The 2022 New York Yankees are far from perfect (imagine them being perfect after three games?), but following a 2021 season that felt like a 2020 hangover, it’s been refreshing to watch the Bombers erase deficits, battle back (unless Jake Diekman’s involved), and stay stingy on the mound.
You can choose to harp on dropping the final game of three to the Red Sox if you’d like, the last time New York will see the BoSox until July for some reason. Stranding 11 men on base is frustrating, sure, but it really boiled down to Aaron Hicks grounding into a double play and Aaron Hicks popping out on a 3-1 pitch with runners on second and third and one out.
Would you like to flay Aaron Hicks alive? Fine. Spend your time doing that. But a 3-for-11 outing with RISP where literally one additional single could’ve won the game (and swept a series) will not have me waxing negative about a team that showed off a lot of strengths against an unsightly Red Sox core that’s repeatedly punked them in the recent past.
The Yankees encountered a scorching Alex Verdugo, allowed an Aaron Judge extension cloud to block out the sun on Opening Day, and fell behind by deficits of 3-0 (first inning, no outs), 2-0 (second inning, no outs) and 2-0 again (first inning, one out), only to capture two wins and nearly a third.
And God, will there ever be a cockier collective of Narrow Series Sweep Avoiders than Red Sox fans? You got a single win by a fingertip and your offense ate paint in 18 previous innings. Handle your in-house business and extend your best players so they don’t play bored, maybe?
It’s too early to plan the parade routes (I mean … unless you just want to get ahead of things …), but several Yankees showed this weekend just how impactful they can be if everything goes right, while one player proved that while the ice isn’t thin yet, the top layer may have already melted.
These three players have already shown us something significant after one short series victory.
3 snap judgments about Yankees players after opening series vs Boston
3. Anthony Rizzo Can Be a Leader (and Also Dominant)
Did the Yankees sign Anthony Rizzo on what essentially amounts to a one-year deal after swinging and missing on Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman? Sure. But the amount of disrespect tossed Rizzo’s way after the deal has only been equaled in grossness by the horde of Yankee fans who now have whiplash from spinning around to pray at his altar.
None of the Rizzo hatred was warranted when he inked a two-year, $32 million deal with an opt out, and through three games against the Red Sox, he’s been a one-man argument in favor of both “intangibles” and “clutch.”
During a three-game set, Rizzo went through the Yankees ringer. He was drilled by an inside fastball in Game 1, briefly sending fans into Manic Injury Mode. He shook it off, homering for the second time in as many games the next day. In the series, Rizzo launched a two-run shot that stole the momentum in the opener, tied the second contest with a similar blast, and briefly equalized Sunday night’s game with a line-drive, two-run single.
Add in the pep talk he gave Ron Marinaccio that got the Toms River native on track in Saturday’s most important inning, and the Thurman Munson-worshipping arm of Yankees Twitter is hiking up their shirts at the tattoo parlor already.
Rizzo’s “down 2021 season” that torpedoed his value was, in reality, an above-average 111 OPS+ season with sterling defense. If that’s the baseline for Rizzo’s contributions, the Yankees will take it — for a single season.
And this opening set proved he could be something intangibly important to this team even if the overall offensive numbers are down from his peak.