The Yankees and their fans are wise enough to know that 100 games or 35 starts do not make a career. But at the same time, it’s not a fantasy to think that the team does not have a brand new “core” of players equal to, or perhaps even better than what we’ve seen before. But, do they need one?
The Yankees Core Five of the late Twentieth Century consisted of strength up the middle with Derek Jeter at shortstop and Jorge Posada behind the plate, with Bernie Williams patrolling the outfield. Andy Pettitte was the team’s premier and most reliable starter and, of course, Mariano Rivera manned the backend of the bullpen.
Brian Cashman’s version of the 2017 Yankees is built from the same mold. The outfield presence of Williams is taken by Aaron Judge, who like Williams is capable of hitting for average (three singles last night to raise his average above .330) as well as being a dominant power threat in the lineup.
Behind the plate and replacing Posada is Gary Sanchez. And if there’s a general manager in the major leagues who wouldn’t pick Sanchez to be their catcher for the next ten years, he’s yet to be identified.
And if you want to say that it takes two players to replace Jeter, okay, the Yankees have no problem with that and having Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Gleyber Torres for the next ten years (minimum).
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Aroldis Chapman is not likely to reach the feats of Mariano Rivera, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with for the next eight seasons as the Yankees closer. And if he can’t do it, or becomes injury prone, Dellin Betances can.
As for a starting pitcher to complement Andy Pettitte, everyone is setting up the comparison with Jordan Montgomery. And while I wouldn’t be surprised if the comparison holds, my pick is Luis Severino as the starter who develops into a real number one.
Minus from the Core Six list, of course, is Greg Bird, who still has a lot of proving and improvement to accomplish before he can enter the conversation as the seventh core member.
A team is the sum of all its parts
Now, before anyone goes off the deep end here, let’s get real. The players being anointed now are far from the core team that won four World Championships in five years. And Jeter’s twenty seasons of consistency looks rather odd when put against Torres, who has yet to have an at-bat in the major leagues.
Core Four, Five, Six, or Seven – it hardly matters what you call it because it’s 25 men who make up this team
But, we’re talking upside here, and it’s nothing more than Joe Torre was doing when he first caught a glimpse of Jeter at shortstop or Posada, with so much to learn, behind the plate. He saw the upside – and he went with it.
And that’s only naming the players on the Yankees 25-man roster. And if you haven’t read my colleague Cory Claus’s series on the organization’s farm system and what’s behind these players, take a look, beginning with the talent at the Low-A Charleston River Dogs and moving up from there.
Forget core anything though, and here’s why
At some point, my colleagues in the media will latch on to some term designed to put this Yankees team in a bottle. But whatever they come up with, it’s bound to be a misnomer without the supporting cast, just as it was with the Core Four that left Bernie Williams out in the cold.
Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius had as much to do with the success of those Yankees teams as anyone. And in the same way, Brett Gardner, Starlin Castro, Adam Warren, Chad Green and Aaron Hicks have come up big for the team this season.
Core Four, Five, Six, or Seven – it hardly matters what you call it. Because if nothing else, these Yankees are showing that, from Aaron Judge to Ronald Torreyes and Jonathan Holder, this team is blended perfectly with every man contributing to a genuine team effort.
And that represents the actual genius of Cashman, and Joe Girardi especially, for getting the most and the best out of everyone. The rest of you (down on the farm) are just going to have to wait your turn.
Because this team still has some business to tend to.