As the New York Yankees sit atop the AL East standings heading into a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, owner Hank Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman expressed their content with the way New York has played through the first two months of the season.
"It's good to know we're obviously on our way back to where we intend to get," Cashman said, according to Newsday's Erik Boland.
Many have been surprised at the Yankees' hot start given they traded several big-name players last year in return for prospects and got rid of several expensive contracts, however that belief was not shared by Steinbrenner.
"I wasn't dis-confident for this year," Steinbrenner said, according to the New York Daily News' Christian Red. "I've told everybody, 'Look, we're going to do alright this year. We're gonna be even better next year. Maybe by a mile.' As it turns out, we're doing really good this year with a mix of the young players and the veterans who we have now."
After missing the playoffs for the third time in four years last season, the Yankees have started the season 32-22, the second-best record in the American League, and have a plus-70 run differential, which is tied for third in the majors.
Led by Aaron Judge, whose 18 home runs lead the majors and 41 RBIs rank fourth in the AL, and their bullpen, which despite an injury to closer Aroldis Chapman has the No. 4 ERA in the majors, the Yankees have succeeded at the plate and on the mound. In the field, the Yankees have committed the fifth-fewest errors among all 30 teams.
"We're greedy," Steinbrenner said. "We want to win this year. It'd be great to win the championship this year. ... They're playing great as a team. They've got that team spirit. Judge is a big part of that too. Of course we're gonna try to win it this year."
Given that, Steinbrenner said he would still be reluctant to trade away prospects for big names. Cashman said before the season he was proud and hopeful their patience would pay off, and Steinbrenner said Monday the goal is to build a core of young talent similar to their dynasty of the 1990s.
"We'll do what we gotta do to win," Steinbrenner said. "We build the base like we had in the '90s, and go from there. ... I think it's nice when we come up with a top, young team and young players -- even with revenue sharing, which is completely unfair -- we can still afford to keep the kids. Even later on, when they become free agents. If we build a good enough base, there's no telling how long this will go on."
There is plenty of validity in Steinbrenner's statements.
The Yankees were not expected to be where they stand now, but lot has gone right in the first third of the season. For the most part, the veterans have held their own amid the growing success of a contingent of young players, including Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino, and the melding has created a winning atmosphere. The players believe in each other, and like the club's now more seclusive owner, they feel that they are legitimate contenders.
As Cashman notes, the Yankees are being taken seriously around the league. This is no longer a club riding a mere hot streak, but rather one with a solid foundation with helpful additions from within (Greg Bird and Chapman) coming in the near future. The Yankees have the ability to make improvements to their roster in the summer from within (think infielder Gleyber Torres and RHP Chance Adams), and if injuries befall the club, the need to go outside the organization to replace them might not necessary.
Their farm system is deep, and that's where the organization would like to remain, but there could come a point either this season, or before next, when the team might make a splash by using some of the talent as trade chips. The point is, they have options.
Of course, the organization's wealth remains a big strength. That combined with $85 million coming off the books at the end of this season (assuming they do not re-sign any of their free agents, which is not necessarily going to be the case), the club will be in a prime position in 2018 and beyond to continue to mesh superstar veterans with their dearth of highly touted minor leaguers.