It feels odd and foreign for me to even write these words, but here goes: The New York Yankees are kinda — gulp — likable this season.
That’s sort of like cheering on Darth Vader or rooting for Johnny Lawrence to whoop Daniel LaRusso in the 1984 All Valley Karate Championship. But here’s the thing about the 2017 New York Yankees. They aren’t the Evil Empire of years past. They’re not villains. They’re, dare I say, an underdog.
That’s the topic of this week’s Open Mike video, in which I come to grips with even a small piece of me feeling good for the Yankees. You gotta remember, these Yankees are supposed to be rebuilding. They weren’t supposed to be good for another year or two. And here they are, in the postseason — either as the wild-card host or, maybe, if they have a miracle in them, the AL East champion.
I make the case for the Yankees relative likability in the video, but to complement that, I offer these 10 reasons you might also consider not hatable in 2017.
1. AARON JUDGE
Duh. He’s one of the biggest stories of the year in MLB. But let’s consider how much of a departure he is for the Yankees. He’s a farmgrown prospect, not someone they went out and showered with money. He struggled in a brief call-up last season, then came back like a beast this year, fixing his swing and breaking the rookie home-run record.
2. AARON JUDGE AND RONALD TORREYES
Judge is 6-foot-7. Ronald Torreyes, a Yankees utility-man, is 5-foot-8. No further explanation needed.
3. JORDAN MONTGOMERY
If you didn’t know who Jordan Montgomery was before the season, that’s OK. He wasn’t one of the Yankees hot-shot prospects, but the 24-year-old rookie made the team as their fifth starter despite not being a top-10 prospect. Still, Montgomery has thrown 150 innings this season with an ERA under four. He sort of sums up the 2017 Yankees — better than we figured they were going to be.
4. THE DUGOUT INTERVIEWS
Have you seen the Yankees’ in-dugout celebrations lately? They’ve started to hold fake interviews when something good happens. The Yankees are — can you believe this? — fun.
When A-A-Ron isn't robbing home runs, he holds the boom on the Toe-Night Show. pic.twitter.com/X40RprRu4O
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 28, 2017
5. IT’S HARD NOT TO LIKE DIDI GREGORIUS
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius isn’t Derek Jeter, but he is an actual knight, so that’s pretty cool. He also set the Yankees franchise record for homers and has been one of the team’s most valuable players this year. It doesn’t hurt that he seems incredibly nice and open to fans.
— Sir Didi Gregorius (@DidiG18) July 6, 2017
6. LUIS SEVERINO
Severino is another homegrown star, who is slated as the Yankees wild-card game starter. That would cap quite a turnaround for the 23-year-old, who had plenty of troubles last season, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen with a 5.83 ERA. Now, he’s their No. 1 guy.
7. THEIR TWITTER ACCOUNT IS SAVAGE
No beef aimed at our friends at Sports Illustrated, but this is some savagery by the Yankees:
8. GARY SANCHEZ IS ACTUALLY UNDERRATED
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez debuted last season with a bunch of hype and delivered. Then he got hurt this season and the Judge hype took over. Now we’re not paying attention to how good Sanchez — yet another homegrown Yankees star — has been. In the first 162 games of his career, he hit 50 homers with 125 RBIs with a .285 batting average. That is … not bad at all.
Most HR, first 162 career games
Rudy York 55
Mark McGwire 51
GARY SANCHEZ 50
Ryan Bruan 47
Chuck Klein 44
AARON JUDGE, Ryan Howard 43
— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) September 11, 2017
9. THIS IS 36
CC Sabathia won’t win the Cy Young or anything, but he deserves some props for his 2017 season. He’s 36 now and not the frontline starter he used to be, but he still was very much the veteran anchor the Yankees needed this season. He’s 13-5 with a sub-4.00 ERA and helped bring stability to a rotation that looked shaky at the start of the season.
10. THEY EMBRACED THE ‘THUMBS DOWN’ GUY
Let’s end with another example of how the Yankees are a fun team: When this fan giving the Yanks a thumb down became a popular meme, they totally embraced it as a rallying call. They even made T-shirts.
— Clark Menard (@menard_1) September 20, 2017
As I say in the video above, this may only be a short-lived thing, as the Yankees will probably start getting back to their Evil Empire ways after 2018, when the free-agent market goes bananas.
Until then, you might actually like the Yankees.
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