Russell: What A Yankee Season It Can Be

The Yankees open their home schedule on Tuesday (weather permitting) against Tampa Bay, where they went 51-30 in the regular season and 6-0 in the playoffs in 2017.
The last time the Yankees played in the Bronx, they beat the Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS to put themselves one win way from the World Series. Joe Girardi’s team saw Houston pitching dominate the last two games to end the postseason run.

Now it’s 2003 ALCS hero Aaron Boone in the dugout, after the Yankees brought him out of the ESPN booth. “I understand what a big deal it is to run out on that field in pinstripes,” Boone said of the home opener. “And I’m really excited to do that and excited to do that with this team.”

You also may have heard Giancarlo Stanton joined the lineup.

Even though they aren’t the defending league champions, the Yankees are back as the Evil Empire, as the hunted. Once again, there’s a World Series or bust mentality on 161st Street. The future is now.

We all know a few Yankees fans that still had that mentality in 2013 and 2014, when the team wasn’t playoff-caliber. But now the Yankees have the attention of the baseball world again. Yankee haters were appalled once upon a time when the defending AL champions added Alex Rodriguez. Now a team that was one win away from the Fall Classic adds the defending NL MVP, and they acquired him from Derek Jeter’s Marlins no less.

Very quickly the team went from a Baby Bombers group with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino which was tough for opposing fans to hate, to “us against the world status”. Las Vegas has the Yankees at 6/1 odds to win the World Series, only behind the Dodgers and Astros. And Sports Illustrated has the Yankees winning the pennant although they will supposedly lose to the Nationals in the World Series. It’s almost easy to forget that the Yankees aren’t actually the defending division champs. That would be the Red Sox. But the Yankees are built to win the AL East (and much more) for the first time since 2012.

What a season it can be. The power in the lineup that can break the team record of 245 home runs set in 2012, and maybe the Major League record of 264 set by the 1997 Mariners. New additions such as Neil Walker and Brandon Drury. Tyler Austin and Tyler Wade attempting to make themselves known, with Austin already having a two-homer game. A rotation including Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched well down the stretch last season and in his first start of 2018, and Jordan Montgomery, who will try to prove that there is no sophomore jinx. CC Sabathia attempting to show there’s more left in the tank after a vintage 2017 season.

Severino trying to build on his All-Star campaign of a year ago. A bullpen which should be one of the best in baseball even after a few hiccups in Toronto.

If it all comes together the way fans expect it to, there will be a 28th World Series title at the end of the year.

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