Monday, July 13, 2015
Posted by el duque at 7:07 AM
1961: Mantle & Maris, Yogi & Whitey, Ellie & Bobby; greatest team ever... I was 9 years old; this is why I became a nut-cake Yankee fan.
1978: Reggie & Billy, Catfish & Thurman, Bucky Dent's HR... the season that reclaimed my lost and wandering Yankee soul.
1996: Jeter & Joe, Bernie & Mariano, Jim Leyritz' HR... saved me from a mid-life Yankee crisis.
These teams arrived almost exactly 17 years apart, like a comet passing Earth. As a result, every generation in this modern era, the Yankees have rendered unto humankind a team for the ages, a reason to believe.
Until recently, of course. It is now 19 years since the last great Yankee resurgence. It's like the scientists in California who study earthquakes and claim a big shakeup is overdue. (Note: The greatest Yankee team should have happened in 2001, after the WTC attack, with Tino's and Scott Brosius' amazing HRs on successive nights. But he juju gods cruelly turned their backs on us, suggesting that everything changed... and three years later, it did.)
So, let me state the question that all of us are privately, quietly, secretively - maybe even fearfully - asking:
Is this the long-awaited Yankee team of destiny?
Obviously, I wouldn't be thinking this if Andrew Miller had blown yesterday's save. And there is ample time for even Boston to run away with the AL East, a bastion of mediocrity. Still, the Yankees seriously wounded the Fenway frat bros this weekend, and barring a wave of injuries, we should be in this race to the end. If we make the playoffs, who knows?
Could this team become a historical bellwether?
As The Master says, you can't predict baseball. But this team does have several potentially epic story lines.
1. A-Rod's redemptive triumph, much akin to Billy Martin's salvation. Even if you claim everything Alex Rodriguez has done thus far should be scrapped due to the drug allegations, this is still the year when critics must accept his place among the greats. Moreover, he seems at peace for the first time in his career. Maybe it's all p.r. Either way, a helluva story emerging.
2. Tex staying healthy and reclaiming his status as a great Yankee. Most people had written him off.
3. We need a comeback from CC Sabathia (a la Catfish in '78.) It might be brief, or even come in relief. He is clearly on his last legs. But he remains a leader on the team. He needs to win a few huge games.
4. The emergence of Brett Gardner as a great Yankee. He could take his place in the hard-nosed pantheon that extends back to Tommy Henrich - (Lou Pinella, Roy White, Paul O'Neill.) He won't make Cooperstown, but he could actually end up with a CF plaque.
5. The unveiling of a future Yankee fixture. Right now, that's Rob Refsnyder - but let's not put more pressure on him. He's got enough. Would it be Luis Severino, the pitcher? Aaron Judge in RF?
6. Finally, some incredibly unlikely hero - a Gregorio Pettit or Austin Romine - must emerge in the wars of October. Alphonso will say I'm jinxing us merely by mentioning these things. (I'm trusting him to maintain the negativity full bore through the All-Star break.)
Listen: It's way too early to think of this as a team of destiny. Still, it's been 19 years since the last upheaval. If I'm lucky, I'll see get one more team in my lifetime.
And yesterday... damn, I'd swear that I felt some tremors.