Back in April, after another slow start at the plate, I wrote about how it felt like the Yankees had lost their personality dating back to the 2020 season. The product on the field wasn’t particularly good on either side of the ball, both seasons ended in disappointment, and the spark from the players just didn’t seem to be there, at least on a consistent basis.
32 games into the 2022 season, it appears that the Yankees have found themselves again. The pitching staff has been excellent, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have been predictably awesome (even after a slightly rough go of things for Stanton at the beginning), Anthony Rizzo got off to a blistering start at the plate, DJ LeMahieu is healthy and back to doing what he does best, and Gleyber Torres has come up with some big moments at the dish. Beyond just the on-field performance, though, the team just feels... alive again.
This past week alone, we’ve seen two incredible performances in games that were otherwise teetering on the brink of disaster for the Yankees. On Tuesday evening, the Yankees bullpen gave up two late runs to the Toronto Blue Jays to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth. After the Jays went to Jordan Romano, one of the most successful closers in the league, to shut the door, an excellent one-out at-bat from Jose Trevino led to a walk, followed by a second to DJ LeMahieu. We all know what happened next: Aaron Judge stepped up, put up an at-bat that should be housed in the Louvre, and crushed a game-winning three-run home run.
And then there was Thursday night’s victory over the Chicago White Sox. After getting off to a great start at the plate and scoring seven runs in seven innings in support of their struggling young starter, the White Sox tied the game at seven runs apiece thanks to a three-run home run off the bat of Yoán Moncada in the seventh inning. Rather than caving in on themselves, the Yankee offense exploded for eight more runs, seven of which came in the very next frame. Of course, Tony LaRussa should be credited for making some mind-boggling decisions with his bullpen, but there were some great at-bats and some hustle plays that led to this offensive explosion, the kind of which were a rare commodity the last couple seasons.
In 2020 or 2021, more often than not, both of these games would have felt out of reach despite a promising start. Far too often over the course of the last two seasons, we could see the exact moment the proverbial light would go out for the Yankees and the team would collapse in on itself. This year, however, the team feels like they’re still right in it, even when they’re struggling offensively or blowing leads late in the game.
I know that I’m only discussing a two-game sample size here, but the vibes around this team are the best they have been in a very long time. Unlike the past couple years, the team seems to be playing with a kind of swagger that is hard to define but is still wholly important. It came in spurts over the course of the last two seasons, but it seemed like the Yankees just simply could not find any sort of consistency and, as a result, looked extremely lifeless at times. This season, however, even in the most challenging of circumstances in the early going, the Yankees have never really felt like they were out of it, at least to me. It’s still early, but to see the team healthy, competing, and having fun again has been a welcome early-season narrative.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are still some issues with this team that need to be addressed at some point. The lack of production from the bottom third of the order is particularly disturbing, as is the complete void at the plate from both catching options. Jonathan Loáisiga has had a particularly rough start to the season, and, as happens from time to time, the offense has disappeared for a couple games at a time. But winning masks a lot of ugliness for any team, and this team has done plenty of that in the early going. The vibes, as they say, are immaculate. Let’s hope the winning ways continue to follow suit.