This season did not provide us with an outcome we’ve come to expect from the Yankees. Ultimately, the focus steered toward many of the negative aspects of this team and this franchise as a whole. A few weeks removed from the regular season, though, this exercise of trying to find the five best moments felt therapeutic. 162 games provide enough opportunity to find entertaining and exciting moments, even if the team overall felt helpless at times. Here is a look back at the five best moments from the 2023 season.
1. Gerrit Cole’s Cy-capping shutout (9/27/23)
Cole positioned himself atop the running for the Cy Young Award well before this outing against the Blue Jays—but he left no doubt after a master class performance in the art of solidifying a trophy before the votes are cast. Cole’s complete-game shutout in his final start exemplified the type of pitcher he had been all season for the Yankees—aggressive, consistent, and dominant. Cole was everything you could ask for from an ace this season. His availability and workhorse mentality served as a reminder of how important it is to have a pitcher you can rely on every five days.
Cole also pitched a complete-game shutout against the Twins in April, but his final act of brilliance was the Yankees’ best moment of 2023.
2. Aaron Judge robs Shohei Ohtani (4/19/23)
We have all witnessed the superstar pitcher face the superstar hitter. It is the titan clash of a baseball game. But rarely do two position players have an opportunity to faceoff.
That changed when two of the biggest names in the game squared off in a single moment. In the top of the first inning, Jhony Brito threw a changeup that Ohtani was ready for. Earlier in that same at-bat, he had looked foolish on a similar pitch, but not this time. Ohtani hit a moonshot to center field, allowing for a slow build of anticipation as Judge slowly drifted back to the wall. Judge timed his jump, but the ball hit off the heel of his glove, sending it back into the field of play where Judge was able to corral it with his bare hand. The concentration and athleticism to focus on the ball moving in one direction while your body is shifting in another is what makes this play a must-see. But the fact it was Ohtani vs Judge lands it at the number two moment of the season.
3. Jasson Domínguez homers in first career at-bat (9/1/23)
Some scripts write themselves. Jasson Domínguez, the promising 20-year-old prospect in his first major league at-bat facing the future Hall-Of-Famer Justin Verlander in Houston. The anticipation for his debut brought life and intrigue to a team that felt stagnant for months. Delivering a home run on the second pitch you see—that’s fairytale territory. Yankees got a glimpse of the future with his short stint in the big leagues. Unfortunately, two weeks after his introductory highlight, Domínguez’s season ended with an elbow injury that later required Tommy John surgery. Despite the disappointing way his season was cut short, Domínguez’s demeanor and natural power made him feel like he belonged. The moment was not too big for him during his first at-bat.
4. IKF steals home against the Mets (6/14/23)
While doing research for this article, I can admit that I had forgotten about this play. I was disappointed in myself because A) Stealing home is a rare and electrifying play and 2) Watching the highlight triggered the memory of feeling pure joy when it happened live. Stealing home is a play that highlights both the athleticism and attention to detail that is needed from a baseball player at all times. Any lapse in judgment can be exploited, particularly on the basepaths.
Mets pitcher Brooks Raley decided to go from the windup with Kiner-Falefa on third. Raley never looked at Kiner-Falefa, who was halfway down the third-base line by the time Raley started his windup. I love the rise in the crowd during moments like this—realizing a play is unfolding a fraction before the players do. Leaving a steal of home off this list would be a travesty. Cheers to you, IKF.
5. Domingo Germán perfect game (6/28/23)
I battled with this moment the hardest. It deserves the respect that comes with becoming only the 24th person to accomplish a feat in major league history, and the first in 11 years.
Germán became just the fourth Yankee ever to throw a perfect game. A perfect game is history and a perfect game is forever. The game feels slightly tarnished by the events that followed, which ultimately ended his season, but on that particular night in Oakland, Germán performed at the highest level.