Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday afternoon that the team’s surprising playoff run this season is just the start.
The Yankees went 91-71 during the regular season, beat the Twins in Tuesday night’s American League wild-card game and now get the Indians in the ALDS.
“There’s no doubt I think we have many good years to come,” Steinbrenner said on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio.
The Yankees, with a mix of young talent and veterans, could be viewed as ahead of schedule. Aaron Judge led the charge of young stars this season with 52 home runs, 114 RBIs and a .284 batting average. Judge not only is a lock for AL Rookie of the Year but is a strong AL MVP candidate. Catcher Gary Sanchez had 33 home runs and 90 RBIs in his first full season in the major leagues.
“Well, I don’t think anybody could have guessed what Aaron Judge was going to pull off this year,” Steinbrenner said. “I mean, it’s been a phenomenal story, obviously. As far as the team itself, the only thing I will say is coming out of spring training, we scored a lot of runs. I saw a lot of offense, a stark difference from the year before. If you score a lot of runs, you’re going to do well in this game. We knew we had a pretty good bullpen going in. Starting pitching needed to work itself out in certain ways and it did.”
Steinbrenner said the Yankees’ strong farm system makes him very optimistic about the future. “We’ve got a lot of talent down below,’’ he said, “and it’s going to keep coming.”
The deals by general manager Brian Cashman in July, however, ultimately helped the Yankees reach the playoffs.
“We felt we needed a couple more pieces and we went out and got them,” Steinbrenner said.
Steinbrenner pointed to the addition of starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the A’s and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox. Gray started ALDS Game 1 against the Indians on Thursday night. Robertson and Kahnle played key roles out of the bullpen for the Yankees in their wild-card win.
“I think we really believed that if we could improve ourselves in a couple of ways, we would be playing in October,” Steinbrenner said.
Didi Gregorius also has played a key role this season, giving the Yankees a big reason to believe they have a solid Derek Jeter replacement for years to come. In his third season with the Yankees, Gregorius had a career year, hitting .287 with 25 home runs and 87 RBIs. He tied the wild-card game with a three-run home run in the first inning.
“Nobody could have predicted how he would handle not just New York, right, coming from Arizona, but walking into that position of replacing an icon,” Steinbrenner said. “That was a variable.”
Steinbrenner also addressed the young girl who was hospitalized after being hit by a line drive off the bat of Todd Frazier at Yankee Stadium last month.
“It was an awful situation,” Steinbrenner said.
The Yankees announced last week that they will add protective netting to the Stadium before the start of next season. Steinbrenner said adding protective netting was a season-long process, which included examining data of where balls went in the Stadium, and Steinbrenner said season-ticket holders were told the Yankees were serious about the extra netting.