Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius are in their 20s. So are most of the better pitchers. Gleyber Torres is 21 and might start at second base. Miguel Andujar, who turns 23 next month, might start at third. This team could be good for a long time.
“We were so close last year,” said reliever Dellin Betances, who has dropped to 264 pounds, from 280, after emphasizing nutrition — and better mechanics — this winter. “We were one game away from the World Series. We know what it feels like. We kind of have that sour taste in our mouth. We want to win, so if we don’t win, I think it’s not a great year for us. That’s probably the first season I’ve come in with those expectations.”
After four years without a playoff victory, the Yankees raced all the way to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in Houston last October. They succumbed, at last, to a flurry of curveballs from the Astros’ Lance McCullers Jr., whose father pitched for the Yankees in 1989 and 1990 — a time when chaos reigned. The Yankees used three managers in those two seasons, but Boone is just the third manager in the last 23.
Brian Cashman has been the general manager for 20 years now, leveraging that stability into a disciplined franchise turnaround. The Hall of Famer Goose Gossage may not like him — the opinionated Gossage, who was not invited to be a guest instructor this spring, belittled Cashman in a series of interviews this week — but Cashman has adapted to the modern game, turning a roster once larded with dead money into something much more nimble.
The Yankees have found no takers for their one bad contract — Jacoby Ellsbury’s, which has three years and $68 million remaining. Boone must sort through the outfielders’ roles, decide if Torres and Andujar are ready for the majors, and find depth beyond his top five starters. Any smart baseball person could make those calls, but as a first-time manager, Boone has subtler challenges.
“When you walk into our clubhouse, hopefully I’m a part of what I believe is a winning culture — but also a culture where guys are at ease, where guys are allowed to be themselves, where when you walk into our room, it’s not a stressful place,” Boone said. “It’s a place where guys are at work and enjoy coming there to do their job.”
Boone mentioned his first day as a Yankee, after a trade from Cincinnati in 2003, when he met Joe Torre in the manager’s office in Oakland. Torre had a presence, Boone said, a “soothing nature” and tone that made him comfortable with a new team. Torre’s successor, Joe Girardi, was more intense and uptight.
Even so, Girardi was an excellent manager — driven, prepared, caring — and he shepherded a young clubhouse into a new era. Cashman could have easily brought Girardi back, but he wanted someone perhaps better suited for the most vital task of today’s manager: communicating the vision of the front office to the players.
In that way, it helps that Boone has never managed; he can grow into the job in lock step with his boss. The Yankees want Boone to be another pillar of the stability that now defines them — along with home runs and high hopes, which have always been part of the scene.
Stanton led the majors in homers last season with 59 for the Miami Marlins. Judge led the A.L. with 52. Stanton has the majors’ richest guaranteed contract, at $325 million. Judge has a wood-paneled cheering section in right field in the Bronx.
Many will love these Yankees, many will loathe them, but all will expect them to win. That is just how Boone wants it.
“It beats the alternative, right?” he said. “I mean, it really does.”