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Highlights From The Gerrit Cole Press Conference

This is Cole’s first win.

The big day is here. After an eleven year pursuit, the New York Yankees will unveil their new ace Gerrit Cole today. He was the main target of the offseason plan and they gave him 324 million reasons to put on the pinstripes. This is clearly a significant day in recent Yankees history. We will have all the highlights along with some brief thoughts of the presser.

  • Sitting on the dais for the press conference are Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Michael Fishman, Matt Blake and Scott Boras. The team brought out the heavy hitters of the Yankee brain trust. This signing is a big deal and the team is not shying away from it.
  • Brian Cashman begins his statement with the story of Cole making the decision to turn down the Yankees draft offer to attend UCLA. Cashman goes on to detail the journey the team went through to acquire Cole through trade and free agency. Cashman acknowledges the hard work Cole has put in to be one of the elite free agents in the game. He believes that process created this moment as the right time for both the player and the team. Cashman also notes there is no guarantee for future success with this partnership.
  • Aaron Boone says this is a big deal for the franchise. He got the word three or four weeks ago that the Yankees were going to pursue Gerrit Cole. Boone describes meeting with Gerrit Cole as a privilege. The process of getting to know a player and person like Cole is a privilege in his mind that he did not take for granted. Boone understands how great of a player Cole is, but he was blown away by Gerrit Cole the person is. Aaron stresses the importance of culture to him and he believes Cole will be a tremendous addition to the locker room. Boone was especially impressed with Cole’s ability to communicate the processes, the nuances and approach of his craft. The Yankees manager is looking forward to experiencing the ups and downs of their journey that will ultimately be a fruitful one.
  • Gerrit Cole is officially number 45. I would love to know what he offered Luke Voit to get that number if anything at all.
  • Cole looks amazing in pinstripes if I say so myself. I say that with absolutely no bias at all.
  • Gerrit Cole brings up Hal, Boras and his wife Amy to present the original sign from when he was eleven years old and attended Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. This is the same sign from the now famous picture of Cole hanging over the outfield wall. Cole then says “I’ve always been here.” That was a very dope moment.
  • Cole gives thanks to his teammates, coaches, Boras and former teammates. He also took time to shout out Marvin Miller entering the Hall of Fame and Curt Flood pioneering free agency for the current group of players. It was a really impressive gesture to recognize those who came before him to pave the way for this historical contract. Gerrit Cole is pretty involved in the Player’s Association and this is an example of that involvement. That moment reveals a lot about Cole the person that both Boone and Cashman went out of their way to acknowledge.
  • Cole says he joined the Yankees because it was his dream. He believes it is the best organization in the league. It was his second chance to join them and he took it. He feels a lot of confidence in the organization and Cashman’s vision. It also helped that the Yankees were his favorite team.
  • Cole became a Yankee fan through his father who went to school for a few years in New York. He said it was hard not to fall in love with the Yankees during their dynasty years. The Yankees were on tv a lot right after school ended since he lived on the west coast and he watched a lot of the games.
  • It was extremely tough to turn down the Yankees after he was drafted. Cole and his family wanted to honor their commitment to UCLA and even more importantly, to education. His father is a PHd and education is paramount in their family.
  • “Pressure is a privilege.” The pressure of pitching in the playoffs is the reward for playing well in the regular season. He felt like he could see a title in his sights with Houston, but they weren’t able to accomplish that goal. Cole doesn’t think there is a better place to finish that championship journey in New York.
  • He explains the 30 pound contraption! It is a gold plated home plate that opens up and reveals an iPad. It gives a history of the New York Yankees, where to live in the city and outside of the city and other pertinent information that would inform him and his family about the organization and the city. Cole also mentioned that after he signed the Yankees gave him a Yankee hat and he didn’t take it off for about three days.
  • Cole makes it very clear that he wasn’t thinking of free agency when he took the mound in Game 3 of the ALCS. He understood the magnitude of the moment and the challenge in front of him so signing with the Yankees was the last thing on his mind.

Here are some immediate feelings from the presser:

1. If you could win a championship for a press conference, Gerrit Cole just won his first ring. He was smart, engaging, funny, reflective, selfless and confident. You could immediately see all of the qualities that would make him attractive to any franchise beyond his golden arm. He said all the right things that Yankees fans wanted to hear today.

