This is a stupid way to start my first post on a Yankees blog, but I have to confess something: I’m a Boston Celtics fan. I know, I know, I’m sorry, but I swear this relates to the Yankees.
The Celtics have put their fans through a rollercoaster for the last three years as they tried (and seemingly failed) to become an NBA juggernaut. They traded the fan base’s favorite player, the 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas, just after he led them to the conference finals in an emotional flourish.
For Thomas, they acquired “basketball genius” Kyrie Irving, who needed knee surgery before season’s end. They also signed Gordon Hayward to a max contract just for him to severely injure his ankle five minutes into his first game. The Celtics limped into the 2018 postseason to the point where teams competed to face them instead of others, seeing them as an easy out.
Instead, Boston made another run to the conference finals with what was described by the denizens of the internet as the “Hospital Celtics”. Missing a few of their best players, they relied on a young and unproven core to beat future MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and then the rival Sixers, only to be felled by LeBron James.
The next season, with everyone healthy, the team was an unmitigated disaster, leading to a second-round exit and plenty of finger pointing. The 2018-19 Celtics were such an insufferable bunch that the season’s end was a welcome relief. They had me pining for the previous year’s team, the one no one expected would emerge yet found ways to win shorthanded, one that made mincemeat of 20-point deficits.
So when the Celtics fell out of the 2019 playoffs, I quickly turned to the Yankees and saw something familiar, the Hospital Yankees. The Yankees won’t stay the Hospital Yankees forever, but it’s imperative to enjoy them while they keep defying expectations. Heck, at this point, we expect the Down-14-players Yankees to win games, which says something else entirely. It hasn’t been just one pitcher getting a rest or a couple hitters hitting the IL; It’s everyone who’s anyone finding time to sit in an MRI tube.
For all intents and purposes, these Yankees should be .500 at best, right? They’re missing their No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 7 starters, their best reliever, arguably their two best hitters as well as Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar and more. There would have been plenty of disappointment but no shame in this team taking a year off from the postseason, unable to keep it together while hoping to get healthy the next year. The 2014 Rangers, a parallel from the past, did so before winning the division the next two seasons.
After all, the 2019 Yankees have had 100 combined starts from Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, Mike Ford, Kendrys Morales and Cameron Maybin, none of whom were on the 40-man roster before March 20th. Domingo German has gone from questionable depth starter to the American League leader in wins. Wins don’t carry the same weight they used to, but the numbers display German’s progress.
Just as the 2017-18 Celtics, the Hospital Yankees’ success has been buoyed by a few expected sources holding things together as a strong adhesive. New York has leaned hard upon Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka and the bullpen and each has answered the call. You can’t win just from players coming out of nowhere: They even need some help.
Still, how can you not enjoy what the Tauchmans and Urshelas have done? We’ve gone from pain seeing their names in the lineup to a grudging respect to genuinely excited for their at-bats.
After seeing the Celtics come apart at the seams this year, it’s increased my appreciated for what Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and the Hospital Celtics achieved last season. I wish I had done so at the time and I won’t make the same mistake with this year’s Yankees. I’m obviously waiting impatiently for each injured contributor’s return, but I’m going to enjoy every second of this improbable, un-Yankee-like run. There won’t be anything like this stretch for a while.