The history of the Yankees at the World Baseball Classic has been uneven, but almost always worth keeping tabs on. While Robinson Canó was the MVP of the tournament and only Yankee to play internationally in 2013, the 2017 WBC featured five Bronx big leaguers, second-most only to the inaugural edition in 2006. While the class of 2017 didn’t quite have the name recognition or scorching-hot peak of its predecessors, it continued a trend of solid and sometimes even spectacular performances on the world stage for players who would subsequently spend their summers in the Bronx.
2017, of course, was the year that the United States finally broke through, emerging victorious in four consecutive win-or-go-home contests to take home their first championship. Their roster only featured one Yankee at the time, though: Tyler Clippard, who provided the stars and stripes with 4.1 innings of one-run ball over three appearances, including a win in the opening round against Colómbia. He was also on the mound for the tournament highlight, when Adam Jones robbed O’s teammate Manny Machado.
Here you can find him striking out Tyler O’Neill and Justin Morneau back-to-back as part of a scoreless two-inning, four punchout appearance against Canada:
Clippard wouldn’t finish the 2017 season with the Yankees, winding up in Houston by way of Chicago as the only major leaguer in the return that brought Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson* (again) to New York.
*Since D-Rob was still on the White Sox at the time of the WBC, he doesn’t make this post, but he did close out Team USA’s title.
Dellin Betances could have picked up a medal himself, as a Manhattan native, but he wound up knocked out before the semifinals as a member of his parents’ native Dominican Republic. It wasn’t his problem, though: Betances was dominant, throwing five shutout innings across five appearances, continuing the longstanding tradition of coaching staffs managing as if giving him two days off in a row would trigger the apocalypse. He was still at the height of his powers in March 2017, in any case. Check out this disgusting breaker to ring up Jones and end his scoreless inning against the Untied States:
Luis Severino was also in the pitcher pool for his native DR, but unproven following a disappointing sophomore campaign in the majors, he didn’t see any action on the international stage.
No hitter in the WBC was as hot as Robinson Canó in 2013, but Didi Gregorius sure tried his hardest for the Netherlands. Though he didn’t start every game, primarily DH’ing in deference to Andrelton Simmons and Xander Bogaerts on the infield, Didi finished with a .348 average in the Dutch semifinal run, and that was after an 0-for-4 spot in his final appearance. He led the Oranje with eight RBI for the tournament, including a monster five-RBI performance in the second round clincher that included this moonshot:
Didi also had his moment of heroics in a game he wasn’t already ahead by seven runs, knocking three doubles in an opening round matchup with Taiwan, the final one to tie the game in the eighth inning:
Rounding out the Yankees pride in the ‘17 WBC were a pair of relievers who wound up making a scattershot series of appearances for the ‘17 squad. They could not have been at more different junctures of their careers, either. Despite throwing 2.1 scoreless innings for an Italy team that came a tiebreaker run short of their first semifinals bid, Tommy Layne’s bid with the Yankees was less successful. After breaking camp with the team, he was designated for assignment in early June, 7.62 ERA in tow. Conversely, though Giovanny Gallegos made just one appearance for a disappointing Mexico side, allowing one run in a two-inning relief outing, his stint with the Yankees following the spring — and pretty much everything, really — turned out a fair bit better than Layne’s, working to a 4.75 ERA over 20 appearances before being traded for Luke Voit and embarking on a fine career in the back end of the Cardinals bullpen.
Between Clippard, Betances, Gallegos, and Layne, Yankees pitchers allowed just two runs over 12.2 innings of work in the ‘17 Classic. It doesn’t quite match up to Canó’s run earlier in the decade, but it comes closer than I would’ve thought!
Sadly, the 2023 Classic is looking likely to be the least-storied of them all from the perspective of the Yankees fan, barring an unexpected run of greatness from Kyle Higashioka, currently slated to be their only delegate on Team USA, though maybe Gleyber Torres and Jonathan Loáisiga can make some magic for Venezuela and Nicaragua. Stranger things have happened! I look forward to covering it.