2. The most important quote from the presser is “pressure is a privilege.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a t-shirt in the near future. The phrase perfectly captures Cole’s competitive character. He is embracing the challenge and journey of winning a championship in the largest market in the world. There wasn’t any doubt that Cole wanted to be a Yankee. He mentioned his decision to join the Yankees came down to his heart. There is nothing sweeter to Yankees fans ears than hearing an elite player say they wanted to put on the pinstripes. His ultimate goal is to at least win championship number 30 for the Yankees. Those are lofty goals and I am here for all of it.

3. We have to talk about the sign. That moment was awesome. It feels like this was Cole’s first big Yankee moment and he hasn’t taken the mound yet. Showing everyone the sign was great, but what that gesture represents is even better. It perfectly captures his fandom of the team. This was also a rare moment when a free agent expressed genuine and raw excitement to be a part of his new team. Cole was not putting on a show here. Gerrit Cole signing with the Yankees was truly a dream come true scenario moment for him and he didn’t shy away from it. The Yankees wanted him and he wanted the Yankees. It’s like a feel good ending from some rom-com and I am here for all of it.

4. We all may learn about the craft of pitching over the next nine years. Cole is so impressive when he talks about his process and use of analytics. He is very aware of what makes him good and he is skilled at articulating it. He is also not shy about sharing that information with the public. I go back to his post game interview on the field with Ken Rosenthal after his Game 3 ALCS victory. He succinctly summed up his game plan to attack the Yankees lineup and briefly discussed the adjustments he had to make when he knew he didn’t have great command. The Yankees have mentioned a few times that Cole knows who he is and can go into great detail of what makes that possible. It feels like we’ll all be smarter fans with Cole on the team now.

5. This is a perfect fit. CC Sabathia was a perfect fit when he signed in the winter of 2008. I would say this is an even better match. The Yankees fan plays for his favorite team. The Yankees clear need for an ace. The clear embrace of the market and expectations by that ace pitcher. The established core of the 2020 Yankees team. The arrival of the new, cutting edge pitching coach who emphasizes non traditional approaches to the craft. This is all really exciting. If you don’t want the season to start tomorrow after experiencing this then nothing will. I am fired up and ready for the new season.

The 10 Biggest (Regular Season) Hits of the Decade

After the Yankees were eliminated a few weeks ago, I took a look at the 10 biggest hits of the 2019 regular season by Win Probability Added (WPA). As a brief reminder, that metric that captures the change in win expectancy from one at-bat to the next. In other words, it measures an individual play’s impact on the outcome of a game.

With some spare time over the holiday weekend, plus the dog days of the offseason, I used Baseball-Reference’s wonderful Play Index to pull all of the Yankees’ regular season hits from 2010-2019, made a spreadsheet with the data, and sorted them by WPA. It turned into a fun exercise that brought back quite a few memories. Surprisingly, the hit I expected to top this list came in only at number two, while the decade’s biggest hit was one I’d forgotten about entirely. Baseball, man.

Before we get into it, here are a few fun facts:

  • The Yankees had 14,174 hits from 2010-2019, with the most coming in 2019 with 1,493.
  • Of those, 1,259 came off Brett Gardner’s bat, leading the 134 players who came to bat for the Bombers.
  • The team recorded hits against 1,068 pitchers in the decade, with 275 coming against David Price.
  • The Yankees had 48 walk-offs in the decade.

Anyway, with that in mind, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

10. Frazier Punishes the Brewers

I remember this game well. In early July of 2017, the Yankees were just four games over .500. They were scuffling after a hot start to the season and felt like they were coming back down to Earth a bit. Before this July 8 game against Milwaukee, they’d lost 6 of 8 games, falling from one game out of first to 4.5.

Luis Severino gave up 3 runs on a home run in the first inning of this one but settled down after that. Down 3-0 in the 7th, Clint Frazier smashed a triple that brought the score to 3-2, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury. In the 9th, following walks to Didi Gregorius and Ellsbury, Frazier came to the plate and delivered the walk-off blow.

9. Sánchez Crushes the Twins (0.66 WPA)

This is another game I remember very well, coming in as one of my favorites of the 2018 season. Winners of 8 of 10 before this one, which came in late April, the Yankees were on a roll. The Twins, though, had other ideas–or so it seemed. Jordan Montgomery and Domingo Germán surrendered 3 runs while the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Kyle Gibson.

