Padres manager's Juan Soto praise proves he'd fit in perfectly on 1990s Yankees

San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox
San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

Far too many takes about the 2023-24 Yankees' offseason have glossed over the fact that New York didn't just add a lefty slugger to the outfield. They didn't just trade for a perennial All-Star. They imported Juan Soto, a 25-year-old future Hall of Famer whose dedication to both power and patience makes the absurdly floated Ted Williams comparisons ... kinda valid.

There hasn't been a young player with his relentless dedication to getting on base, working counts and punishing mistakes for decades, and his approach to each and every at-bat will be a powerful breath of fresh air in a Yankees lineup that seems to toss away opportunities like that far too carelessly.

While "not taking any at-bat for granted" sounds like the bare minimum for any big-leaguer, it's a rarity in today's game to watch a player who'd rather make a pitcher sweat than ambush his initial offering. In fact, the Yankees' "hit strikes hard" mantra, championed by the martyred Dillon Lawson, preached attacking "your pitch" rather than waiting.

Soto, clearly, has zero issue hitting strikes hard when he receives them. But he'd rather goad the pitcher into giving him a cookie rather than trying to turn every first-pitch fastball into a beachball, mentally. According to the way current Padres manager Mike Shildt described his plan of attack this week, Soto sounds much more like a '90s Yankee than a modern slugger. Remember how effectively that lineup used to grind through pitchers, both superior and inferior? It would be nice to have that back again.

Yankees slugger Juan Soto would've fit in well in 1990s dynasty

Pedro Martinez often dominated the Yankees during their dynastic years. Facing him was ... not fun. But more often than not, even the most elite right-hander in the league wasn't able to carve up New York's nine deep into the night because he'd run out of breath in the middle innings. Look no further than Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Last season, conversely, the Yankees turned almost every righty into prime Pedro, allowing an endless parade of hard-throwers with a slider to carve effortlessly through them, non-competitive frame after non-competitive frame. They were shut out a harrowing 10 times; the offense finished 24th in both runs scored and runs per game. Average right-handers completed six innings against the vaunted Yankees at a staggering pace.

Soto cannot reverse a putrid offense all by his lonesome, but should have an outsized impact on the overall team ethos. He isn't just a lefty or an All-Star or an analytics darling. He's also a throwback in the body of a 25-year-old who's excited to be here, and his approach at the plate will go further toward "bringing the Yankees back" than his star power ever could.