2018 New York Yankees
2018 New York Yankees / Franchise: New York Yankees / BR Team Page
Managed by Aaron Boone
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2018 New York Yankees went into spring training cocky and confident, after an excellent run through the postseason in 2017, which ended just one game shy of the World Series, and after having pulled off the biggest coup of the off-season: landing National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, in a trade with the Miami Marlins. Fans were already salivating about having the two most prolific home run hitters in the majors in Stanton and Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge in the middle of the line-up. However, this was not a team without question marks. How would Aaron Boone, picked from the broadcast booth with absolutely no managerial experience, handle the pressure of being a rookie skipper with huge expectations placed on his shoulders? How would Boone sort out the crowded outfield picture, with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury and rookie Clint Frazier all vying for playing time alongside the two big sluggers? Would C Gary Sanchez improve his defence enough that it would no longer be a distraction from his power hitting? And, who would play in the infield beside stallwart shortstop Didi Gregorius? Gone were 2B Starlin Castro, 3B Todd Frazier and 1B/3B Chase Headley, with no experienced replacement in place. As spring training was starting, three youngsters were penciled in to start alongside Didi: the injury-prone Greg Bird at first base, and two rookies with five games of major league experience between them, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, in the other two slots. Perhaps it was not surprising that many observers expected GM Brian Cashman to pull off a trade for another infielder or to sign a free agent like Mike Moustakas before the team broke camp. On the mound, however, there were fewer questions, as the Yankees had retained all the contributors to what was perhaps the best bullpen in the majors - Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green - while the starting rotation of Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Jordan Montgomery and Sonny Gray appeared on paper to be as solid as anyone else's.
On February 20th, the Yankees made a move to address their lack of experienced infielders by acquiring 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for two prospects, 2B Nick Solak an P Taylor Widener. On March 12th, they signed veteran 2B Neil Walker to a one-year deal to serve as additional insurance. Both Drury and Walker ended up with starting jobs, with Logan Wade earning a back-up job in the infield, and Bird and Tyler Austin forming a platoon at first base. Injuries also forced the Yankees' hand, as OFs Ellsbury and Frazier both opened the year on the DL, giving an opportunity to another touted prospect, Billy McKinney, to make the opening day roster.
The Yankees got off to a great start as they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1, on Opening Day, March 29th, behind the pitching of Severino and a pair of homers by Stanton in his first game in pinstripes. They also won the next day, but then injuries started to get to them. First CF Hicks had to go on the DL on March 30th, and he was followed the next day by McKinney, who hurt his shoulder crashing into the fence at the Rogers Centre. That forced Boone to put Judge in center field, making him only the second player standing 6' 7" to ever man the position. The Yankees called up Andujar from the minors, where he had been sent to get regular playing time. Boone was also considering using one of his infielders - be it Drury, Austin, Wade or utility infielder Ronald Torreyes - in the outfield until Ellsbury was ready to come back. The injury woes continued to pile up, though, as on April 7th, the Yankees put two more players on the DL: P Sabathia went down with a strained hip and Drury with blurred vision resulting from migraine headaches. Two other players, Sanchez and Wade, were also unavailable with minor injuries, although those were not serious enough to justify calling up replacements. This came after the Yankees lost an exhausting 14-inning marathon to the Baltimore Orioles on April 6th. Utility player Jace Peterson and Ps Luis Cessa and Domingo German were called up as reinforcements while manager Boone put a makeshift line-up on the field.
The Yankees struggled for a while, but things began to get better when they won 3 of 4 games from the Blue Jays at home on April 19-22. Andujar's bat was now red hot at third base, with Judge, Gregorius and Torreyes also providing excellent production. In the last game of the series, Gleyber Torres made his major league debut. In that game, for the first time since September 29, 1989, the Yankees featured a line-up with every player under the age of 30, with back-up catcher Austin Romine the oldest at 29. That last occasion had been due to September call-ups, however: they had not done that in an April game since April 26, 1942! They put together a nine-game winning streak at the end of the month, before losing on April 30th, 2-1, to the Houston Astros and their nemesis from Game 7 of the ALCS, Charlie Morton. They finished the month at 18-10, 3 games behind the Boston Red Sox who had gotten off to a tremendous start, but owners of the third best record in the American League. They got right back on the winning horse after that loss, however, as they won their first five games in May to make it 14 wins in their last 15 games. It was the team's best 15-game stretch since 1998 - a year they had won the World Series. they made it 15 wins in 16 games when Torres hit his first walk-off homer, a three-run shot off Dan Otero of the Cleveland Indians in a 7-4 win on May 6th. In addition to Torres and Andujar making key contributions, P German, making his first career start in place of an injured Jordan Montgomery, pitched 6 hitless innings in that game.
The winning streak set the stage for a very hyped series against the Red Sox starting on May 8th, given the Sox had just managed to hang on to first place ahead of the Yanks thanks to their outstanding first few weeks. The Yankees won the first duel, 3-2, as Stanton homered twice and Judge hit the game-winning single, to move the Yanks into a tie for first place with their rivals. They won the second game as well, with a four-run comeback in the 8th inning against ace relievers Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel, to win, 9-6, and take over sole possession of first place. In that game, Brett Gardner broke out of a season-long slump with 3 hits, including a pair of doubles and a triple. The Red Sox avoided a sweep with a 5-4 win in the final game on May 10th, but not before the Yankees had managed to close a 4-0 gap with a 7th-inning rally. The two teams were thus back on an equal footing, with the perspective of a very exciting race for a division title for fans to look forward to. On May 19-20, the Yankees did something unprecedented in the team's glorious history: hit at least four homers in three straight games. After a couple of rainouts the previous week, they were continuing their torrid pace, having now won 22 of 26 games. They also made it at least three homers in five consecutive games with three long balls in each of their next two contests, another franchise first.
