NEW YORK (AP) — The swagger is back.
The New York Yankees reached Game 7 of last year’s AL Championship Series behind Baby Bombers Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and young ace Luis Severino. Then they added the mightiest slugger in the major leagues, Giancarlo Stanton, and brought in a new manager they think will lead them to World Series title No. 28.
“We already had a great team,” Judge said, “but adding Stanton and a couple other pieces, we’re going to be great. It’s going to be a fun thing we have here.”
New York was second in the AL East to Boston last year at 91-71, up seven wins from 2016 and the Yankees’ best record since 2012. They scored 858 runs, an increase of 178, and led the major leagues with 241 homers — including a rookie-record 52 by Judge.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Seahawks agree to trade DB Ugo Amadi for Eagles receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
- Analysis: With one preseason game done, time to project the Seahawks' 53-man roster
- Sam Haggerty starts the chaos on the bases as Mariners score four in ninth to beat Angels
- Analysis: Where the QB battle stands and four other thoughts after the Seahawks' preseason opener
- Scott Servais reflects on becoming only second Mariners manager to reach 500 wins
The major changes were signing Neil Walker to replace Starlin Castro at second and acquiring Brandon Drury from Arizona to take over from Todd Frazier at third.
“It’s just a question of it being a long season and can everybody stay healthy,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said.
New York fired Joe Girardi, its manager for a decade, and brought in ESPN analyst Aaron Boone. Remembered in New York for his pennant-winning home run off Boston’s Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boone had never managed or coached at any level.
“We feel good about our depth,” Boone said. “The game has become very matchup oriented.”
New York made its moves while cutting payroll to get under the luxury tax threshold for the first time since the current tax was put in place for the 2003 season. The Yankees want to be set to compete for next year’s big free agents: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and perhaps Clayton Kershaw.
“I’m excited about this team,” said 37-year-old pitcher CC Sabathia, who took a salary cut from $25 million to $10 million to remain with the Yankees. “I think we got upgrades all over the field.
Judge and Stanton become a modern-day Mantle and Maris — or perhaps Ruth and Gehrig — flattening more video screens during batting practice and mashing their way into the record book. First baseman Greg Bird finally is healthy for an entire season. Catcher Gary Sanchez improves behind the plate and becomes a defensive force into addition to his power threat. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka stay healthy, Sonny Gray develops consistency, and Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery continue to improve. Closer Aroldis Chapman maintains his mechanics all season and setup man Dellin Betances rediscovers the form that made him a four-time All-Star.
Stanton and Judge set records — for strikeouts — as the Bronx breeze is augmented by a summer whiff-a-thon. Sabathia’s right knee buckles after more than 3,300 innings, Gray’s inconsistency remains and Severino and Montgomery regress. Injuries cause the Yankees to have to depend on top prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, who were sent to the minors after struggling during spring training.
STAN-TON THE MAN
Sure, he hits lots of home runs in Miami. But that was for the Marlins, who knew before opening day they had little-to-no-chance of playing meaningful games in the autumn. He had 11 home runs in late May last year before starting his tear, and a slow start this year will cause the media- and fan-bashing of his life.
“I still have to perform the way I can,” Stanton said. “I’ll get help, a lot of help on days I don’t produce. I’m part of that lineup.”
Tumultuous times followed George Steinbrenner’s purchase of the team but stability has become a hallmark. New York changed managers 20 times from 1973 through October 1995, when Joe Torre replaced Buck Showalter. Girardi took over following the 2007 season and now Boone is in the hot seat.
“I think in short order I’ll be able to earn that respect, that they’ll be able to look at me, trust in me, know that I have their interest at heart, but know that hopefully I know what the heck I’m talking about,” he said.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball