I’ve always had a lot of professional admiration for Santa Claus. An omniscient, unseen, unelected absolute moral arbiter who only has to work one day a year? How could you not be into that kind of lifestyle?
In that spirit, I’ve compiled my own “Naughty” and “Nice” list for the Yankees in 2020. I’ve done so with the aid of quantitative measures like “Do I like them?” and “Were they good?”. Like Santa himself, my list is unimpeachable and unappealable, and these Yankees will have to work very hard to get off the “Naughty” list over the next year.
Aroldis Chapman — Picture this. It’s the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees are on the cusp of playoff elimination. They’re squaring off against a rival with really bad blood, and animus that stretches back beyond this season. They’ve sent the highest-paid reliever in the American League to the mound to hold the line, a pitcher who perhaps single-handedly drove the obsession with high velocity in bullpen arms that teams fetishize.
The question is, is the year 2019 or 2020? In both years, this situation played out almost identically, and in both years, Chapman served up a season-ending home run. (The only difference was that in 2020, the decisive blow was struck in the home half of the eighth.) You can’t get on the “Nice” list when you end the season two years in a row, no matter how good you are in the regular season.
Mike Tauchman — Mikey. Buddy. After an incredible 2019, he entered 2020 as the fourth outfielder, and injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge opened up avenues for him to continue his strong showing in the majors. Instead, he revealed himself as a pretty big beneficiary of the juiced ball, and might end up not that good at all:
Randy Levine — A perennial entrant on this list, Levine actually made it closer to “Nice” this year than ever before. I completely agree with his calls for legalized sports gambling in New York, and think it opens up a host of really exciting possibilities within the game. However, he was still wrong about fans being able to attend Yankees games in 2020, and is just generally a gross person for reasons I won’t detail in a sports post. I’m hoping for a Scrooge-like redemption story from him, but I’m skeptical.
Gleyber Torres — I’m forgiving most of the statistical performances of players in 2020 because you have to discount so much of the variance of a 60-game season. What I’m not inclined to forgive is the defensive shortcomings from a shortstop, especially one who’s not hitting. Torres still spots sky-high potential and I don’t expect him on the “Naughty” list next year, but he disappointed this season.
Luis Cessa — He knows good and well what he did.
Giancarlo Stanton - The polar opposite of Chapman’s 2020: no regular season worth talking about, but what a postseason run:
That three-run blast off of Tyler Glasnow (you know the one!) is one of my favorite home runs I’ve ever seen a Yankee hit.
As much as people like me try to stress sample sizes and predictability, Yankees are judged by what they do in the postseason. Stanton has caught a ton of flak since being traded from the Marlins — some of it earned, most of it not — but his homers came when the Yankees needed them most, sparking a comeback against Cleveland, and tying or putting the Yankees ahead against the Rays. What a playoff run for Giancarlo.
Clint Frazier — I’m going to take a victory lap on this one. Before the season started, I wrote about the swing changes Frazier had made and how excited that made me about his 2020. Well, Clint took that two steps further, posting the third-highest walk rate on the club and improving his defense. He’s not really a Gold Glove defender, but he’s good enough that he’s no longer hurts the team in the outfield. The Yankees seemed reluctant to trust him in 2020, but headed into 2021, he has to be the team’s starting left fielder.
Gerrit Cole — I love Gerrit Cole, and he was exactly what the Yankees needed in 2020, all the way to his gutsy ALDS Game Five performance, his first ever start on three days’ rest. Now all he needs is a real No. 2 starter behind him.
Gio Urshela — Perhaps the single best acquisition, relative to expectations, of Brian Cashman’s career, Urshela became the Yankees’ own Matt Chapman for half a million dollars. But even setting aside his on-field performance, he is too adorable for words:
Who's going to be World Series MVP? pic.twitter.com/udMoNoZouV— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) October 6, 2020
Who’s on your own “Naughty” and “Nice” lists? Which Yankees are getting a PS5, and which will be holding the bag tomorrow? Let us know below, and if you’re celebrating, have a Merry Christmas.