Aaron Hicks would bring the score to 3-1 in the bottom of the 7th on a sac fly that scored Giancarlo Stanton, but the Yanks went down quietly in the 8th. In the 9th inning, Gregorius reached on an error, Stanton added a hit, and Sánchez absolutely unloaded on the second pitch he saw from Fernando Rodney. The good times kept rolling, and this was among the most fun games of a stretch in which the Bombers won 17 of 20.

8. McCann Buries the Rays (0.67 WPA)

This one clocks in as the first truly wild game on our list. On July 3, 2015, the Yankees hosted the Rays at Yankee Stadium while they sat 6 games above .500. The Bombers fell behind 3-0 early and then rallied in the bottom of the 8th on a Mark Teixeira 3-run home run. That tied the game and set up extra innings.

Chasen Shreve was tagged for two runs in the top of the 12th inning, which brought the score to 5-3. Shreve escaped further damage, stranding two Rays on base. In the bottom half of the inning, Brett Gardner walked, A-Rod delivered a single, Teixeira delivered another RBI blow, which made it 5-4 Rays with one out and runners on first and second. On the second pitch of his at-bat, Brian McCann made sure this game went no further.

7. Hicks Shocks the Twins For the First Time (0.71 WPA)

This is a fresh one, having topped the 2019 list and coming in as one of the most memorable Yankee games of the last decade. Of my lifetime, really. Anyway, while Hicks’ game-saving catch is the main story from this one, his two-out, two-run, go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th inning was one of the biggest hits of the last ten years.

Rodgers’ 97 mph fastball stood no chance against Hicks, who hit a rocket into the bullpen to give the Yankees an 11-10 lead. Although the lead would not hold, it was a huge piece of the puzzle in an all-time Yankee game that will air on YES Network for years to come.

6. Chris Young Stings the Rays (0.72 WPA)

Here is our first “oh yeah, this guy was a Yankee” moment of the list. I expected there to be more of these, to be honest. Anyway, with the Yankees 11.5 games out in September of a busted 2014 season, Alex Cobb brought a no-hitter into the 8th inning with a 4-0 lead. It would not last. Martin Prado drilled a 2-run homer in that frame to bring the score to 4-2, where it held until the bottom of the 9th.

After Headley reached base on a hit-by-pitch and Ichiro doubled, Zelous Wheeler struck out. That brought up Chris Young, who ended the game with a 3-run home run that capped a 5-run rally for the Yankees. It was a memorable game in a lost season.

5. Gardner Stuns the Cubs (0.73 WPA)

This is my personal favorite game on the list, and possibly of the decade. It came in early May 2017, with the Yankees at 17-9 and facing the defending champs in Chicago. Michael Pineda was tagged for two runs and the Yankees were blanked through 8 innings in Wrigley. That made the score 2-0 going into the top of the 9th.

A one-out Chase Headley single was sandwiched between a groundout and a strikeout. Ellsbury worked a two-out walk, which brought up Brett Gardner. He then worked a classic Gardner at-bat, lasting 7 pitches, and delivered a laser 3-run home run that is instantly one of the most memorable and unexpected moments of the decade. Gardner’s emotion rounding the bases still fires me up. This was one of many “oh my god” moments of the ridiculously fun 2017 campaign. I could relive this one all day.

4. A-Rod Puts the Yankees Ahead (0.74 WPA)

Here’s A-Rod’s first and only appearance on this list, coming on September 17, 2010. This is another one of those games that I really remember. Down 3-1 in Camden Yards and facing Koji Uehara, it seemed like defeat was in order for the Yanks. Jorge Posada hit a leadoff single, followed by a strikeout, a Curtis Granderson single, and a Teixeira pop-out.

That brought A-Rod to the plate with two outs. He worked a 5-pitch at-bat and then unloaded on the Uehara pitch, launching a 3-run home run that made the score 4-3 Yankees and flipping the script in this one. Mariano Rivera would come in and close the door behind him in an easy 1-2-3 9th inning, and the Yankees won the game.

3. Swisher Walks Off the Orioles (0.78 WPA)

A week before A-Rod’s big blow off Uehara, it was Nick Swisher’s turn. After a string of three consecutive losses, the Yankees hosted the Orioles at the Stadium on September 8, 2010. It looked like another loss was in order, as the Yanks mustered just one run in 8 innings against the Orioles. That changed in the 9th inning.

A-Rod led off the frame with a single, followed by a long fly out by Robinson Canó to dead center field. That brought up Nick Swisher, who hit a walk-off blast with one out to seal a memorable 3-2 Yankee victory. It was the start of a good week against Uehara–and more dominance of the Orioles at the hands of the Yankees.

2. Teixeira’s Walk-Off Grand Slam (0.82 WPA)

Coming into this exercise, I was certain that this would top the list. It is, along with the Cubs and Twins games highlighted above, the other most memorable game of the decade to me. The Yankees were ten games behind Boston on September 28, 2016 and their season was over. But that didn’t mean the games they still had to play couldn’t be fun, and boy was this one fun.

Scoreless until the 8th, Boston scored 3 runs off Adam Warren and Tommy Layne. They held the Yanks in the bottom half of the inning, too, which kept it 3-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. Gardner would log a base hit off Craig Kimbrel, while Ellsbury and Sánchez each worked walks. Kimbrel walked McCann with the bases loaded, knocking him out of the game and making the score 3-1 Boston. Joe Kelly came in and quickly recorded two outs, but Mark Teixeira had other plans. He delivered a massive walk-off grand slam off Kelly. It was great, even in a lost season. This is another one of those I could watch over and over again.

1. Beltrán Walks it Off Against Britton (0.84 WPA)

And here it is, folks: the biggest hit of the decade by WPA. I’ll confess again that I didn’t even remember this one, but hey–that’s baseball. Anyway, the Yankees trailed 3-1 in the 9th inning on June 20, 2014 against the Orioles. With the imposing Zack Britton on the mound, this one likely felt like a sealed deal. It was not.

Gardner led off the frame with a single, which was promptly followed by two consecutive outs. Teixeira walked, followed by a McCann single. That made the score 3-2, and it brought up Beltrán. He crushed the 5th pitch from Britton and sent the Yankees’ faithful home happy. Who would have guessed at the time that this would mark the biggest hit of the decade? Not I.


And that’s that, folks. The decade may not have delivered a World Series like we all hoped, but it was filled with a ton of memorable games and moments. It was a fun decade. May the next one be just as fun–but may it also be capped off by World Series win number 28.

Yankees Team of the Decade: Part II

Last week, I took a look at the Yankees’ best players by position for the last decade (2010-2019). Now, as the back-end of this series, I’m going to look at the Bombers’ best individual seasons by position in that same span.
While there are many of the same players on this list, this is highlighting the best of the best. MVP-worthy seasons for some, career-years for others. Starting with catcher, we get some familiar faces.

Catcher: 2017 Gary Sánchez

If you prorate Sánchez’s two-month torching of the American League in 2016, it’s not only the best catching season for the Yankees this decade but perhaps ever. Even with passed balls aplenty, Sánchez’s unbelievable hitting stretch (170 wRC+ in 53 games) was unrepeatable.

The next year, he was still damn good. In his first full Major League season, he set a Yankees single-season record for home runs by a catcher (33) and batted .278/.345/.531 (131 wRC+). He was an asset behind the plate with his skillful framing and had his best health in the Majors to date (122 games).

A 38-year-old Jorge Posada bashed 18 home runs in 2010, and both Russell Martin and Brian McCann had fine seasons behind the dish. Still, the 2016-17 Sánchez runs were unmatched by pinstriped catchers in the 2010s.

First Base: 2019 DJ LeMahieu

I’m clearly fudging this as LeMahieu played more games at both second and third base. However, there’s no room to supplant Robinson Canó at the keystone, and LeMahieu’s 2019 season was too good to leave out.

Leading the Next Man Up Yankees with 145 games played, he came up just shy of a batting title (.327 avg.) with a career-high 26 homers and 102 RBI. The free-agent signing catalyzed the Yankees through a trying season and onto the brink of a World Series berth.

The runner up for me was 2015 Mark Teixeira. While he hit more home runs in both 2010 and 2011 while playing full seasons, Teixeira’s 2015 season was an electric campaign cut short by a fluky injury. Over 111 games, he jumpstarted the Bombers’ wild-card efforts with a .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) line and mashed 31 homers in that time. Once he went down with injury, the Yankees’ division hopes were mostly sunk.

Second Base: 2012 Robinson Canó

As mentioned in the previous piece, Canó broke out at the turn of the decade and didn’t let up for his four remaining seasons with the Yankees. You could pick any of his seasons from 2010 to 2013 and you wouldn’t be wrong.

