New York Yankees baseball is back, courtesy of a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Tampa this afternoon. This game gave fans plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2018 season, and it all happened with regular starters Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge all sitting out.
But this game also provided some key takeaways, one of which is that this will be a season far different from years past.
A new sheriff in town
New York has a new manager this year in former MLB third baseman and ESPN commentator Aaron Boone and one thing is certain: his style is the exact opposite of the previous regime's. Gone are the days of Joe Girardi's stone-faced, churlish demeanor. Gone is the atmosphere where players spoke more to coaches than they did to the manager. Gone is the era where lack of communication plagued the clubhouse.
In his first game as manager, Boone also served as his team's loudest cheerleader. The YES Network's broadcast of the game caught Boone shouting support at his players when they were up at bat or in the field, something unheard of in Yankees camp during Girardi's tenure. Where Girardi sat quietly and just watched the game, getting up as necessary, Boone was watching with the same excitement some may have on the first day of school. He sat and took in all of the action, but behind those attentive eyes was someone just wanting to jump up and down in exuberance at every moment.
Time will tell if Boone's lack of managerial and coaching experience comes back to bite him, but the Yankees looked loose and relaxed on the field instead of rigid and focused like they were under Girardi. At least in the early phases, the team is responding well to Boone.
If there's one thing this year's Yankee team has a lot of, it's depth. New York is so deep that they may soon join the St. Louis Cardinals as the San Antonio Spurs of baseball. If one player goes down, another can be called up and step in as if nothing happened at all. To give a better idea, the Yankees scored all three of their runs in the sixth inning, after the game's starting players had already been benched.
It may have been against the Tigers' second-stringers, but this is still significant for the Yankees. That infield prospect Tyler Wade legged out a double and then scored the tying run on outfielder Jake Cave's RBI groundout speaks volumes, as does Jorge Saez's two-run single that gave the Bronx Bombers the lead.
Injuries and underperformance have crippled teams before, but not this one. I'm expecting the 2018 Yankees to be fighters regardless of circumstance.
The Stanton hype is real
Giancarlo Stanton was 0 for 1 with a walk and grounded into a double play in his first game as a Yankee, but the fans embraced him just the same. The crowd roared as his name was blared over the loudspeakers and the reigning National League MVP remained cool and collected as expected.
Just wait till he and Aaron Judge are in the lineup together, at which point the crowd might be measurable on the Richter Scale!
There will be growing pains
This Yankees team is young, and it showed in this game. Of the players in the starting lineup, eight were under the age of 30. As was mentioned earlier, the team did not score until the sixth inning and ten runners were left on base. For the first half of the game, it looked like a combination of offseason rust and first-day jitters were holding the Yankees back, and that may very well last into early in the regular season.
Keep in mind the Yankees not only have a new manager in the dugout for the first time since 2008 but the team's entire approach on the field is also changing. Analytics is the new name of the game in the Bronx and decisions will be made accordingly. For the players, it just means playing the game but for the staff, it means making tough decisions when the pressure is on. Make no mistake, as successful as this team can be, don't be surprised if it takes them a few weeks to get the wheels moving.