Keidel: Yankees Are Everything Astros Were In 2014 And More

SI Predicted Houston Title 3 Years Before It Happened

Jason Keidel
May 21, 2018 - 2:43 pm
The Yankees' Tyler Austin (26) connects for a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Royals on May 20, 2018, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

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If you thumb through the American League rookies with the most home runs this season, the top three are Yankees.

Tyler Austin leads with league with eight, and Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are tied with several rookies with four. (They are also the top-three rookies in RBIs.) Then consider that Aaron Judge, who shredded the all-time MLB rookie record with 52 homers last year, is younger than Austin. Then consider that Gary Sanchez, who has 65 career homers, is younger than Judge. Then consider Greg Bird is the same age as Sanchez. Then consider Clint Frazier is younger than Bird. Then we have Ronald Torreyes, Justus Sheffield ...

So just consider how loaded these Yankees are. In 2014, Sports Illustrated predicted the Houston Astros, with their stockpiled draft picks and prospects, would win the World Series in 2017. They got it exactly right. 

If the Astros were a budding champion, then what are the Yanks? The Bronx Bombers are 30-13 after vaporizing the Royals, 10-1, on Sunday. Despite the fact that they have only one ace (Luis Severino) in their rotation. Despite the fact that their hottest hitter in April, Didi Gregorius, is toiling in a 1-for-45 slump at the plate. Despite the fact that Sonny Gray has been lost since he landed from Oakland. Despite the fact that Dellin Betances has a gruesome 4.74 ERA and has allowed 24 base runners in 19 innings pitched.  

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It would be sacrilege to compare this gaggle of kids to the Core Four. None can necessarily play like Derek Jeter or pitch like Pettitte. But instead of four stud prospects, the Yankees seem to have a conga line of young bucks nearing rut, from this conveyer belt of a farm system that seems to spawn scalding rookies the way Henry Ford wheeled out the Model T. 

While many of us scratched our scalps when the club canned Joe Girardi -- a sublime skipper and baseball mind -- we were downright dizzy when the brass replaced him with Aaron Boone, a total neophyte with one great moment as a player with the Yankees. Boone had never managed in the majors, the minors, college or anything that would register on a résumé. 

Then Boone, along with his crosstown colleague, Mickey Callaway, told us about the big group hug he was bringing to the Bronx, assured us that 2018 was our city's Summer of Love. He conceded he had no managerial experience but would lead with love and friendship and kindness, speaking in the soft tones of the millennial. He doesn't live by a book or brood in the dugout, or run his team like the stone-hewed G.I. Joe. 

Well, whether it's his soft touch or the obscene amount of talent the Yankees have, the Aaron Boone Experiment is working so well so far. Playing the cynic last week, I asserted that the only hole in the Yankees' glowing roster was starting pitching. Aside from Severino, the Bombers don't have anyone who resembles an ace, but they're so sublime everywhere else it hasn't mattered. They will either buy one or, if the Daily News is to be believed, wave a few prospects under Sandy Alderson's nose for Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom or both. 

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It's not abject homerism to ask the the SI question. Who are the 2014 Astros? If you had to pick any team, town and roster to hold your baseball future, which club would you take? Is there a team with a more glittering future than the Yankees? The Baby Braves are a nice story in the NL East, galloping into first place when no one had them winning the division. But the Yankees were within nine innings of the World Series last year, and are much improved this year.

With all due respect to Giancarlo Stanton -- whom the Yankees had to take because the deal was so good -- the Bombers got much better just by getting a year older. Stanton is hitting at just a fraction of his all-world traction, yet the team has the best record in baseball without an epic home run streak from the guy who bashed 59 homers in 2017. 

The Bombers didn't crater like Houston did before their lovely run to the World Series title last autumn. Yet they are even more loaded and more ready for a five-year pennant run. And they're the Yankees, with only 27 rings and a Forbes valuation of $4 billion. As Mel Brooks said, it's good to be the king. Even better to be the New York Yankees. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel