Aaron Boone said throughout spring training the 2019 Yankees have a chance “to be special.”
And after winning 100 games last season but falling to the Red Sox in the AL Division Series, only one achievement can truly make it that for Yankees fans — a World Series title, which would be the franchise’s first since 2009.
And the overwhelming feeling from inside the clubhouse is this team is more than equipped to do it.
“We won 100 games last year and we’re even better than we were last year so that’s a great thing to come into a season,” said Giancarlo Stanton, whom many believe in his second year in pinstripes will surpass what he did in 2018, when he hit 38 homers and drove in 100 runs. “We just have to feed off it and go out there and put it together.”
That quest officially begins Thursday afternoon against the Orioles at the Stadium.
The Yankees went 100-62 last season but finished eight games behind the Red Sox, who then beat them in the ALDS. The Red Sox took out the Astros in the ALCS and captured yet another World Series — their fourth since 2004 — with a victory over the Dodgers.
It was the second straight season the Yankees lost to the eventual World Series winner — they fell to the Astros in seven games in the 2017 ALCS — creating a “hunger” Boone said was “palpable” among players this spring.
“Starting the new season, if you didn’t win it all last year, you definitely want to get farther than you did the year before,” Aaron Judge said. “In ’17 we got one game away from the World Series, then last year, losing in the DS. Both of those years sting a little bit.”
The ultimate goal, of course, is the World Series but Judge mentioned a glaring hole in the franchise’s resume since 2012 — no division titles since then. The Yankees made the playoffs in 2015, 2017 and 2018, each year as a wild card. The Red Sox, by comparison, have won four AL East crowns since the Yankees’ last one, including the last three.
“For us, our goal is to win the division, first off, so we can line ourselves up for the playoffs,” Judge said. “I feel like that’s a huge advantage to have going into any playoff. That’s our No. 1 thing, we haven’t done it in quite a few years.”
Though the big free-agency splash many fans desired never occurred — meaning Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, neither of whom the Yankees really pursued — additions were made that have more than a few predicting the AL East crown will return to the Bronx.
Lefty James Paxton was added via trade and J.A. Happ and Zack Britton, both trade acquisitions in 2018, were re-signed as free agents. Stud reliever Adam Ottavino also was signed, giving the Yankees, on paper at least, the game’s best bullpen. The club added infielder DJ LeMahieu, a former NL batting champion and three-time Gold Glove winner.
“Our lineup, I was looking at it the other day [Monday in Washington], you can go 1-9, those guys can leave the park,” Judge said. “I think Sanchy [Gary Sanchez] was hitting [eighth]. When you have a guy like that hitting [eighth] in your lineup, that means you probably have a pretty potent lineup.”
And one that is plenty motivated.
“They’ve had a couple of really good teams here that have been close and the disappointment of it ending when you feel like you have a team capable of greatness, I think does add a log to the fire,” Boone said. “It does add a little extra kick to wanting this to get done. And I think that adds to everyone’s hunger a little bit.”