They ended the month of June with a record of 53-27, trailing the Red Sox by one game, but they caught up with them when they handed them an 11-1 beatdown on July 1st, banging six homers, including three by Aaron Hicks. That gave them 137 homers, shattering the previous team record for most before the All-Star break, which was 134. The Yankees and Red Sox had been see-sawing in and out of first place for the last month, confirming the prospect that there was going to be a battle to the end for the division title. On July 11th, with their 152nd long ball, they broke the major league mark set by the 1999 Seattle Mariners for most homers before the All-Star break. They were 62-33, at that point, on a pace for 106 wins, but still trailing the Red Sox by 4 1/2 games, and had the season ended then, they would have to put it all on the line by hosting the Wild Card Game. Trying to close the growing gap, they pulled off a trade with the Orioles on July 24th, but it simply added to an area of strength, the bullpen, as they acquired former closer Zach Britton in return for three prospects. That was followed two days later with the acquisition of SP J.A. Happ, with the Yankees giving up two supernumerary players in IF Brandon Drury and OF Billy McKinney. However, at the same time, they had to place Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez on the DL, the latter having only been back for a few days, because of a chip fracture in the wrist and a badly pulled groin muscle, respectively.
With the Sox's lead at 5 1/2 games, the Yankees went to Boston for a four-game series at Fenway Park on August 2nd hoping to close the gap, but instead got swept, and looked pretty bad doing so, as their pitching coughed up 15 runs in the opener, then their bats were completely stymied in the next two games. What hurt most was the finale, however, a nationally-televized Sunday night game, in which they came into the bottom of the 9th leading 4-1 with closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound. However, he manged to blow that lead with three walks, a two-run single by J.D. Martinez and a throwing error by rookie 3B Miguel Andujar. The Red Sox then won the game, 5-4, on a run in the 10th and the stunned Yankees were now 9 1/2 games back and were forced to concentrate on holding on to their wild card spot, with the Oakland Athletics playing tremendous baseball and closing in rapidly on what had once seemed to be an insurmountable lead. Judge's injury proved to be more troublesome than expected, as his return was pushed back by at least a couple of weeks, and the team's on-field struggles coincided with his absence. Another injury piled up on top of those on August 21st, when closer Aroldis Chapman, who had been bothered on a off by tendinitis in his right knee for a number of weeks, had to leave a game after just 6 pitches and was immediately added to a crowded DL. However, in spite of the injuries, the Yankees began to make up some ground around that time, as the Red Sox finally hit some rough times, putting together a pair of three-game losing streaks within a short time after never losing that many consecutive games all season, during a time when the Yankees went 15-5. As a result, the deficit in the AL East was cut from 10 1/2 games on August 18th to 6 on August 26th. Just before the August 31st limit for adding players who would still be eligible for the postseason roster, the Yankees made one more trade, acquiring OF Andrew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants in return for a pair of minor leaguers. It was an indication that the front office was worried about when Judge would be able to return, as the Yanks had been starting Neil Walker and minor league journeyman Shane Robinson in right field in his absence, a less than ideal situation with the postseason looming ahead. In a similar deal, they added SS Adeiny Hechavarria, as SS Didi Gregorius was also on the DL.
In September the main thing left to play for was ensuring that they maintained home field advantage for the Wild Card Game, and reintegrating the injured players into the line-up in time for the postseason. They did manage to delay the Red Sox's clinching of a third straight division title with a couple of wins over them at home on September 18-19. However the inevitable came the next day, with an 11-6 loss to their bitter rivals. In that loss though, they set a couple of records thanks to Luke Voit's 10th homer since his acquisition in early August: he gave the Yankees twelve players with at least 10 long balls, a new major league record, and his dinger was the 246th of the season, breaking the team record set in 2012. Voit's bat was scorching hit at that point, and the career minor league journeyman had taken over the starting first base job, relegating the disappointing Greg Bird to the bench. On September 22nd, the Yankees clinched a wild card spot with a 3-2 extra-inning win over the lowly Orioles as Voit hit yet another homer. They clinched the right to host the Wild Card Game with a win over the Red Sox on September 28th; in that game, the Yankees hit their 264th homer of the year, matching the all-time record set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. They set a new record the next day when Gleyber Torres went deep in the 5th inning for homer #265. They finished the season with 267 homers.
Awards and Honors
- Ted Berg: "After disappointing end to 2018, where do the Yankees go from here?", USA Today Sports, October 10, 2018. 
- Paul Caldera: "Yankees on a historic run, winning 16 of their last 17 games: By the numbers", USA Today Sports, May 9, 2018. 
- Bryan Hoch: "28th championship banner Yanks' ultimate goal", mlb.com, March 13, 2018. 
- Richard Justice: "5 reasons why Yankees are MLB's best team", mlb.com, May 3, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "Yanks evoking memories of legendary '98 team", mlb.com, June 23, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "Providing perspective on Yankees' plight: Bombers nine games back of Boston in AL East", mlb.com, August 8, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Yankees and Red Sox, both bound for 100 wins, gear up for epic pennant race: 'Bring it on'", USA Today Sports, July 19, 2018.