So why 2012? Not only did he establish a (since eclipsed) career-high in home runs with 33, he had a career-best .929 OPS and 149 wRC+, all while earning his second and final Gold Glove. It was the third in a five-year stretch where he finished between third and sixth in MVP voting. While the Yankees’ aging core outside of Derek Jeter needed significant time off in ’12, Canó led the way with 161 games while playing a smooth and superb brand of ball.

Honorable Mention: 2019 Gleyber Torres/DJ LeMahieu

Shortstop: 2018 Didi Gregorius

Gregorius’ career with the Yankees resembled a rising stock before a crash. He was a below-average hitter for two years while getting by on defense, then he broke out as a power-hitting all-around force hitting the in the middle of the order for a championship-caliber team.

In 2018, Didi established a Yankee record with 27 home runs by a shortstop and posted a 124 OPS+ in 134 games. For the second straight year, he earned a 20th-place finish in MVP balloting. His 2017 postseason surpassed his 2018 effort, but he played through the 2018 ALDS with a torn UCL, showing the tenacity the Bronx faithful loved from their shortstop.

Honorable Mention: 2012 Derek Jeter

Third Base: 2010 Álex Rodríguez/2019 Gio Urshela

Rodríguez settled third base for the Yankees for about a decade before succumbing to injuries (with a DH interlude). In 2010 and ’11, he was past his prime but still very good, posting 4.2 and 4.0 WAR seasons. In 2010, he continued a 30-homer, 100-RBI streak that dated back to 1998 while his bat took a step back at age-34.

Meanwhile, Urshela did something that no player post-Rodríguez could do: Combine impressive hitting and standout defense at third base. He matched Miguel Andújar’s success at the plate without the pitfalls at the hot corner. His 3.1 WAR is behind Rodríguez, but the defensive metrics underrate his steady glove.

Left Field: 2010/2017 Brett Gardner

We saw two distinctly different Brett Gardners this decade: A slap hitter who relied on speed, or a power hitter who sacrificed contact for dingers. They were both tremendous, and each had Gold Glove-worthy defense to back it up.

Funny enough, Gardy’s All-Star season was 2015 and his Gold Glove came in 2016. However, his remarkable defense in 2010 was robbed by an aging Ichiro for the award, though his 47 steals presaged his MLB-leading total a year later. In 2017, he smahed 21 home runs and played 151 games for the second time since 2011.

Center Field: 2011 Curtis Granderson

The groundwork for Grandy’s 2011 was laid in August 2010, when the struggling outfielder retooled his approach with the help of hitting coach Kevin Long. For the final 1.5 months of that season, he finally started to hit same-sided pitchers.

In 2011, Granderson’s offense went from good to lineup-carrying great. He hit 41 home runs with 26 doubles and 10 triples in putting together a career-high .916 OPS and 146 wRC+. He still had some flaws — he should have been flipped to left field with Gardner, and he struck out at a decent clip — but he was grand for the entire year. He hit 43 homers in 2012 before an injury undid his final year in the Bronx.

Right Field: 2017 Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge had the best season of any Yankee since MVP A-Rod in 2017. The numbers do all the talking. He led the AL with 52 homers, 128 runs, 127 walks and 208 strikeouts. He batted .284/.422/.627 (174 wRC+) and likely should have won MVP, all after striking out in 44.2 percent of his at-bats in 2016. No offense to Pete Alonso, but it was the best rookie season of all-time.

Judge hasn’t quite reached 2017 heights offensively in subsequent years, but his improved defense might make him a better all-around player when healthy.

Designated Hitter: 2018 Giancarlo Stanton/2015 Álex Rodríguez

The Yankees have had an eclectic group of DH seasons in the 2010s, many of which have been highly successful. 2010 Marcus Thames. 2011 Jorge Posada. 2012 Raúl Ibañez, though he played far too many games in the field.

Two seasons stand above the rest: Stanton and A-Rod. A-Rod’s last gaps in 2015 featured 30 home runs and an All-Star first half before he cratered late in his age-40 season. Stanton, meanwhile, carried the Yankees while Judge was hurt and boasted 38 homers in his Bronx debut.

Starting Pitching

  1. 2011 CC Sabathia
  2. 2017 Luis Severino
  3. 2012 Hiroki Kuroda
  4. 2016 Masahiro Tanaka
  5. 2013 Ivan Nova
  6. 2010 Andy Pettitte

The Yankees have had two pitchers pitch to an ace level for a season in this decade: Sabathia and Severino. Sabathia was at the tail-end of his prime in the early 2010s and had back-to-back top-four finishes in the Cy Young in 2010 and ’11. Sevy, meanwhile, was third in Cy Young voting in 2017 and could very well surpass that if he overcomes 2019’s health issues.

