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Yankees: What a Difference Two Years Can Make

Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

 

The New York Yankees are riding a veteran comeback and a group of young stars into the playoffs. Something a year ago no one thought was possible.

A year ago this month the Yankees were down and out. They were 10 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles, and were five games back of the second Wild Card spot. There was a Farewell Tour for the Yankees captain and legend Derek Jeter, and it was time to celebrate, look back, and say goodbye to an astonishing 20-year career for the proclaimed face of Major League Baseball.

There was no 2014 playoffs in the Bronx, and with Jeter leaving the field forever, Yankees fans saw a gloomy offseason and a gloomy next few years with no future stars, and the hated Alex Rodriguez looming in the distance.

So the offseason comes and goes and the Yankees are filled with question marks. Projected to finish third in the American League East before the season started, the Yankees have over achieved in every aspect and currently sit a half game out of first place. The main reason why? Believe it or not it is Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez came into this season not sure if he was even going to make the roster. No one knew if he was healthy enough to play everyday and put up quality at-bats day in and day out. 30 home runs later, the Yankees are fighting for the AL East crown.

A 40-year old that is arguably one of the greatest hitters of all-time, has compiled milestone after milestone and quite honestly is still one of the most exciting players to watch when he steps up to the plate.

Rodriguez has had curtain calls, standing ovations, and now his own day where he will be recognized for his 3,000th hit that he got in June, a home run off of Detroit Tiger ace Justin Verlander.

Rodriguez has also been an improvement off the field as well, donating to charity, and keeping his mouth shut.

Yankee fans didn’t like him, the Yankees didn’t want him, but now in September 1.5 games out of first place, it’s safe to say views have changed, and the Yankees would be absolutely no where without A-Rod.

Along with Rodriguez, Yankees fans were also concerned about the home grown talent that hasn’t been there the past few seasons. Well it’s safe to say that the time has changed. With General Manager Brian Cashman refusing to move his prospects at the trade deadline, the Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, and two young sensations have busted out on the scene.

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird was called up to give Mark Teixeira days off when he needed them, before Teixeira fouled a ball of his shin and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Bird has been impressive there is no doubt about it. The sweet swinging lefty has played in 23 games and is hitting .250 with five homers and 17 RBIs. In 111 games, Teixeira is hitting .255 with 31 homers and 79 RBIs. According to the Yes Network, if Bird’s numbers are prorated, you are looking at 37 home runs and 125 RBIs.

As Yankees radio play-by-play announcer would say, the “Birdman” of New York has been quite the competitor. With a sweet swing and a determined mind set, Bird has drawn attention from everyone, including MLB writer Peter Gammons who said, “Bird is special, with a little O’Neil in him.”

Gammons was referring to former Yankee outfielder Paul O’Neil, whose nickname was “The Warrior,” because of his intensity and determination. The Warrior nickname is also inscribed on his Monument Park Plaque in Yankee Stadium.

Bird has made an immediate impact for the Yankees and could very well be the everyday first baseman come 2017 when Teixeira’s contract expires. Either way he will be crucial to the Yankees and their run towards the playoffs.

Along with Bird is 21-year old pitcher Luis Severino. Severino has been electric for the Yankees this year since being called up. Severino, in six starts this season is 3-2 with a 2.04 earned run average. He has also struck out 34 in just 35 innings pitched.

The Yankees No. 1 prospect has been more than impressive for the Yankees as his fastball velocity is consistently 96-97 mph, and strikes out 8.66 batters per nine innings. Severino has also electrified the crowd and has been the most exciting Yankees pitcher to watch.

With the Yankees making a push for the Division, you can definitely see the difference between this year and last.

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