YAN­KEES 2017 SEA­SON PRE­VIEW

The youth move­ment is here.

Metro USA (New York) - - Front Page - JOE PANTORNO @JoePan­torno sports@metro.us

It was not that long ago in this very galaxy that the New York Yan­kees adopted the rep­u­ta­tion as Ma­jor League Base­ball’s “Evil Em­pire.”

From 1996-2009, the Bronx Bombers won five World Se­ries ti­tles built around the “Core Four” of Derek Jeter, Mar­i­ano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pet­titte, who all made their MLB de­buts in 1995.

Jeter and Rivera are sure­fire first-bal­lot Hall of Famers as the best short­stop and closer of their gen­er­a­tion, re­spec­tively, while Posada and Pet­titte will take their place in the up­per ech­e­lon of Yan­kee he­roes.

The four­some com­bined for 35 All-Star Game ap­pear­ances and led the Yan­kees to 15 play­off berths in the 16 years they were to­gether.

To en­sure they stayed in power though, the Yan­kees’ front of­fice pil­laged the free-agent mar­ket through­out the years and com­piled one vet­eran star af­ter an­other to cre­ate a seem­ingly end­less su­per­power.

Whether it was Or­lando Her­nan­dez in 1998, Ja­son Gi­ambi in 2001 or Mike Mussina a year later (just to name a few), the Yan­kees were ac­cused of buy­ing their way to cham­pi­onships.

That was true in part, but they had the pay­roll and the rep­u­ta­tion to win the sig­na­tures of those big-name tal­ents most small-mar­ket teams could not come close to ac­quir­ing.

But as the envy of teams and fans alike, the Yan­kees de­scended into the depths of vil­lainy within the pub­lic eye that didn’t sup­port the pin­stripes.

It did lit­tle to slow them down, as they were base­ball’s most suc­cess­ful team from 2000-2013, win­ning 1,229 games. Their archri­val Bos­ton Red Sox, who were sec­ond on that list, had 71 wins fewer in that stretch.

To put it in lay­man’s terms, they would sim­ply kick down your door, break your spir­its and em­bar­rass you in front of ev­ery­one that ever loved you.

Still, the Yan­kees had is­sues with ac­cru­ing and keep­ing young tal­ent. In­stead, they would opt to deal it for the es­tab­lished vet­eran.

It worked for a while, but Fa­ther Time be­gan pick­ing off the “Core Four.”

Posada re­tired in 2011 and was joined by Rivera and Pet­titte two years later. The fi­nal mem­ber of that group de­parted in 2014 with Jeter’s un­for­get­table re­tire­ment tour.

The Yan­kees’ per­for­mance has been for­get­table since then, at least by their stan­dards.

Since 2013, they made the post­sea­son once and that was a one-game runin with Dal­las Keuchel and the Hous­ton Astros in 2015 when New York was shutout, 3-0.

The fran­chise has not ex­pe­ri­enced this tough a stretch since miss­ing the play­offs 13-straight sea­sons from 1982-1994.

One year later, the col­lec­tive mes­si­ahs of Yan­kee Sta­dium ar­rived and the cul­ture quickly changed.

With Open­ing Day 2017 ap­proach­ing on Sun­day, it looks like they have “A New Hope” in some­thing that looks aw­fully sim­i­lar.

Three young, 24-yearold home­grown tal­ents will start on Open­ing Day with catcher Gary Sanchez, first base­man Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge.

Sanchez will at­tempt to repli­cate a stel­lar de­but in which he elec­tri­fied the league last sea­son by belt­ing 20 home runs in his first 50 games, ty­ing Wally Berger’s MLB record set in 1930 with the Bos­ton Braves.

Bird has been con­sid­ered the heir-ap­par­ent to Mark Teix­e­ria for years now, but will fi­nally have the job all to him­self af­ter re­turn­ing from a shoul­der in­jury that forced him to miss 2016.

Judge has also been viewed as the right fielder of the fu­ture in the Bronx and has shown flashes of a big bat and im­pres­sive de­fense. How­ever, he will have to cut down on the strike­outs. In 2016 he struck out 42 times in 84 of­fi­cial at bats.

New York’s prospect pool is also among the best in the ma­jors and was ranked sec­ond in the league by MLB.com ear­lier in March.

They have seven play­ers ranked within the top 100 prospects league-wide and man­aged to do so via the trade mar­ket.

Short­stop Gley­ber Tor­res, the No. 3 prospect in base­ball, was ac­quired when the Yan­kees traded Aroldis Chap­man to the Chicago Cubs at the trade dead­line. Out­fielder Clint Fra­zier (No. 24) and pitcher Jus­tus Sheffield (No. 79) came from the Cleve­land Indians when the Yan­kees dealt re­liever An­drew Miller.

It is very likely that the Yan­kees are go­ing to be chas­ing the Bos­ton Red Sox this sea­son given their pitch­ing depth and ex­plo­sive of­fense. This new hope in youth though has de­liv­ered a new kind of op­ti­mism around Yan­kee Sta­dium.

One that hasn’t been felt since 1995.

GETTY IM­AGES

Greg Bird is one of nu­mer­ous promis­ing young Yan­kees that could make a big im­pact at the ma­jor league level.

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