What are the Yankees now?

[Sad trombone]

[Sad trombone]
Illustration: Getty Images

I suppose one of the things that makes me feel old, one of the many things, is how I would perceive the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry versus someone who is 30 or under. I lived long enough in the era of the Yankees pissing all over the Sox to still have some base inkling toward that whenever these two line up. My first instinct is to still view it that way before what I know now takes over.


Then again, I’m also old enough to barely remember the 80s, when the Red Sox were playoff regulars, when that was kind of hard to do, and the Yankees were sporting Bobby Meacham and Mike Pagliarulo.

But if you’re under 30, you’ve seen the Red Sox win four World Series to the Yankees’ five in your lifetime. And four of those Yankees trophies were over 20 years ago. You’ve seen the Red Sox beat the Yankees themselves in 2004, 2018, and last night.

You haven’t seen the Yankees in the World Series in 12 years. The Royals have had multiple appearances since then.

Decades of the same narrative have a tendency to condition us to still think of the Yankees as what they’ve always been thought of. Except… the past two decades don’t really mark them out any differently than like, what, the Nationals? The Phillies? The Tigers?

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Maybe it’s the Yankees trading on that reputation, but not the reality of being THE BIG BAD TEAM that cost them this season. They’re under the luxury tax threshold, which seems to be everyone’s goal outside of Chavez Ravine. It’s certainly not that the Yanks couldn’t afford it.

But even that small level of thriftiness left the Yanks short. It’s too easy — and hardly the right perspective — to use a one-game playoff/coin flip to state what a team is or isn’t. We’ve had 162 before. The Yankees were short in the rotation after Gerrit Cole, which only looked worse when he was hurt for a good portion of the year and against Boston last night. Maybe they get Luis Severino back next year, but in 2022 he’ll be four years removed from his last season taking a full starter’s load. This was a team, for all the glamor their name evokes, that was counting on production from the pieces that used to constitute Jameson Taillon and Cory Kluber.


They’re short in the lineup, too. The Yankees went nuclear when Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge both went supernova at the same time late in the season. And that’s what the Yankees needed to be a juggernaut. But that doesn’t happen over a full season. D.J. LeMahieu got old and hurt. Anthony Rizzo didn’t really hit when he arrived. Luke Voit was hurt all year. Gleyber Torres curdled. There are more holes than they’d like to admit.

The Yanks got by the past few years on their pen and Aaron Boone’s expert (despite many knocks) use of it. They certainly weren’t helped by Zack Britton’s arm being taken over by gremlins. But bullpens are volatile, and they only got dominant seasons from Clay Holmes, who showed up halfway through the season, and Jonathan Loaisiga. Lots of good ones, but not enough to overcome the urpy-ness elsewhere on the roster.


And unless the Yankees are going to act like THE YANKEES this winter (hard to gauge until we see a CBA), it’s hard to see how it gets better. Of all the players in the lineup and rotation, only rookie starter Luis Gil is 25 or under. There’s not much else coming from Scranton. The payroll might not lose all that much, with Judge, Gallo, Torres, Urshela, Voit, Sanchez all due raises in arbitration. They’ll probably try and move along Torres in a trade, but any import from the rich shortstop market is going to be much more expensive. And they need more than just one player. If they’re determined to stay under any luxury tax, can they get enough?

There’s also the small matter of the Blue Jays being poised to become the next bad ass on the block, and the Rays aren’t going anywhere. And the Red Sox will have a full Chris Sale and maybe more money to spend.


The Yankees are a third-place team that’s getting older. They’ve won the division once in a decade. The Orioles and Jays have won it just as much. They’ve mostly been around instead of in the middle of things.

I used to make fun of the Montreal Canadiens for trading on their history to distract from their present. Do they have company now?


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