The 2023 New York Yankees followed up an April to forget with a May to pique your interest. They remain imperfect, like most modern iterations of the Yankees. There are roster holes. There are trades unmade. There is, no longer, Aaron Hicks.
But, while they are imperfect, they also reside in an imperfect climate. The powerhouse Rays, thriving on offense over pitching (??), have come back down to earth slightly, like most hoped they would but feared they wouldn't. The AL East is now attainable for the Orioles and Yanks.
Outside of Tampa Bay, potentially ... does anyone scare you? The Texas Rangers are hitting at an historic clip with RISP. The Atlanta Braves struggle to defend their home turf. The Astros are alive, but aren't hitting as much as they should be and banked plenty on Jose Abreu. The Mets, Blue Jays, and Phillies are all stuck in the mud. The Dodgers are losing pitchers every six hours. The Yankees will not be favored to win the World Series at any point this summer, but they also cannot be counted out in a transition year following a suspect offseason. That's an accomplishment -- due in large part to their surroundings, but earned by the players, too.
Turning around the bend from Memorial Day, when this is all supposed to "start counting," there are more winners than losers on this roster, something we didn't expect at any point in April. Just missing the cut, in the confusing "winner/loser" category: Anthony Volpe, who's had moments of joy and moments of grief, and Harrison Bader, who feels like the Yankees' center fielder in 2024 and beyond, but also can't stay on the field.
Also just missing the cut in the "massive loser" category: The whining Toronto Blue Jays.
Yankees Winner: Aaron Judge, His Post-Contract Legacy, and His MVP Win
Nobody in their right mind would've called Aaron Judge's record-setting 62-homer season a "fluke," but plenty of people spent too much time worrying this offseason about the "back end" of Judge's long-term deal without thinking about the here and now.
Judge has proven, despite missing a short time on the shelf after an ill-fated slide, that he will be driving the Yankees for the next several seasons, and he might be doing it better than any other superstar.
What else needs to be said? Judge is an absurd two-way player, pairing effortlessly exceptional defense with a seemingly unyielding supply of laser beam homers and doubles. He is the best hitter in baseball. He is a game-changing talent in right. He deserved the plaudits last season, and he'll be here for a very long time. Whoever doubted him this offseason/in early April -- plenty of people, this isn't quite, "But I was told Steph Curry wasn't a good shooter..." -- already must prepare for the possibility that his entire prime will look like the 62-homer campaign.