Objectively speaking (although that is truly impossible), it is great to be a Yankee fan. Don’t get me wrong — the last decade or so has resulted in repeated disappointment. The expectation is always a championship. Not only has history contributed to that, but the words of Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner constantly double down on it. It’s championship or bust. That may sound greedy, but that’s the expectation that is always set.
Entering the 2022 season, the expectation is the same. They have top-five World Series odds according to FanGraphs. That is enough to maintain the expectation that if the team does not win what Fernando Tatis Jr. calls “The Big Cake,” the season will absolutely have been a disappointment. A 9.7-percent chance is pretty decent to win the World Series! In any season, I’d bet 28 other teams would be extremely excited by those odds. However, this is the Yankees. They shouldn’t have the fifth-best odds in the league, praying for everything to fall in place.
Even with a near-$250 million payroll, the team did not spend enough this offseason. We know this. On top of that, they did not meaningfully increase their World Series odds via trade either. With the opportunity to add generational talents to support your strong, win-now championship core, you must not fail. Even with some very good teams in recent years, the front office has failed to put together top-tier talent up the middle. Looking across the league, the teams that win almost always have superb players in those roles.
With multiple players on the free agent board only costing money, the team failed to fill in the roster’s biggest hole at shortstop. Now, heavy burdens weigh on new acquisition Isiah Kiner-Falefa to be competent, Gleyber Torres to still potentially fill in there from time to time, and most importantly, Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza to pan out as long-term contributors. There is no other option after passing up on the likes of Carlos Correa and Corey Seager.
It’s so very disappointing that an owner who just signed Gerrit Cole to a $324-million deal has suddenly become money-shy. Despite generating more Benjamins than other franchise year in and year out, ownership is doing the most to merely be good enough. The Yankees fanbase and I cannot be fooled by the words of “highest payroll in team history,” which completely ignore inflation (among other things).
All this aside, this does not mean you should refuse to get excited about this season. Last year, we finally witnessed the power of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton carrying the lineup. It was amazing to see. Now, with the addition of Josh Donaldson and a full season of hopefully improved output from Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, the offense’s potential looks much more promising! They’re betting on several bounce-backs that they did not have to, but what if a few of them actually work out? There is a world where this is one of the best lineups in the American League — if not the best. That is something to be excited about!
It’s also the first time in a long time that we will get to see Luis Severino back in the rotation. I remember his back-to-back five-WAR seasons. He was exhilarating to watch. If he returns to the form that we know he has in him, the Yankees will feature one of the scariest 1-2 punches in baseball. Thanks to a capable bullpen, and a surprising rotation that surged under pitching coach Matt Blake, the rest of the staff is dangerous too. What else can we do other than hope? If we’re watching the games, we might as well root for the best possible outcomes.
I will remind you, rooting for the team to win it all and being critical of the front office are mutually exclusive. If the team is at the top of the league at the trade deadline and ownership isn’t as aggressive as possible, we will be reminded of that. I am going to enjoy the ride either way though. With the top-level talent this team possesses, I think it would be silly not to. I believe they call it cautiously optimistic.