll. But that is not the discussion point when they celebrated on Thursday evening after their victory over the Red Sox to clinch a wildcard berth. They deserved to crack open the champagne and celebrate all the work that it took to get them to Tuesday night. Anybody that would argue otherwise is downright foolish.
Yes, they at one point had a commanding lead in the AL East, but the Blue Jays flat out played better football after July 31st when they were strengthened with the additions of Price and Tulowitzki. Yankees GM Brian Cashman decided to stand pat and hold onto his young pieces like Bird, Judge and Severino.
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But to get to Tuesday night, they Yankees needed the right elbow of Masahiro Tanaka to hold up and for the most part, it did all season long. They needed a now 40-year-old DH in Alex Rodriguez to be productive following a year-long suspension for drug use. Going into Sunday, he played in 150 games and hit 33 homeruns with 86 RBI. Carlos Beltran after a brutal April, has been a staple in the line-up as he hit .273 with 19 HR and 67 RBI. Mark Teixeira has always been great in the field and this year he was fantastic in the middle part of the order for Joe Girardi before being lost for the season with a leg fracture.
Andrew Miller replaced David Robertson as the closer and the back end of the bullpen did not skip a beat. Didi Gregorius was brought in from Arizona in the off-season and had the unenviable task of replacing Derek Jeter. After he struggled earlier this year, he became a solution offensively and defensively. He has been brilliant and was a tremendous trade by Cashman in the off-season. Brian McCann was great in his 2nd year in the Bronx.
He handled the pitching staff beautifully and provided the power and was a consistent run producer from a position where it is difficult to find both.
Nathan Eovaldi became a pitcher this year and not just a hard thrower when he developed a split-finger fastball with the help of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Those are just a few of the stories that helped the Yankees turn 162 games into a winning season and a playoff birth.
The Yankees went into the season looking at it as a year of transition. They are paying the price on long-term contracts where players are being paid for what they were and not what they are now.
You knew these days were coming, but they were still able to win in spite of that. Plus, they gave you a taste of the future by unveiling two potential cornerstone pieces in the Bronx. Greg Bird and Luis Severino are both in their early 20’s and look to be young prospects that have quickly become long-term solutions. Brian Cashman decided not to go all-in on this season and wanted to get to October baseball, but hold onto his young players. He accomplished that goal.
That is why Thursday was so sweet as the champagne flowed in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. That is why the Yankees deserved to celebrate even though they are guaranteed just 1 more game. That is why we are going to look back at 2015 as a successful transition year for the Yankees. Tuesday night will be a blast! Enjoy it. You get to enjoy the here and now, but also have to look at the bigger plan at work here.