A man who grew up dreaming of roaming center field in pinstripes, paying homage to Mickey Mantle's monument before continuing No. 7's legacy of mashing. A stern, but wise and wily bench veteran managing him, finally relishing his role as the leader of the clubhouse just a few months after thinking he might hang 'em up for good. A hitting guru who helped produce a relentless attack in 2009, continuing to survey his kingdom and scoff at anyone who believes a team can hit too many home runs in the playoffs.
Two of them were Yankees. One should've been. Nobody remains. All three are in Philadelphia now.
The Phillies, hot off a "surprise" World Series run in 2023, added Trea Turner to a powerhouse veteran mix this past offseason and snuck up on absolutely no one this time around. They're managed by Rob Thomson, Joe Girardi's longtime bench/third base coach who seemed somewhat generic during his time in pinstripes -- because nobody allowed us to get to know him. He received a cursory interview after Girardi was fired, but carried too much old-guard (and free thought) stink on him to obtain the position.
Bryce Harper is their de facto captain. He yearned to be a Yankee; that territory is well-trod by now. It's easy to forget, too, that the man responsible for telling this team of playoff-tested veterans to grip it and rip it is Kevin Long, the architect of the 2009 Yankees offense. Long was dismissed in New York in 2014, likely because eight years as a hitting coach in one place is a lot, and he was scapegoated as "stale" because he couldn't coax 240 homers out of a motley crew of Chase Headley, Yangervis Solarte and Washed Brian Roberts.
Still not convinced this trio should've come together to prosper in New York? Just listen to Derek Jeter gush about Thomson during 2022's World Series coverage, one year before he led his team back to October with a still-burning vengeance.
Yankees dugout should feature Rob Thomson as manager, Kevin Long, Bryce Harper
Now, you'd be a fool to think the Phillies don't operate on a baseline of analytics. Everyone does. Former scrappy outfielder Sam Fuld is dedicated to modern practices and assists Dave Dombrowski in the front office; he's a candidate for the Red Sox GM opening for a reason.
But Philadelphia has built on that foundation with baseball men, instinctual thinkers. Thomson represents the perfect blend of a man with a plan and a man who listens to his hunches. He deftly waded through Game 1 of the NLDS on the road with Ranger Suarez and a bullpen full of variables. After Game 2, when his Phillies blew a 4-0 lead and a no-hitter from the sixth inning onward, he put trust in his team full of fighters, pressing all the right buttons again to help foster an offensive explosion in Game 3.
Whatever Thomson does or does not do, it's clear he has a mastery on the pulse of the dugout (led, of course, by Harper, a one-of-a-kind leader). He is empowered to caretake in whatever manner he deems necessary. The roster doesn't have many holes, but whatever issues he does run across with personnel seem easily patched over by the influence of his steady hand.
The Yankees will never employ Harper. Thomson is now Philly Rob, a Pennsylvania lifer until he decides to leave the game. But Long? He could be available -- for a promotion. If the Yankees ever want to move on from Aaron Boone, they could do worse than welcoming back a former trusted coach who's had several seasons to absorb knowledge from Thomson, an ideal modern/old-school managerial hybrid. It's not the full trio, but it's at least a step in the right direction.