They are Bronx Bombers again, especially the hulking giant named Aaron Judge. They have a Hit Machine at the top of the lineup named DJ LeMahieu. They have a Cy Young-candidate named Gerrit Cole. They have their closer Aroldis Chapman on his way back from COVID-19. They have Masahiro Tanaka back on the mound since taking a 112-mph rocket in the head from Giancarlo Stanton. And their Next Men Up are superior than everybody else’s Next Men Up.
They’ve been knocking on the door the last two years, it has been 10 consecutive seasons when their self-imposed World Series-or-Bust mandate has gone Bust, and they are obsessed with kicking that door down.
Aaron Boone, so perfect for this market and for this storm, knows he has a Dream Team, his stars healthy again and aligned, his Savages in the box and on the mound making for an unstoppable freight train that maybe only a virus can stop.
And suddenly it feels like the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees and for Major League Baseball.
Dr. Fauci on the mound.
And what a shame that would be.
Especially for Boone’s Bronx Bombers.
The baseball gods can’t be this cruel to the Yankees, can they?
Tanaka was back in the saddle for 51 pitches, Judge homered for the fourth consecutive game, Gio Urshela blasted a grand slam and Nick Nelson was an unsung bullpen hero in the 6-1 Yankees’ 5-2 win over the Red Sox.
Judge, healthy finally, resembles the fearsome vintage 2017 version.
“One of the great players in the game,” Boone said.
But despite the Yankees’ great play, coronavirus still is lingering. Forget about hindsight is 20/20: MLB should have built a bubble. Or two. Or three. Whatever it took.
Money always talks. But bulls–t always walks.
As they pushed for the sport to return, “Tell us when and where” became the players’ rallying cry.
None of them, starting at the top, had any idea that the virus was telling anyone listening the same damn thing.
“I am not a quitter,” commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Neither is the virus.
Six teams have had their seasons paused.
“If anything, this season has taught us, and the virus has taught us, that this is always a day-by-day, week-by-week kind of situation that we exist in,” Boone said before the game.
Boss George Steinbrenner would have been proud how his son Hal’s Yankees have handled the pandemic.
“If your leadership is showing how important it is and you’ve got the front office like we have here taking it very seriously, I think that’ll trickle down to the players taking it seriously, I think that it’s a leadership thing and it’s something that we all need to take seriously,” James Paxton said.
It seems inconceivable that a Marlins team owned by Derek Jeter and managed by Don Mattingly could behave as recklessly as Billy Martin after hours and cause the embattled Manfred to threaten calling strike three on Friday and shutting down a season that began too late before it ever really began.
The news that four more members of the Cardinals organization tested positive forced their Saturday and Sunday games against the Brewers to be canceled has caused more consternation and high anxiety across the league.
Brewers All-Star center fielder Lorenzo Cain became the 16th player to opt out on Saturday. Expect others to follow. And who could blame them?
“It is manageable,” Manfred said.
Until it isn’t.
Manfred and the owners and the television networks will keep whistling in the dark, of course, until it isn’t.
Baseball’s Dance With Doomsday is what happens when:
Its leadership gambled that it could police the sport outside of a bubble assuming that the country would have a better control of the virus. Tragically, inexcusably, the country does not.
It was inevitable that there would be players long on stupidity and short on common sense and consideration who either underestimated the virus or considered themselves indestructible and chose to ignore warnings that were not loud or persistent enough.
That’s one toxic brew and one toxic mess.
Hotel hall monitors now have to prevent a player from searching for lemon pepper chicken wings? Better late than never, right? Perhaps a small army of compliance officers would help.
“Your decisions off the field will put all of our seasons in jeopardy this year,” Cubs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. tweeted Friday.
Especially outside any bubble, there has to be a shared responsibility on every team and zero tolerance for anything but disciplined, obedient behavior.
Even then, it should not have been lost on anyone that the virus can strike anywhere at any time. Sadly, it was lost on some when it cannot afford to be lost on one.
Is broadcaster Jerry Hairston right that Cardinals partied at a casino? SMH.
This rushed Baseball Experiment has seemed doomed from the start.
You feel for all the teams that have vigilantly followed the protocols and done things as right as they possibly could.
Despite MLB’s uneven battle vs. the coronavirus, The Boss would have loved these Yankees — 14 homers over the first seven games, 306 homers in 2019. Vince Lombardi would have, too: Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
Brett Gardner was part of the Yankees’ 27th championship team. This could be his chance for No. 28.
“There’s obviously 30 teams in the league, so I think it’s important that we all take it very seriously, and just be as smart as we can, not just at the field and on the field but away from the field,” Gardner said.
There is no margin for error.
Alas, to err is human. Starting at the top of the sport.
Play ball? Or play bawl?
“I think everybody wonders, whether it be players, or fans, even the league in general … and hope that things do get better, the numbers do get better, and the things that we’ve seen over the last week or so are the worst of it,” Gardner said.
Hope is not a strategy.
Nightmare looming for a Dream Team.
Bottom of the ninth.
Dr. Fauci on the mound.