Imagining a dream 2017 for the Yankees
In our crystal ball, we see Alex Rodriguez and Hal Steinbrenner spending a lot of time together in 2017. AP
You clicked on this link, thinking you were reading regular old ESPN, but instead you are entering a different realm, where the future is before your eyes. The meaning of the four letters has changed -- we are, for the time being, the Extra Sensory Perception Network.
This look into the future has a rose shade for the New York Yankees, as we imagine a dream 2017 for the boys in the Bronx. It is a season filled with drama (A-Rod’s return?), emerging stars (a New Core Four?) and an unlikely championship (No. 28!).
It might not turn out this way (duh!) but 2017 is a new year, and the long-suffering Yankees fans need something to fantasize about. After all, they are in the midst of a longer championship drought than the Chicago Cubs. For heaven's sake, it has been a full seven years since the Yankees' last ticker-tape parade.
So let’s have some fun -- and poke some fun -- with spring training a mere seven weeks away. Since we are imagining a season that will fill Yankees fans’ hearts with joy, we begin on Valentine’s Day.
Feb. 14: On the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training, manager Joe Girardi, in his annual State of the Yankees news conference, announces he is going to be more of an open book in the coming season. Joe has had a winter epiphany, he says; it's only baseball, after all, and the fans just want to know what is going on with the team. He says he figured out it's not all that complicated -- just be straightforward.
He is then asked: If there are no injuries during spring training, will Masahiro Tanaka be the Opening Day starter? Girardi refuses to comment.
March 2: Special adviser Alex Rodriguez arrives in Tampa in great shape. Rumors circulate that A-Rod could forge a comeback for the Yankees. He is, after all, already under contract to play. But Rodriguez scoffs at the suggestion, saying he only wants to be a “big brother” to the young guys.
A-Rod then takes BP with the kids and out-homers Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge.
March 31: The Yankees finish spring training by opening the Braves' new stadium in Cobb County, Georgia. Matt Holliday pulls his hamstring during his final at-bat of the exhibition season. After the game, Girardi says, "It's not what you want."
Later, when asked about a possible A-Rod comeback, Girardi's neck veins pop out and he calls for the next question. A-Rod’s spokesman, Ron Berkowitz, will only say that A-Rod has not officially retired. When GM Brian Cashman is asked about A-Rod, he simply says, “No” and walks away.
April 2: Tanaka, named the Opening Day starter by Girardi before the game, takes a perfect game through seven innings to start the regular season in Tampa. With the Yankees up 6-0, Girardi pulls him when he reaches 92 pitches. Dellin Betances fires a 1-2-3 eighth. Aroldis Chapman comes in, immediately gives up a base hit to Evan Longoria and ultimately surrenders three runs, though the Yankees hold on to win. Chapman says afterward he doesn’t think entering perfect games is the best way for him to be used.
May 1: The Yankees enter May as the biggest surprise in baseball, winners of 18 of their first 24 games. Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Judge are already being billed as the New Core Four. Severino, after winning the No. 4 rotation spot in spring training, is 3-0 with 0.87 ERA through three starts. Bird is using the right-field porch to great advantage, going deep in seven of the Yankees’ first 12 home games. Sanchez, continuing his pace from the end of last season, hits 45 homers in April.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, thrilled with the youth movement, says he thinks he could get the payroll under $150 million.
The Yankees go 15-15 in May, and though they are still in first place in the AL East, a lot of people start saying, “Told ya so.”
Says Girardi: "It's not what you want."
On the bright side, prospect Gleybar Torres comes up to play short in Sir Didi's stead and hits .370 in his first 15 games. Radio voice John Sterling calls him "The Gley-hey Kid” when the 20-year-old smacks his first homer.
July 9: The Yankees enter the All-Star break struggling bigly. In the final 37 games, they lose 25 to close out the first half at 45-46. Holliday again returns to the lineup after recovering from his third straight hamstring pull, only to swing and miss so hard on a strike three, he breaks his wrist and is lost for three months.
July 10: Hal is seen having brunch with A-Rod in Miami, host city for the the All-Star Game. The Yankees send four representatives to the Midsummer Classic: Bird, whom A-Rod touted during his Biogenesis hip rehab tour, Sanchez, whom A-Rod praised before it was en vogue, and two shortstops, Sir Didi and Torres, both of whom A-Rod tutored. Later in the day, Hal is seen tanning with A-Rod in South Beach.
