Thus far, the most hopeful aspect of the '17 Yankees is the bulge of adorable, fuzzy-faced millennials that is tracking throughout the system. Yesterday, when Brett Gardner staggered off the field, instead of hearing pearl-clutching gasps in the owner's luxury box, you could detect the sound of opportunity knocking in Scranton and Trenton.
Before continuing, let's do the right thing and wish Gardy a fast recovery. He is our de facto team captain and, as a clubhouse presence, impossible to replace. He'd gotten off to a nice start - (5 stolen bases, most in the AL) - and now - well - if it's a concussion, these things are scary.
But if Gardy needs two weeks of sun and sand with Bill O'Reilly - (worst rebab I can imagine, even with the clinic on phone sex) - the Yankees will survive. For now, Aaron Judge (tied for 3rd in HRs with 3) has claimed RF, and Jacoby Ellsbury (.321) is in center. Aaron Hicks (.231) can play LF, and Mason Williams (2-15 at Scranton) can get the shot he deserves, as doors pop open throughout the farm system.
Good grief, it might even bring a blip of hope for Rob "Brigadoon" Refsynder, clearly suicidal (hitting .063) in now his fourth year of Triple A. It means a boost for young outfielders whose paths look as bottled-up as a victim of the IBS Lady's handiwork - (you know, the one on TV in the leotards, and why does writing "leotard" feel so politically incorrect?) From top to bottom, the Yanks have one of baseball's deepest minor league systems, and if you're not checking out the daily box scores in Trenton and Charleston, you're missing one of the biggest sinkholes of wasted time known to astral physics.
Every night, a core of authentic Yankee prospects takes the field in places like Scranton, traditionally the Antique Road Show for minor league collectibles and misprinted bobble-heads. Consider this block in last night's lineup:
Tyler Wade, ss
Clint Frazier, lf
Dustin Fowler, cf
Rob Refsnyder, 1b
Mark Payton, rf
Followed by the cast of "Lost." (For an unknown reason, perhaps related to Gardner's injury, Mason Williams didn't play.) Each of these players could jump to the Bronx next month and instantly become a beacon of hope. (Tyler Austin should soon return from his foot injury.)
At Double A Trenton, a similar glut:
Rashad Crawford, cf
Gleyber Torres, ss
Miguel Andujar, 3b
Mike Ford, dh
Billy McKinney, rf
Go further, and you'll find former top pick, the venerable Dante Bichette Jr., though his ship may have sailed.
At Tampa, even more...
Jorge Mateo, ss
Kyle Holder, 3b
Trey Amburgey, lf
Nick Solak, 2b
Austin Aune, rf
Jhalian Jackson, dh
And at Charleston - way down there - the whole lineup is viable, centered by Blake Rutherford, the golden boy. All summer, we'll watch rising phenoms and huge disappointments. Meanwhile, the Yankees should be able to shrug off short-term injuries - even to Gary Sanchez - replacing broken parts with newer ones, rather than visiting the scrap yard for Ben Franciso and Lyle Overbay.
Of course, the age-old problem remains: Pitching, pitching, pitching. On that front, we'll always be measuring the treads on discarded radials. But everywhere you look, some kid is on the move. Damn, there IS hope down there. You'll just have to look for it.
(For the record: I'd like to state categorically that no Yankee is worse than Hitler. If I've ever made such a statement, I hereby apologize.)