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Pinstripe Alley Book Review: “The Baby Bombers”

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Bryan Hoch’s new book is a must-have for any Yankees fan.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Yankees took the league by storm last season, making a deep playoff run during a supposed rebuilding year. While the organization is no stranger to postseason success, the cast of characters in 2017 stood out as exciting, energetic, and much to the chagrin of the rest of the baseball world, likable. Breakout performances by young superstars signaled a seismic shift in franchise history, one that would lend itself to a full retelling. Thankfully fans won’t have to wait long, as The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty by Bryan Hoch brilliantly captures the spirit of the squad and the entire youth movement.

Chronicling a sea change in one of baseball’s most storied franchises sounds like an ambitious effort. Hoch, however, proves up to the task. He approaches the story by setting out to meet four goals: detail the behind-the-scenes strategy of the youth movement; shed light on the players’ paths to the majors; cover the 2017 postseason run; and describe their record-breaking performances. The book’s narrative expertly weaves these themes throughout.

Some of the most interesting sections in the book revolve around the front office’s decision-making. Hoch frequently turns to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, in his own words, to prove first-hand insight. One of the more illuminating anecdotes occurs at the opening of the story, as the Yankees are attempting to land Didi Gregorius in a three-team trade with the Diamondback and Tigers.

“‘The tough decision-making in that process was that we were pitching deficient, especially starting pitching,’ Cashman said. ‘It was going to cost us a guy that we did like in Shane Greene, who was a young, under-control starter. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, but it speaks to how important the shortstop position is. We held our breath and made the decision to do so.’”

More stories like this pop up around two drastically different trade deadlines. In 2016, Cashman had to persuade Hal Steinbrenner to allow the team to sell off pieces. That let the club infuse young talent into an already promising farm system, including Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier, whom Cashman prioritized in any trade that would send Andrew Miller to Cleveland.

A year later, however, the deadline played out differently. Instead of shipping away veterans for prospects, the Yankees cashed in some of those chips to summon much needed reinforcements. In particular, the book provides great insight into the trade for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle. The deal came together after Cashman whiffed on acquiring Jose Quintana, the team’s white whale at the trade deadline. The Yankees eventually landed Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia to stabilize the rotation. These additions powered the Yankees through their playoff run, which Hoch chronicles in detail.

While the postseason narratives, inside baseball, and benchmark check-ins would fascinate any Yankees fan, the power of the book resides in the players it covers. Hoch devotes a majority of the book to the stories of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino - the core of the young squad. He traces their path to Yankee Stadium from their early lives through the farm system, all the way to their record-breaking performances in pinstripes.

He consults a variety of sources in establishing these profiles. Scouts, former coaches, baseball executives, teammates, and the players themselves build up the chapters. He captures their highs and lows, while mixing in a few previously untold stories, some of which are particularly funny. The part explaining Nick Swisher’s daily Waffle House breakfasts with prospects in 2016 stands out as a real highlight.

“When I think of the groundwork that has been laid with these Baby Bombers,” writes Mark Teixeira in the foreword, “I can’t help but get excited (almost giddy) to watch them grow up in pinstripes.” That same feeling of excitement leaps off every page of the book. It’s a fun time to be a Yankees fan, and no story better explains why. The Baby Bombers hits bookstores tomorrow, and is essential reading for anyone following the club.