July 12: At a news conference at Yankee Stadium the day after the All-Star Game, Girardi, in his final year of his contract, is relieved of his managerial duties. Girardi, in a brief statement, simply says, “It’s not what you want.”
Hal names A-Rod the team’s new manager.
July 14: During A-Rod's first pregame news conference as skipper, he is asked if he might put himself back on the active roster. A-Rod, four homers shy of 700, says it isn't something he's thinking about, but blinks four times confirming it is indeed his plan.
Rodriguez benches Ellsbury, cuts Aaron Hicks and vows never to add a “y” when coming up with nicknames for his players. In a clear break from Girardi, Rodriguez brings his own creative flair to the practice, changing "Gardy" to "Brett."
Aug. 1: With No. 13 at the helm, the Yankees go an incredible 16-1 to start the second half. A-Rod has mixed emotions, as his team's success appears to be foiling his plan to add himself to the roster. Still, his good luck charm of posting each lineup card on Instagram next to a photo of the latest perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich he's made for his daughter’s camp lunch is a big hit.
Sept. 1: In August, the magic continues as the Yankees go 20-9 and are running away with the AL East. The Golden State Warriors of baseball, the Boston Red Sox, are struggling to stay at .500.
The Yankees enter the month with an 81-56 record. Chapman says he doesn't think he should be used in September.
Meanwhile, with the rosters expanding, and the sense that he has a mandate, Rodriguez activates himself.
Chris Sale. It is a 450-foot moon shot, providing an exclamation point after both Sanchez and Bird have gone yard. Rodriguez is now three homers short of 700. After the win, he announces he will be playing every day.
Hal is seen in Monument Park with measuring tape.
Sept. 27: The Yankees clinch the division. When Holliday, in his first game back, nails the game-winning homer, he is mauled by his teammates at the plate and is lost for the playoffs with a back injury.
Oct. 1: The Yankees finish the regular season with the third-best record in baseball behind the Cubs and Cleveland Indians. After Sir Didi returns to short, Torres moves to second, allowing him to win the batting title with a .337 average. Sanchez finishes with 75 homers. Severino’s ERA is 2.62. Tanaka is the Cy Young favorite.
Rodriguez, however, falls into a brutal late-season slump, and ends the year stuck at 699 homers.
Oct. 2: Rodriguez tweets he will do commentary for Fox during the playoffs while still managing and playing for the Yankees. Hal is seen canceling his dinner reservations.
Oct. 3: The Yankees and A-Rod (final 2017 stats: 3 HRs, 7 RBIs, .213 AVG) mutually agree to part ways. Rodriguez is given an open invitation to come back next spring, though, to tutor the youngsters.
Oct. 4: Joe Torre is brought back to manage the team.
Oct. 5: The Yankees begin the American League Division Series against the upstart Oakland A’s. Tanaka starts and pitches six scoreless innings. Torre tries to bring in Scott Proctor, but is told his name has been changed to Dellin Betances. Betances dominates the seventh and eighth before handing the ball to Chapman in the ninth.
Oct. 9: The Yankees take the series in four games. CC Sabathia tosses a shutout in the finale.
Oct. 14: It is Yankees vs. Red Sox in the AL Championship Series. The Red Sox had rallied in September to take the wild card, and then beat the Tigers in the wild-card game before upsetting the defending AL champion Indians in five games in the ALDS.
Now, they move on to the Bronx. The Red Sox take Game 1 as David Price throws a no-hitter for the first postseason win of his career not earned in relief.
Oct. 22: The Yankees win the series in seven games. Brett Gardner -- aka "Brett" -- steals second in the ninth inning of a tie game. He is driven home on Judge’s pinch-hit single to right. As the Bronx goes wild, Judge credits Rodriguez during his postgame interview with teaching him to "take small bites.”
The next inning, Sanchez hits a ball into Yankees history, and Sabathia comes in to close out the 10th. Holliday suffers a scratched cornea when a champagne cork hits him during the clubhouse celebration, but the Yankees are World Series champions for the 28th time.