We all know who the best player was in New York in 2017, in any sport.
It was the big kid, Aaron Judge, All Rise Judge, around whom the rising of the Yankees was built in October, the kind of baseball October that was once as regular a pageant around here as the tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza, or New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
And the best of it for me, the best moment, wasn’t the Yankees coming back after they were down 3-0 in the wild-card game with the Minnesota Twins before they ever came to bat; or the comeback against the Houston Astros in Game 4, when the new Yankee Stadium finally sounded like the one across the street. No, the best of it was after Game 5, when the Yankees had gone ahead three games to two, and were as close to the World Series as they had been in eight years.
The best of it was walking out of the Stadium that night with Yankees fans flooding out of the place in this loud, exuberant wave, down the steps at Babe Ruth Plaza, everybody heading toward 161st St. and the parking lots and the subway station, yelling “Let’s Go Yankees” and “(expletive) Verlander,” meaning Justin Verlander, whom they knew their team was going to be facing in Game 6. These weren’t sounds out of the past on 161st St. This wasn’t about the last 100 years in baseball in the Bronx. This was about the last few weeks, against the Twins and the Indians and the Astros. It was about everything old being new again with the Yankees.
It all went wrong in Houston, of course. Verlander did to the Yankees what the chants said the Yankees were going to do to him. The Yankees couldn’t hit him and they couldn’t hit two guys named Morton and McCullers in Game 7— a preview of coming attractions for the Dodgers in the World Series — and they didn’t go to the World Series. So the last best part of the Yankee season had come in the middle three games of the American League Championship Series.
Now they regroup, in such an expensive and showy and front-page way. They go get Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Jeters, and pick up the kind of contract they once lavished on Alex Rodriguez, everybody’s All-America. They are paying Stanton around $265 million over the next 10 years, and giving him a no-trade, and even an opt-out clause because, hey, you need to add sweeteners with a deal like Stanton’s. They get the big guy from Miami and immediately are the big, bad Yankees again. It is all covered as if order has been restored to Yankee Universe, even if there has been just one World Series title in that universe in the past 17 years, during which just one team with a payroll over $200 million has ever won the Series:
Them. In 2009.
Now we will see if the Yankees getting back into the big business of being the Yankees works out for them. You bet they made the big deal of the winter meetings. They got the big guy in Stanton, him and his 59 homers, which is even more than Judge hit. And you know how it goes around here, especially with the Yankee media: Every time they have ever made an expensive, showy play even close to Stanton, the rest of baseball is supposed to want to hide in the clubhouse, because that is how ferocious the Yankees are going to be. It was that way when they made the A-Rod trade in 2004, the same way now.
Maybe they will be a home-run powerhouse and beat the rest of the baseball world down. But maybe they won’t.