Things I’m Grateful the 2016 Yankees Brought Forth
As we celebrate bringing in the new year, I’d remiss if I didn’t take the time to fondly remember the 2016 New York Yankees and look towards the future with joyful hopefulness.
They said it couldn’t be done — that a baseball team in a major market couldn’t begin a smooth rebuilding process without flat out performing poorly on the field. Well, the Yankees put that notion to rest, finishing last season 84-78 (still in the 4th place in the wildly competitive AL East, yet only five games back of a Wild Card spot).
Many within Major League Baseball feel 2017 will be another year of transition for the Yankees — that 2018 is much more realistic for the organization to be thinking about the Postseason. Yet if last season is any indication of what transition looks like, we could very well be looking at a playoff birth as soon as this October.
Obviously, a lot will need to go right for the Yankees for that to happen — the starting staff will need to establish a true No. 4 and No. 5 — the outfield needs to consistently put the bat on the ball and get on base — and the Baby Bombers need to continue to grow.
All of this is possible, if not probable. So as we find ourselves less than two months before pitchers and catchers report, I thought it would be an opportune time to reflect on what Yankees fans should be thankful for from the 2016 season.
From the 2016 Yankees, I am Thankful for:
- Gary Sanchez. He was the first Baby Bomber to explode upon the scene. Thanks to Sanchez, the Yankees have a legitimate power threat in the middle of the lineup that everyone in the game baseball has taken notice of. Players like Sanchez will make All-Star’s want to play for the Yankees one day soon.
- The middle infield. Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius are the first set of Yankee middle infielders to both hit 20 or more home runs in the same season in the history of the franchise. Let that sink in. Should both continue to grow in their age-27 seasons, they could force their way into the organization’s long-term plans — or at the very least considerably boost their trade value and position flexibility.
- Greg Bird. Reports are that the 24-year-old left-handed slugger is completely healthy and itching to take over for the retired Mark Teixeira. With Tyler Austin pushing for his own shot at first base after a decent first showing, competition will be good fuel for both youngsters.
- Masahiro Tanaka. I hold my breath every time Tanaka throws a pitch. I really do fear that UCL eventually snapping like a rubber band. But he was without a doubt the staff ace in ’16 and has ample motivation to exceed expectations as that dreaded opt-out clause looms.
- CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no longer the CY Young Award winner he once was. But the big man battled his demons, stayed healthy, and threw over 176 innings in 2016. In his final year as a Yankee, he’ll do everything he can to consistently post quality starts that should lead to another short-term contract with some needy organization.
- Dellin Betances. Had Betances not received his shot at closing the door on ball games and subsequently struggled (possibly because of overuse), the Yankees would have never truly known what role in the bullpen he is suited for — meaning the return of Aroldis Chapman may not have happened.
- Young pitching. Both Luis Cessa (24) and Chad Green (25) showed glimmers of solidifying the back end of the rotation last season. Though Green eventually went down with arm trouble, he should be ready for the start of Spring Training. Add electric relievers Jonathan Holder, Ben Heller, and Bryan Mitchell to the fold and pitching depth is one thing the Yankees should not be devoid of anytime soon.
- Brian Cashman. For the first time in his tenure, Cashman seems to have carte blanche when it comes to molding the organization in his own image (as long as he stays around the luxury tax threshold). No one in their right mind can complain about the fantastic job he did of rebuilding the farm system. Arguably boasting the No.1 Minor League system in all of baseball, Cashman has set up the Yankees for a long run of success.
- Retirees. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. I know A-Rod isn’t technically retired, but come on! These two men were at the center of the 2009 championship team. So regardless of what you have to say about their superfluous contracts, injured past, or PED usage, as their careers came to an end in 2016, you have to make peace with the fact that the Yankees don’t win the ’09 World Series without either.
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Hopefully, next year’s version of this list includes a few more rookies that come on the scene in a big way — a clarification of the outfield log jam, and maybe a trade or two that no one sees coming at this time.