Note: This was written Thursday and Friday afternoons before anything in the Subway Series went down. Past me is sure that everyone is reacting calmly and rationally to Friday’s and Saturday’s games.
As you read this, there’s a decent chance I’m staring at a computer screen, specifically TurnItIn.com, reviewing and marking up the papers my students wrote about A Streetcar Named Desire and submitted on Friday. They were asked, as they usually are, to take in some information, digest it, and spit it back as an analytical (or creative) product. While my role as a baseball writer has diminished over the years, and I haven’t written an essay since 2011, it’s easy for me to relate to my students’ task.
Generally, I observe something during a game or a set of games, then look up the corresponding information — the numbers, the facts, the figures — and produce something for consumption. As much as possible and as frequently as possible, I attempt to ground this product in something empirical; and if you’re reading this here at RAB, it’s likely that you, too, have an appreciation for that same hard data. This does not mean, of course, that I eschew the visuals of the game, or just the experience of the game, when making observations and evaluations, and that brings me to the 2015 Yankees.
Though the tone of this piece is going to be generally positive, generally optimistic, I did find myself being a touch realistic earlier in the week when one of my students in study hall proclaimed that the Yankees would “suck” in 2015. Calmly, teacherly, I explained that the Yankees will likely not “suck” but will probably be mediocre. Objectively, this makes sense; their rotation has upside, but also questions marks. Similarly, their lineup has potential, but it has the same question marks. He quickly got back to his math or science or whatever I couldn’t actually help him with, and that’s when I thought of this piece.
2013 and 2014 were frustrating seasons and the hangover from both of them has no doubt tempered my expectations for 2015. By the end of each of those seasons, there were few reasons to watch, mainly Mariano Rivera’s, Andy Pettitte’s, and Derek Jeter’s farewell tours and the emergence of Dellin Betances. But let’s be honest: those seasons didn’t feel all that great for most of them, Vernon Wells’ April explosion notwithstanding. It’s early, sure, but this year feels different.
Masahiro Tanaka is beginning to Masahiro Tanaka. Michael Pineda is Big Mike-ing all over the place. Dellin Betances may be rounding back into form. CC Sabathia is striking lots of people out. Mark Teixeira is hitting nothing but extra base hits. And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. While I was already inclined to root for the guy, I feel that his at-bats are, once again, appointment viewing; I get slightly peeved when I miss his trips to the plate for whatever reason.
Even the down things give me a sense of excitement and enjoyment that just weren’t always there in 2013 and 2014 — don’t get me wrong, I love watching the Yankees and hung on to the bitter end in each of those years, but those years weren’t exactly fun…but I digress. Something as uncomfortable as watching Didi Gregorius go through a fielding slump has been at least slightly pleasurable to watch. His range is something we’ve not seen at short in a long time (how many times have we said: ‘That’s an RBI single last year…) and arm has not failed to impress me on throw after throw.
This is all a long way to say something similar to what I said in my first piece here about Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi: I’m choosing to be optimistic about the 2015 Yankees. Seeing is believing and from what I’ve seen this year, I believe, even a little. And it feels good.