Yankees must win 2022 World Series to validate historic season
It is one of the great truisms of baseball that, every single year, the New York Yankees are expected to win the World Series. Such exorbitant expectations are woven into the sacred pinstriped fabric, couched in the imperialist DNA of sports’ most illustrious franchise. Where other teams exist in Darwinian cycles, crafting finite windows of potentiality, the Yankees lurk in a perpetual state of hunger. Unless they win the final game of a season, said season is a failure. And never before has that gluttonous mania loomed larger than it does right now, in the halcyon summer of 2022, with the Bronx Bombers halfway through one of the greatest seasons in their hallowed history.
Right now, as the All-Star break offers a momentary pause, the Yankees have baseball’s best record at 64-28. New York is 13 games ahead of Tampa Bay in the American League East, a division flag seemingly within reach by Labor Day. More pertinently, the Yankees are on pace to win 112 games – in the same orbit as the franchise record of 114 and the all-time mark of 116. This affirms the belief that we are watching a truly special team accomplish truly special things, and they may rewrite the history books before all is said and done.
These are not hollow numbers, either. For three and a half months, the Yankees have been the best baseball team on the planet. In April, May and June, they blew teams away, going 56-21 with a +150 run differential. Naturally, their pace has regressed slightly since then, with a .533 winning percentage since July 1, but this is still a powerhouse clicking on all cylinders. This is still a juggernaut rolling towards October. This is still a World Series contender outstripping expectations. It is really exciting to watch.
Ultimately, this is what life should be like for the New York Yankees and their fans. This is exactly how they drew it up, exactly how they always draw it up. Aaron Judge has been superhuman, hitting .284/.364/.618 with 33 homers and 70 RBI. Giancarlo Stanton has been great, adding a further 24 bombs. Gleyber Torres has bounced back; Anthony Rizzo has been a stabilising force; and Matt Carpenter has been a revelation. Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes have anchored a reliable rotation, and Clay Holmes has usurped Aroldis Chapman in a typically dominant bullpen. The Yankees have even transformed their defensive output, thanks to the understated contributions of Josh Donaldson, Jose Trevino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. However you dice it, everything has clicked for the 2022 Yankees, and the pressure to win it all – to add a golden exclamation point to a phenomenal campaign – grows stronger every day.
Amid such a remarkable season, I’m once again reminded how Yankees fans are unique in their relentless demanding of glory. Whereas other fanbases may enjoy the ride, we are laser-focused on, and increasingly apprehensive about, the end result. Watching the Yankees lose two straight games to the Red Sox recently was torturous, while dropping a series to the lowly Cincinnati Reds carried a sense of foreboding. I’m fully aware such complaints smack of entitled Yankee delusion, the likes of which most baseball fans abhor, but we are playing a different game. Winning means more to us than it does to everybody else. Winning defines us, and being deprived of success leaves us bewildered.
Indeed, haters often disparage Yankees fans for viewing success as a birthright, but I’m not ashamed of that worldview. In this age of ubiquitous tanking and disingenuous ownership, the Yankees’ obsession with winning is refreshing. This is not your typical humdrum ballclub attempting to win 90 games. This is different. In fact, I’m worried about the Yankees not winning a ring this year. After all, if they set a franchise record for wins and annihilate all opponents, only to come up short in October yet again, where does that leave us as fans and as a franchise? How could we ever live that down? We could not, quite frankly, and that is why the Yankees have so much at stake over the next four months.
Yes, the Bombers have 27 world championships to their sacrosanct name. And yes, they have the $240 million payroll of expectant competitors. But they have not won the World Series since 2009, and as a long-suffering fan who has hung on every pitch through much of that drought, I’m famished for a return to glory. I want this more than ever before – emboldened by recent failures rather than discouraged by them.
Sure, saying the Yankees have to win the World Series is clichéd. Management says it every year, channelling the ghost of George Steinbrenner. We parrot the credo as fans, too, even when the team is fatally flawed. However, this year, after such a brilliant start, and with all the stars aligning to produce such a critical mass, the Yankees really, truly, seriously, absolutely must win the World Series in 2022. Anything less would be a monumental failure, casting doubt on the team’s ability to ever dominate again. If not now, when? That is the slogan of this Yankees season.
And so, what will it take? What do the Yankees need – by way of trade deadline reinforcements – to validate their stratospheric start with a clinical conclusion? Well, not a whole lot, actually. As a team, they rank first in wRC+ and defensive WAR. They rank third in starters’ ERA and second in bullpen ERA. If anything, they could probably use a few accent pieces – those unheralded cogs that tend to solidify the backend of championship rosters. A solid outfielder who can run and play good defence – perhaps David Peralta or Ian Happ. A backup shortstop with a dependable glove – maybe Andrelton Simmons or Ha-Seong Kim. A veteran starting pitcher with postseason experience who can cover unforeseen injuries, a la Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke or Madison Bumgarner. Maybe another fireman in the bullpen – somebody like David Bednar, David Robertson, Daniel Bard or Gregory Soto.
Zooming out, it may seem crazy to worry about a .696 baseball team, but that is just what I’m doing. That is what a lot of Yankees fans are doing because, well, they are Yankees fans. From here on out, each win makes future wins more critical. The dial keeps turning. The pressure keeps rising. The desperation keeps growing. Few understand our esoteric quest for bigger and better, but it sustains us. It gives us life. We yearn for moments like this, when the Yankees are baseball’s best. But we live for triumph in the fall, when those same Yankees ride down the Canyon of Heroes as world champions. We may never get a better chance to make it happen, so move those chips and go all-in. Excellent teams are remembered, but championship teams are immortal.