Kuroda and Tanaka mirror Sabathia and Severino in the very good category. Kuroda pitched the end of his stateside career in the Bronx and his first year with the Yankees, 2012, was the strongest of those, capped with a strong start to clinch the division and two good playoff outings. Tanaka has been consistently good, especially in big games. His abbreviated 2014 and his full 2016 seasons were the closest he came to being a regular-season ace.

I extended it to a six-man rotation because, well, why not? Nova fizzled out by the end of his time in the Bronx, but he mastered his sinker and curveball before Tommy John surgery in the early 2010s with a fine run from 2011-13, earning him Rookie of the Year consideration in 2011. The culmination of that progression was 2013, when he had health, consistency and confidence. Pettitte was superb in 2010 but in just 21 starts.

Honorable Mention: 2010 Phil Hughes, 2011 Freddy Garcia, 2015 Nathan Eovaldi, 2019 James Paxton

Bullpen

Closer: 2010 Mariano Rivera
The Rest: 2011 David Robertson, 2014 Dellin Betances, 2015 Andrew Miller, 2017 Chad Green, 2019 Ottavino/Kahnle/Britton/Chapman

I don’t know how you whittle down this bullpen. I nearly forgot Miller, and I had to exclude standout seasons from Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade, Luis Ayala and Adam Warren. The Yankees have been stacked in relief year-after-year.

Rivera is the closer every decade until my mind goes mush, and he had a 1.80 ERA in 2010. Robertson’s breakout (and only All-Star) year was 2011, when he struck out 100 with a 1.08 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. Betances struck out an absurd 135 batters in 2014 while often going multiple innings a la ’96 Rivera.

With Miller, his 2016 season was better, but he was traded at the deadline. Same with Chapman, but I included the entire 2019 top-four as a cop-out to having to choose between those seasons. Britton, though, was the best of the four. Finally, 2017 Chad Green rivals 2011 Robertson and 2014 Betances for the best relief seasons of the decade as he mowed down hitters with his high-spin fastball for 103 strikeouts and a 1.83 ERA in 69 innings.

The definitive categorization of post-Yankee beards

Love this, minus the uniform. (MLB Gifs)

Matt’s off this week, so in lieu of his Sunday column, here’s my dissertation on Yankee beards.

Since the early days of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as owner of the Yankees, the Bombers have had a strict facial hair policy. Yes to mustaches, absolutely not to beards or excessively long hair.

Would I love to see the Yankees practice the scraggly art of unkempt or even fine-tuned beards? Sure. But the contrast of non-bearded Bombers gives us a chance to study players changing, one follicle at a time.

If someone is drafted by the Yankees out of high school or signs with the team on July 2 as an international free agency, that player is joining the organization well before their prime as a beard grower. Therefore, for much of their adult life, they’re deprived of the ability to grow out fun, lengthy and sometimes hilariously bad facial hair except in the offseason.

When players leave the Yankees, particularly homegrown talents, each player immediately throws away their razor. OK, maybe not literally, but almost everyone grows a beard shortly after leaving the Bronx. Some pull it off well and some … well, they aren’t quite as gifted.

For a breakdown, here’s an unnecessary categorization of Yankee beards.

The Standard Offseason Beard aka the CC

The most common beard you see from a Yankees player is the offseason beard. Without responsibilities to the team, players can go wild from November to February with hirsute appearances.

There is one undisputed champion in this category; CC Sabathia leads the Yankees in Offseason Beards Above Replacement. As he talked about on R2C2, he’s even mastered the in-season beard after learning at the feet of the master, Andy Pettitte, by finding ways to let some growth come up in-between starts. Since he’s now retired, he was quick to start the process back up.

Let’s check out this offseason work from 2014:

That, my friends, is a master at work. CC tested, LeBron approved.

Sabathia hasn’t always had the best beards, but he’s always courtside at basketball games ready to show off the new look. Salute.

The In-Uniform Offseason Beard aka The Bernie

Bernie Williams takes the cake here. First up, his appearance on Seinfeld:

You know that the Yankees are either in a stetch of off-days or the offseason, as Bernie is rocking the goatee. Considering the show aired in November, it’s likely the latter.

