During the Yankees’ dynasty years, there were teams that nagged even those great teams persistently over that time. Every game was a battle, from April until October, and they gave way to their own generational rivalries. The Red Sox (obviously), Angels, and Twins immediately come to mind.
This is a new era, though, not only for the Yankees but for the whole sport. No longer is it the teams of the late-90’s and 2000’s that dominate the landscape but a whole new crop of teams and players, and that’s definitely better for the sport.
The strategy of “tanking” has recently been quite the lightning rod, and no team bears more of that criticism than the Astros, who won a total of 232 games from 2011 to 2014, which is beyond brutal. In 2013, the team drew a 0.0 Nielsen rating, and their local viewership hovered somewhere around 1,000 households per game.
That was deemed to be all worth it, because the team still made a profit and they stockpiled as much young talent as they could while they stunk. They did a pretty good job at that. From 2012 to 2015 they got three first-overall picks and a second-overall pick, and despite the mind-boggling Brady Aiken situation, they still made out fairly well with picks in general from 2011 to then—George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman all find themselves on the big league roster today.
This resurgence somewhat coincides with the Yankees’ own. They met already in the wild card game of 2015, facing a somewhat different Yankees team. But it could be a harbinger of future battles to come.
Consider this: the Astros currently have four regular position players under 30—Bregman, Springer, Correa, and Jose Altuve. The Yankees as of now have five—Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and Aaron Judge. Of course, I likely take the former core over the latter, but this doesn’t include the fact Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier are on the way as well, and the Yankees still have a pretty stocked farm system, so that number could very well change.
This means that the central cores of each—Springer, Correa, Altuve, Bird, Sanchez, and Judge—could be competing against each other for a while, or at least I would predict they might. Which means the Astros are going to be a thorn in the Yankees’ side for a very long time. They already bounced the 2015 squad, and rightfully so, because Dallas Keuchel and that team was a truly better team, in my estimation. But there are likely to be more.
With the advent of the second wild card, it’s almost a given the Astros will luck themselves into at least that a few times over the next few years, and the likewise with the Yankees. If you have a good, young core, and you surround them with a viable supporting cast, that gives you a contending team.
I predict the Astros to be one of the best American League teams over the next half-decade, and I would say the Yankees won’t be too far behind. With the way baseball often goes, these teams so often collide. Right now it’s a seemingly inconsequential match-up in May where one still realizes just how good this Astros team is. Before you twist and turn, it could be an elimination game in October. Let’s just hope Keuchel isn’t on the mound.