Peter Gammons: Reflection of Yankees over Twins on this Wild Card Wednesday

NEW YORK—When the Yankees defeated the Phillies to win the 2009 World Series, it was the first title in the new venue, and turns out to be their last, as if eight seasons without winning a World Series is hardly a long time. What I remember most is how quiet it seemed, like a Thursday day game in May against the Rays, and that the Wall Street Feel to the place, with the symbolic moat that separated the $2500 ticket holder from the common folk took the soul out of the game.

But last night had a totally different feel. Noisy, Edgy. New York. Yankee Stadium. When Aaron Judge hit his home run that made it 7-4, it seemed as loud as the days when Tino Martinez went deep off Mark Langston, or Reggie went yard off Charlie Hough.

In ’09, they were George Steinbrenner’s Yankees. They were expected to win. They bought what they wanted, whenever they felt the need or the urge, and after all those years of signing the names and building a mercenary territory, there was no thrill in winning, only expectation.

Brian Cashman was allowed by Hal Steinbrenner to re-seed, rebuild, rethink the process. The Yankees went back to reward scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, lean on their outstanding baseball minds like Tim Naehring, and with Judge and Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird, they have young, talented players on the up elevator.

If Judge had struggled as he did last summer, would he have been kept back in 1986? After trading for Gregorius, would he be allowed to develop, especially his power? Would one bad start—after a top five Cy Young season at the age of 23—have led to a “we’ve seen enough of Luis Severino?”

The Yankees are a work in progress, but for all the selling of the Braves system, the best evaluators I know believe the Yankee system is the best in the game right now. Gleyber Torres will be in The Stadium next season. Clint Frazier will be showing off his bat-speed. Miguel Andujar will soon be their third baseman. Domingo German is going to be big in their plans. Chance Adams. Estevan Florial will be big in the Baseball America lists. An official from another club told me their Tampa pitching staff will lead the game in fastball velocity and scout takes; Jorge Guzman and Albert Abreu, whom they acquired out of the Astros organization for Brian McCann, may have bigger futures than anyone the Tigers got for Justin Verlander.

The fans get it. This is the way it was in 1995 going into ’96. Granted, Judge may be the MVP, every swing has the promise of a Cape Canaveral launch, and he is one of the most civil gentleman you could meet.

Can the Yankees beat Cleveland? Possible, not likely, but on a cool night in October, there was that old Stadium feel that called for “Hot town, summer in the city…”

The way it should be when you’re the Yankees.

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8.2 5 1 1 3 13. Also the way it was supposed to be.

Of course there is concern that Severino came out pumping 100 MPH and was over-stoked, but Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle right down to Aroldis Chapman were brilliant, and pitched whenever needed, without eyes on the role. Green’s regular season might have been the best of any American League reliever not named Craig Kimbrel, and he was in the game in the first inning. David Robertson, who has been a Team First guy from his days in Yarmouth-Dennis, got 10 outs. Kahnle, the other big arm in the White Sox deal, got five.

 

THE POWER OF THE YANKEE BULLPEN

      Strikeouts Per 9 IP

NAME    AL Rank     K/9

Betances       2          15.18

Kahnle          3           13.79

Green            5           13.43

Robertson    8           12.91

Chapman    10          12.24

 

Can they get 15 to 25 outs every night in October? Of course not. But Severino, Sonny Gray and C.C. Sabathia can get them more than two outs.

Those 8 2/3 innings were part of a plan that hadn’t changed since Cashman got Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield for Andrew Miller, a plan that takes them to Cleveland for the Division Series.

–The interesting side story in the Twins defeat is that they got to the game finishing 85-77, the same record as the ’87 Twins, who won the World Series.

Paul Molitor does not yet have a contract for 2018. He will. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine appreciate Molitor is unusual, and potentially a great manager.

Billenials may not remember how great Paul Moltior was, Hall of Famer who in three post-seasons and 29 games with the Brewers and Blue Jays hit .368 with an astounding 1.050 OPS.

If you saw Molitor play enough, what you may most remember is that his instincts were among the best of his generation, like Roberto Alomar, like Cal Ripken. And despite the fact that he had no managerial experience before taking the Twins job in 2015, what has been so impressive from players to the top of the front office is that he eagerly accepted and devoured analytics, merged them with his in-game instincts and his understanding of the human element in managing, and held the rudder with a young team that went from 101 losses to that 85-77 record.

Given the knowledge and preparation that the front office offers him and the fact that they provide, not demand, how that knowledge is used, Molitor understands that his instincts with knowledge are far more valuable than those instincts without knowledge.

For instance, when players were upset that Brandon Kintzler and Jaime Garcia were traded at the August 31 deadline, he wrote “No Retreat, No Surrender” on the clubhouse board, they went 20-10 in August and here they are.

He embraces the youth and development nature of his job. But a great, HOF player in this role is highly unusual.  

Understand how unusual it was for Molitor to manage in the playoffs last night: the last player elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWA that managed in the post-season was Bob Lemon, who, after the Bucky Dent Game, won the ’78 world series as the manager of the Yankees.

 

 

Comments

  1. Dr. Peter Nanos says:

    The Yankee stadium ambience and feeling described by Peter during the WC game was indeed reminiscent of years ago.

    While a diehard Red Sox fan since the days of Don Buddin and Felix Mantilla, I believe that Cashman and the new regime deserve oodles of credit for hanging on to their promising kids, thus avoiding the knee jerk reactions of the past in developing their roster.

    They are ahead of schedule and the farm pipeline is full of other promising kids awaiting their day in the sun.

    The have peaked, and they just may pull it off, years before they are scheduled to take home the prize once again.

    But I hate it.