ESPN broadcast drops weirdly dismissive take on Yankees during Dodgers meltdown

2024 New York Yankees Spring Training
2024 New York Yankees Spring Training / New York Yankees/GettyImages

I'm sorry, was this supposed to be a conversation about teams we fear, collectively? Midway through Yoshinobu Yamamoto's MLB debut meltdown, following a succession of spring training meltdowns? Sure, sure, yeah yeah yeah, but the ESPN booth's timing for their Yankees smack talk (honest assessment?) wasn't exactly great.

Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez had the unenviable task of hopping onto the airwaves at 6:00 AM EST and talking about anything but the Shohei Ohtani scandal, so it does make sense that they struggled a bit to fill the air. But when it came to parsing the AL East, it felt like ESPN's duo was still stuck in 2023.

Last year, the Yankees and Red Sox battled it out for a spot in the basement, ultimately captured by Boston. The Orioles were the class of the division, winning 101 games and arriving a year early; they're likely to repeat (or approximate) their dominance this season. The Rays have earned the benefit of the doubt, of course, but without Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow and Drew Rasmussen, they have to really plumb the depths of their pitching program (and really fell off last year after a scorching start). The Blue Jays? Unless Vlad Jr. can reverse course and they can collectively overcome the fractures that started to show in last year's postseason "run" (two games), Toronto feels more like a trolling collective than a baseball team.

And yet, there was ESPN referring to this current team in the past tense, forgetting about the Yankees responding to adversity by importing Juan Soto, plugging their outfield gap with Alex Verdugo, and getting Jasson Dominguez back midseason. Are people really still picking these Yankees to repeat last year's disaster exactly? Do we live in a bubble, or do you guys?

Yankees' AL East Projections: Are people really lumping the Yankees in with the Red Sox?

Do people really believe that A) the East got weaker and B) even in a weaker East, the Yankees will still be the most likely disaster?

Last season, the Yankees -- widely seen among the division's favorites -- went through a biblical flood of injury issues, a departure from their usual torrent. Aaron Judge, who managed to avoid naturally accruing bumps and bruises, ran toe-first into a wall and missed a season-changing chunk. Gerrit Cole was phenomenal; almost nobody else was, especially on offense. It was, in one word, horrid. In two words, it was spectacularly horrid. Still, that team finished over .500 at 82-80.

Cole is lost for a portion of 2024, but Judge -- who'll, yes, be battling ailments of some variety for the rest of his career -- already returned to action this week and smacked a double. Soto (and Verdugo and Marcus Stroman) represent meaningful change, though No. 22 might be the biggest addition anyone made this offseason. Anthony Volpe restructured his swing and looks phenomenal. Anything the Yankees get from Giancarlo Stanton is a bonus, but based on the alterations he's put on display this spring, they might just earn a few bonus blasts along the way.

All this is to say that, in a nightmarish season one year ago, the Yankees still managed to barely keep their heads above water. If their luck is even 30% better this season, and Soto is Soto, then it will be surprising to hear them continually lumped alongside John Henry's budget Red Sox, a team Bostonians are already threatening to boycott.

Come on, ESPN. If you knew ball, you'd know that it was far more likely this disrespected Red Sox team overperforms out of nowhere and joins the Yankees atop the standings, rather than at the bottom.