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New York Yankees

While the Yankees have won but one World Series since 2000, their Evil Empire status is back with a vengeance in 2018. Aaron Judge’s non-controversial—hell, downright pleasant—personality hardly mirrors Darth Vader’s, but the power-mad pinstripers, again boasting ridiculous levels of both talent and depth, have roared through baseball at a 37-12 clip since April 21.

After last year’s club was seen by New Yorkers as an endearing underdog due to its young Baby Bombers (after faded figures like A-Rod, Mark Texeria, and Carlos Beltran only produced one playoff game in the previous four years), no one feels cuddly toward the 21st-Century Empire now. Power is their specialty; rarely scoring by any means besides homers and sac flies, they’re on pace for 273 round-trippers, which would break the 1997 Mariners' MLB record by nine. Aaron Judge, second in last year’s MVP race despite periodic ice-coldness, has matured into a consistent force with prodigious pop. Other mashers include LF/DH Giancarlo Stanton (acquired via trade last winter thanks to the Marlins’ salary dump) and catcher Gary Sánchez, who have crushed home runs in double digits despite sub-.250 batting averages. Didi Gregorius seemed to be Broadway’s newest star in April, when he hit .330 with 10 homers, but the shortstop spent May in a .151 freefall and is down to .259 at this writing.

The most infuriating/agonizing/depressing development for Empire-haters is the explosion of young talent rising from a resurgent farm system (credit cagey GM Brian Cashman, who finally convinced the late George Steinbrenner’s sons to build from within). As if youngsters Judge, Sánchez, and first-baseman Greg Bird weren’t enough, the lineup now features two guys who weren’t even around on Opening Day: infielders Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, both of whom provide plenty of offense and consistent clutch knocks.

The season-long Yankee-Red Sox battle for AL East supremacy seems destined to continue through game 162. At that point, whoever fails to capture the division may well host the AL Wild Card game…quite possibly against a scrappy never-say-die bunch from the Pacific Northwest. Could that contest be the stuff that dreams (or 1995 déjà vu’s) are made of?

Players to Watch

torresGleyber Torres: A front-runner for Rookie of the Year, Torres has all but put veteran Neil Walker out of a job. The 21-year-old Venezuelan came to New York from the Cubs' organization in the Aroldis Chapman trade and moved quickly up the Yankees' minor-league chain. He opened this year in Triple-A and put up an impressive .347/.393/.510 line to prove he was ready for The Show; he was promoted three weeks into the season and hasn't looked back.

judgeAaron Judge: Last year's Rookie of the Year and the MVP runner-up, the Yankee right fielder is just about duplicating his impressive 2017 in 2018. He led the AL in runs, homers, and walks last season, and currently holds a top-ten position in each of those categories as well as OBP, slugging, and RBI. His splits are notable, though; against lefties he's batting under .240 (though with a lot of walks), and he seems very much a home-field phenomenon—away from Yankee Stadium, his numbers are a Zunino-like .197/.280/.402.

severinoLuis Severino: The ace of the Yankees' staff, Severino currently leads the league in wins and is second only to the superhuman Justin Verlander in ERA. The young Dominican throws hard—his fastball has been clocked as high as 101mph—and will mix in a slider and a changeup to keep batters off guard. Severino compares well to reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber except when it comes to reservedness; self-expression does not seem to be among Severino's problems.

Manager

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Aaron Boone: Just as the Red Sox have a rookie manager who is the brother of a former Mariner fan-favorite second baseman, so do the Yankees. Brother of Bret Boone (and grandson of Ray Boone and son of Bob Boone, who also managed after his playing days), Aaron Boone was perhaps not the player his brother, dad, and grandpa were, but he did carve out a respectable Major League career for himself, playing for six teams from 1997-2009.

Becoming manager of the Yankees was a bit of a surprise, as Boone had zero coaching or managerial experience beforehand. The favorite to land the job after New York parted ways with longtime manager Joe Girardi was former Yankee and current Giants coach Hensley Meulens, who has managed in the minors and in the World Baseball Classic. Apparently Boone interviewed well and impressed the Yankee brass with knowledge and enthusiasm. Aside from Meulens, his competition was the recently-retired and equally inexperienced Carlos Beltran and the more experienced Eric Wedge, who had been Manager of the Year with Cleveland before managing the Mariners from 2011-2013, when he clashed hard with the dysfunctional and incompetent upper management regime here at the time.

Familiar Face

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Josh Bard: The only member of the Yankees' roster or coaching staff to ever play for Seattle, Bard joined the Bronx Bombers as bench coach to rookie manager Aaron Boone. Previously the bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the ex-catcher was a surprise hire; it was thought that the Yankees would get someone with managerial experience at some level to be Boone's right-hand man given Boone's own lack of experience. Instead, they went with Bard, a former teammate of Boone's in Cleveland. Given the Yankees' success so far, it's hard to quarrel with the choice.

Bard played ten years in the Majors as a backup catcher, and though well-regarded defensively never did much with the bat. He was a Mariner in 2010 and 2011, appearing in 65 games and batting .212 for Seattle. He only had minor-league offers in 2012 and played 45 games that year in Triple-A for the Albuquerque Isotopes in the Dodgers' system before retiring as a player.

Franchise History

New York Yankees(1913 - present)
 
World Champions:1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009
League Champions:1921, 1922, 1926, 1942, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1976, 1981, 2001, 2003
Division Titles:1980, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2012

— Notes —

Austin Romine: New York's backup catcher is brother to Mariner utilityman Andrew Romine. The longtime Yankee is having himself a fine year, batting roughly 100 points above his career average.

Historical Accuracy: It had been accepted that the Yankees originated as a founding member of the American League called the Baltimore Orioles, and that those Orioles relocated to New York in 1903. Recently, though, baseball historians, including the authors of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, have decided that it's more accurate to call the 1901-02 Orioles a separate franchise. Though when the AL was founded it was intended (secretly) that Baltimore would be a temporary home for a team while property in Manhattan was acquired for a ballpark, a feud erupted between league president Ban Johnson and John McGraw, who was running the Orioles, and McGraw connived to ruin the Baltimore club; the Orioles essentially had to fold in mid-season 1902, finishing out its schedule by fielding players borrowed from other teams. The New York team that began play in 1903 is now considered by these experts to be a new franchise created to fill the gap left by the Orioles' collapse. A fascinating article on the whole mess, by MLB official historian John Thorn, is recommended reading.

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