While the 84-win Diamondbacks, powered by Corbin Carroll and Gabriel Moreno, polished off their improbable run to the World Series, Yankees fans sat perplexed, reevaluating their interpretation of a crapshoot. After all, hadn't it been just a few days prior where the Houston Astros seemed destined to reach the Fall Classic once more, evoking the 2000 Yankees, a team that just had to get in to work its regular brand of October magic? Now, all of a sudden, the postseason was random again, based not on winning DNA but on the hot hand of a No. 6 seed?
But Arizona's wasn't improbable due to a lack of talent, of course. It was improbable because, according to the regular season record and relative age of the participants, the team was two years or so away from making such loud noise. Objectively, the same cannot be said of the 2023 Yankees and their starkly mediocre output.
Not all nearly-.500 seasons are created equally, and just because the Yankees managed to keep their streak going and pass that plateau does not mean they earned a bottom-seed World Series berth. With Carroll and Moreno locked down in the lineup and Gallen and Pfaadt standing tall in the rotation, this is likely the worst these Diamondbacks will ever be. Having three reliably dominant starters isn't enough to get through a regular season, but it's more than enough in October.
Unlike an ascending Arizona team, though, this season was a best-case scenario for a somewhat Aaron Judge-less modern Yankees lineup packed with regressing stars and the world's most expensive Injured List (not to mention the rotation). It's almost miraculous these aging Yankees cobbled together 82 wins in the rough-and-tumble AL East, and won't have a chance to "get in and see what happens" next season unless they make serious changes.
Yankees' 2023 season didn't have nearly the same hope as Diamondbacks' campaign
The 2023 Yankees certainly tried the "Youth Movement." Sure, they did. Anthony Volpe made the Opening Day roster and played nearly every inning possible, hitting his stride in June before losing it again in September. When the season was all but over in August, they promoted Oswald Peraza and Everson Pereira. When that group continued to stall out, they tried Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells. Wells got it going during the season's final weeks. Dominguez found his stroke immediately ... before tearing his elbow up and disappearing.
Whatever New York considered to be "turning the keys over to the kids" ended up far more depressing than Arizona's version of the same strategy. Carroll, given a cup of coffee last fall, broke camp with the big club and immediately proved that no grace period was necessary; he posted 5.4 bWAR, a 134 OPS+ and stole 50 bases, running away with the Rookie of the Year Award. Acquiring both Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from the Blue Jays proved to be a masterstroke; the latter made the All-Star team, and the former has an .852 OPS in October after hitting .282 with a .747 mark during the regular season.
Arizona's kids hit the ground running and managed to take over a short series (and, yes, Philly's vaunted bats choked in Games 6 and 7). The Yankees' kids skidded or sputtered out -- and, besides, they would rather use Billy McKinney and Jake Bauers anyway. Therein lies the difference in how these middling regular season teams were created.
Everything might work out for the Yankees in the end. Dominguez could return a superstar. Wells could hit the ground running in Year 2. Volpe could make the leap. Hal could spend commensurate with his earnings. But it's reductive to look at the Yankees and Diamondbacks' records and deem the two teams to be identical, considering the fuel Arizona's youth movement provided versus the lack of spark the Yankees' created amid an injury-racked mess.