The New York Yankees made easy work of the Minnesota Twins, sweeping them out of the ALDS on Monday night in a 5-1 Game 3 victory.
That sounds like an awfully familiar script, doesn’t it?
The Yankees have absolutely owned the Twins in October —possessing a 10-0 postseason record dating back to 2009. That record improves to 16-2 going back to 2003.
Sure, there were some dicy moments. Luis Severino got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second, Gleyber Torres made a ridiculous sliding stop in short right field to get Eddie Rosario out and escape the fifth inning with runners on first and second in fifth.
Then, of course, there was Didi Gregorius’ diving catch with one out in the ninth with runners on first and second to preserve the healthy lead.
Let’s be honest, I think we all overvalued the Twins heading into the postseason, anyway. No one necessarily picked them to beat the Yankees in the ALDS, but their stats were certainly inflated (101 wins, 307 home runs) because they played in an AL Central division that featured three 90-loss teams.
That’s not taking anything away from the Yankees.
Not only did they persevere in those tight spots in Game 3, but they also continue to embody the “next-man-up” approach that has been their mantra all season.
We all know just how special this season is turning out to be; a campaign that should result in Aaron Boone winning AL Manager of the Year Award.
After all, he was able to navigate a roster decimated by injuries — they missed over 2,000 man games in 2019 — to 103 wins and the organization’s first AL East title in seven years.
Sure, detractors will claim that the Yankees were just lucky or they play in a small ballpark, or they just stumbled upon the crazy depth that kept them in the running all season.
But it isn’t that. It’s something that’s made the Yankees the envy of fans around Major League Baseball for decades now: Competence.
From top-to-bottom, the Yankees have the right people in place to lead this organization and it starts with general manager Brian Cashman.
Now in his 22nd year as GM, Cashman followed the wishes of ownership to try and stay at or near the luxury tax threshold and pick up the support pieces that can put this organization over the top.
Cashman didn’t go get Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. He didn’t break the bank to try and sign Dallas Keuchel. He didn’t try and make a huge splash at the trade deadline and deal more of his top prospects for added starting-pitching help.
Instead, he and his staff did their homework and picked up seemingly minor pieces that made an enormous impact.
He acquired Mike Tauchman, DJ LeMahieu, and Cameron Maybin to join a supporting cast of no-names like Gio Urshela who were called upon when the injuries hit.
Boone was masterful in taking those injuries in stride, keeping the clubhouse loose, and getting the most out of every corner of the roster.
Just look at these stats from the ALDS and the blend of perceived talent and potential:
LeMahieu — who was written off in Colorado and thus believed to have nothing left in the tank after leaving Coors Field — followed up his MVP-worthy 2019 season with four RBI in three games.
Didi Gregorius shook off major struggles at the end of the regular season to bat .400 with a team-leading six RBI.
Gleyber Torres, at just 22, looked like a seasoned vet in the box, leading the team with a .417 batting average.
The journeyman outfielder Maybin, who is playing for his eighth MLB franchise in 13 years, socked a solo home run in the ninth inning on Monday night for some much-needed insurance.
Suddenly all the pressure doesn’t have to be on the big boppers like Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, or Edwin Encarnacion — at least for an ALDS series against the Twins.
Are the Yankees the best team in baseball?
They’re up there, but I don’t think they’re better than the Astros, who will likely be their ALCS opponent starting this weekend. Houston has the most well-rounded roster in the game, headlined by a fearsome trio of starting pitchers in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke that gives them a major advantage over the Yankees on paper.
But the Yankees have gone from “rebuilding” at the start of 2016 to their second ALCS appearance in three seasons.
And it has to do with everything but luck.