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A Deep Playoff Run in a “Rebuilding Season” Points to Bright Future for the Yankees

Maggie Ford, Sports Editor

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The Yankees’ dreams of winning their first American League pennant and clinching their first World Series berth since 2009 were dashed in Houston on Saturday night. After falling behind to the Astros 2-0 in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees had taken control of the series, winning three straight games in the Bronx. However, their winning stretch proved insufficient to stop the Astros, who won the final two games of the series on Friday and Saturday, as well as a trip to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in the World Series.

While the Yankees might have ended their playoff run too early to New York fans, many positives can be drawn from the season. For one thing, the Yankees weren’t projected to be in playoff contention at the start of spring training. General Manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi both initially described 2017 as a rebuilding season. Fast forward to the end of the season, and the Yankees not only made the playoffs as a wild card team, but came from behind in the American League East Division Series to beat the heavily-favored Cleveland Indians. And even though the Yankees eventually fell to Houston, they were able to hit off of two of the best starting pitchers in baseball: Astros Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.

Much of the Yankees’ success can be attributed to individual growth and revamped team chemistry. The Yankees returned to their tried and true strategy of building up a core of talented, young players, and letting them develop together in the minor leagues. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez, breakout stars of the 2017 season, had been teammates for a few years on the Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees farm team. After building up their confidence in their abilities and each other, the pitcher-catcher duo of Severino and Sanchez debuted at the end of the 2016 season, and were mainstays in the New York lineup during the 2017 season, and were both members of the American League All-Star team. Judge and Bird were lauded for their fielding as well as slugging this season; Judge broke a 30-year old rookie home run record by smashing 52 during the regular season, and Bird was a stalwart defender at first base, committing no errors. The young Yankees team also features slick-fielding shortstop Didi Gregorius, who set the record for the most home runs hit by a Yankees shortstop this season, and star second baseman Starlin Castro. Both are young, but bring playing experience and maturity to a lineup filled with rookies or very new players.

Given that the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball this season, in a “rebuilding year,” it seems safe to say that with the experience that the young core of players got from their postseason push, the Yankees will have many successful years to come. The progress current players made, and the possibilities that elite prospects hold suggest that a World Series ring may be just around the corner.

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The Bronx Force Awakens