Thanks in large part to the short porch in right field, the Yankees featuring lefties in their everyday lineup has always been akin to the New York Giants boasting a beefy pass rush.
Once that’s squared away, sustained winning will soon follow.
Somehow, though, New York’s current offense — objectively among the league’s best, even as judged by detractors — ended up built a little differently. And even if Brett Gardner returns in 2021, he won’t be doing so as a starter.
That leaves us eight righty bats in the everyday lineup and one switch-hitter (Aaron Hicks). Four of them (Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres) can be fairly easily classified as homegrown. Clearly, this was the Yankees’ objective: acquire and develop talent, handedness be damned.
But lest we remind you what the lineup looked like in 2009, the last time the Yankees were crowned champions of baseball. The average age is older, sure. That’s not something New York wants to replicate over the next few years. But listen to Johnny Damon talk. Listen to him describe how befuddling it could be for pitchers on a daily basis to encounter this devilish mix on both sides of the plate.
Can the Yankees win the World Series without more lefty bats?
And so, we arrive at this conclusion that feels rather wishy-washy: yes, it is a problem that the Yankees’ lineup is so righty-heavy. But it also seems like a problem the team will mostly have to live with.
We wouldn’t jettison a single member of the starting lineup, as it stands. We’d advocate for the acquisition of a more powerful platoon outfield bat than Gardner (Joey Gallo?) and a more impactful middle infield depth piece who hits from the other side of the plate, but we wouldn’t beg the Yankees to engineer a complete rebuild just to force-feed a change of pace into the starting nine.
That being said, as the championship “drought” stretched to 11 years this past fall, questions about the Yankees’ roster construction have only grown louder. After all, it can’t be luck of the draw, right (it is)? There has to be some seamless fix.
If the Yankees manage to win a World Series in the next year or so with their current core, they will be making franchise history in doing so without a viable lefty star. The 1996 World Champions featured Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, and even Wade Boggs; the remainder of the dynasty leaned heavily on the first two men.
In 1977 and ’78, Chris Chambliss, Graig Nettles, and of course Reggie Jackson provided a trio of potent lefty bats, one of which stirred the drink left-handedly.
Mickey Mantle (switch-hitter) and Roger Maris (lefty). The Sultan of Swat saluted from the left side. On and on and on, there have always been lefties — and lefties with pop — powering the Yankees’ engine.
It’s especially strange, these days, that the Yankees have thoroughly copied the Tampa Bay Rays’ plan for pitching success — fungible middle relief arms and an overload of risky starting “options” in hopes several of them stick and can be saved — which failing to touch their offensive strategy.
Or that of the Dodgers, either, long viewed as New York’s chief rival for generational success this decade, but a team that has now fully lapped the Bombers.
Can the Yankees win a World Series with Aaron Hicks as the starting group’s sole “lefty” power threat? It doesn’t seem definitively disqualifying.
But it’s also never been done before by a franchise that’s very much accustomed to winning another way.