Look, I get it. It can be hard to come up with content in the dead of winter and the early goings of spring training. I’ve been there. But can we stop sensationalizing Yankees prospects already? This is New York and things are already tough. I don’t think we need a bunch of articles wondering if Aaron Judge has to worry about Bryce Harper or if Miguel Andujar will make Manny Machado unnecessary. Just stop, please.
We have been talking about Bryce Harper to the Yankees for years now and we’re still two more seasons away from making that scenario feasible and relevant. The New York media would have you believe that the Yankees signing Harper and/or Machado in a few years is already a done deal.
It doesn’t matter that Hal Steinbrenner has continuously shown an unwillingness to spend (two years and only one Aroldis Chapman to show for it) or increase payroll (that 2014 spending spree actually resulted in a decrease in payroll). It apparently doesn’t even matter that we’ve already seen the waiting strategy blow up in their face. Let’s just focus on the players who are actually on the team and in camp.
Sure, it’s all in the name of internet clicks in the slow part of the offseason, but the problem is that there are people out there who cling to everything the sports media pumps out. They don’t just believe what is said, they regurgitate it in place of intelligent discourse.
Remember when a fan asked Brian Cashman during a Q&A about signing Bryce Harper? Ignore the fact that the GM couldn’t even legally talk about him, it was just utterly stupid:
"The consensus from every Yankees fan, two years from now, big free agent class. What's going to happen. Is it Bryce Harper? Machado? (Matt) Harvey? Everybody wants to know. The talk about baseball is Bryce Harper will be a Yankee."
The problem with this kind of talk is twofold. First of all, it maintains the farce that the Yankees still buy any free agent they want. As if everything that has happened since 2013 doesn’t actually matter.
When Cashman responded to this guy with the most PR-friendly, wishy-washy comment he could muster—because it was his only option—the dude still continued with “if Aaron Judge doesn’t pan out, we’ve got to do something.” This brings us to the second problem.
Fan expectation is incredibly unrealistic in the Bronx. It’s boom or bust, there is no middle. His comments represent the typical Yankees fan putting too much pressure on young players and leaning far too heavily on the star power narrative. Both ideas are propagated by the New York media and fans lap it up because they want a homegrown star and a well-known superstar all at once.
Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York just wrote an article displaying the ridiculous pressure put on these players before they even get a real chance:
With his 25th birthday in April, Judge has a bit of a time limit for showing he is an every-day major leaguer. The Yankees have pitted him against a former top prospect, 27-year-old Aaron Hicks, who didn’t live up to his perceived potential in Minnesota.
The two are dueling for the starting right-field job. In the wings are top outfield prospect Clint Frazier, and two springs away, possibly Bryce Harper.
Not only do we already have the clock running on Judge, in an article about whether or not he is a future superstar (forget about a long-term productive player), but apparently Bryce Harper is a Yankees prospect already waiting in the wings. There are fans out there who read that and believe it. That Judge’s time is ticking away and Harper is basically already a Yankee. Forget the fact that both players can happily co-exist on the same team, or that we have to get through another two seasons before worrying about whether or not Judge will lose his job to Bryce Harper.
Then there is Mike Mazzeo’s piece at the New York Daily News wondering if Miguel Andujar can be good enough to make the Yankees forget about Manny Machado. First of all, Andujar will never be that good. Second of all, why are we even mentioning them in the same sentence? Andujar is an intriguing third base prospect who had a nice year and just hit a triple in Grapefruit League action. Machado is a three-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and a perennial MVP candidate at the age of 24. Stop.
Let’s all breathe, calm down, and stop worrying about the things we can’t actually control. Aaron Judge should get his shot, and he will either thrive or fail, however, the idea that anything less than 30 home runs a season is failure needs to be checked. All he needs to be is a league-average right now. We don’t even know what to expect from Andujar yet, but he has nothing to do with Machado.
It’s perfectly fine to hope that the Yankees sign one of these amazing players down the road, but let’s stop pretending that they are future Yankees and that these prospects need to compete with once-in-a-generation talent. That way lies disappointment. Aaron Judge isn’t looking over his shoulder at Bryce Harper and Miguel Andujar isn’t thinking about Manny Machado. Give them a chance to be their own players and let’s stop pretending that these are good stories to tell.