1. Beating Out the Astros for Justin Verlander
Why on God’s green earth did the Yankees pass on Justin Verlander in 2017?
The answer has to be they didn’t believe the Astros would end up being a real rival, after they folded their way spectacularly out of the 2015 playoffs and missed the postseason the next year.
Right? It can’t simply be that they were too cheap and scared to surrender minimal prospect capital for the privilege of housing the most ballyhooed pitcher of his generation? It was a gift! A gift that ultimately destroyed us a few months later.
Don’t look a Gift Workhorse in the mouth.
Justin Verlander was so discarded in 2017 that he was available at the August waiver trade deadline. Not even the one with a high competition rate in July. When all was said and done, he cost Astros No. 3 prospect Franklin Perez, No. 9 prospect Daz Cameron, and catching prospect Jake Rogers, three people who’ve barely made a ripple years later.
But hardware lasts forever. And the Yankees could’ve, absolutely should’ve, and didn’t block the surprise hard-charging AL playoff darlings from acquiring a game-changer like Verlander. They honestly tricked themselves into thinking adding a Hall of Famer would be a gaffe. The deal materialized after midnight, and probably shouldn’t have counted anyway (will fight this to my grave, which will be sooner rather than later if we can’t win a ring), but at the end of the day, the Yanks surrendered to a rival and doomed themselves.
Remember, at the time, we all thought we were fighting for second place behind the streaking Cleveland Indians. Not at all true! The Yankees upended them in a spectacular five-game ALDS without Verlander, then lost in Game 2 and Game 6 (up 3-2) to see their World Series hopes dashed against the man they passed on.
Never has the ripple effect of a non-move been so obvious and imminent.
Though they didn’t have the benefit of systemic cheating during that regular season and postseason, the Yankees probably have a 2017 banner today if they take on one more salary and surrender fringe prospects 3.5 years ago. And if Verlander followed the same extension pattern in the Bronx, they’d be getting him back midway through 2021, Luis Severino-style, and things wouldn’t look quite so dire. They’d be the late-career Tom Brady Patriots, just trying to get right before the playoffs.
Instead, they’re the 2020 Tom Brady-less Patriots, putting N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers on the mound. Up and at ’em!