Yet Williams was not done. Six years later, he took part in MLB’s trip to Japan and played against Koji Uehara, among others. Most notably, he sported a devilish goatee again, this time in full Yankee pinstripes. We must bow down to this flagrant display of whiskers.

The Average Post-Yankee Beard aka The Hughes

For most players, this is a right of passage. You play for the Yankees for a while and shave every day. Once you leave the Bronx, you want to see what you can do. Most players don’t abuse this newfound power and put together a fine look.

Example: Phil Hughes

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It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong effort from the baby-faced Hughes to blend into the adult world of Minneapolis. I dare say he pulls it off.

Example II: David Robertson and Melky Cabrera

This … This is the Bad Place! I didn’t want to see David Robertson with a beard, so now you have to as well. He put in the effort, but he was meant to be clean-shaven. (Melky’s beard fits him. Don’t @ me.)

Robertson has since tried to hide all evidence of his bearded days with his glove.

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Example III: Ian Kennedy

Kennedy shows up in a later (and lesser) category, but after years of trying, he’s mastered the post-Yankee beard. We salute you, IPK. Save the Big Three. 10/10

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The Cano

Sometimes, there are visionaries in a field. Someone who knows instantly their true calling and makes strides that others simply cannot. That is Robinson Cano and the mustache-less beard. He brought it out at his introductory press conference. That’s how much confidence he had in it.

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Years later, it was still there. He’s since gone in new and innovative hair directions (Check his Instagram), but he’s a unique player in the post-Yankee beard space. No one else is pulling this off.

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Going Too Hard aka The Joba

All of the energy Joba put into expressive fistpumps early in his career went into hiding his chin and neck with hair later on.

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Look, Joba was great. He’s a World Series champion and was just about as fun a middle reliever as one could watch. That being said, he made a follicle folly. Chamberlain appears to have spent 10 years at sea on a crab-fishing expedition and barely lived to tell the tale. This took the post-Yankee beard past the line.

As promised, here’s Kennedy doing the same in San Diego.

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Once a Yankee, Always a Yankee (The Tino)

Almost everyone grows out the Yankee beard. Not Tino Martinez. Never Tino.

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Perhaps he couldn’t pull it off. Maybe he knew not to mess with his good looks, even while wearing a Cardinals or Devil Rays uniform.

Joe Girardi remained steadfast in his clean-shaven look as well. It’s What You Want.

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Extra: The Pre-Yankee Beard!

There are a few players who went hard on a beard before coming to the Bronx. The most famous, of course, is Johnny Damon. As a member of the ’04 Red Sox, he had long hair on every inch of his head.

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He never really grew it out again after leaving the Yankees, only sporting the occasionally average beard of a normal human.

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However, let’s check on the work of one Jonathan Holder. He was drafted by the Yankees but out of college. While at Mississippi State, Holder, aka Kenny Powers, clearly saw grooming as an optional pursuit meant for everyone else.

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Here’s an even better look. If Holder had gone to another organization, he’d have had a chance to shine as a cult hero for his shaggy hair. In the Bronx, he’s just like everyone else.

The 10 Biggest Hits of the Yankees (Regular) Season

It’s been just about three weeks since the Yankees were eliminated by the Astros. That feels like an appropriate time to get nostalgic about the 2019 regular season, which was one of the most fun seasons in recent Yankee history despite the bitter ending. There is, of course, quite a bit to relive.

It is a fun annual tradition to look back at the biggest hits of the season by Win Probability Added (WPA), a useful metric that captures the change in win expectancy from one at-bat to the next. In other words, it measures one individual play’s impact on the outcome of a game.

Baseball-Reference’s Play Index makes it super easy to sort every hit by WPA, so, without further adieu, here are the 10 biggest hits of the 2019 Yankee regular season.

10. DJ LeMahieu Walks It Off (0.39 WPA)

It makes sense for there to be a walk-off on this list, obviously, but what’s more surprising is that this is the only one. Baseball is wild. Anyway, on May 7, DJ LeMahieu delivered one of his first big hits in pinstripes with a two-out line drive single into right field. It was positively Jeterian, if I do say so myself.

The hit sealed an 5-4 win over the Mariners for the Bombers, who improved to 21-14. This was a very fun game, as the Yankees scored four runs in the final two innings, including three in the 9th after a rain delay. More on this game in a bit!

Despite the win, the Yanks remained two games out of first place, though this was their 16th win in their last 22 games. The early struggles of April were already a distant memory, and LeMahieu was hitting 330/.385/.443 (121 wRC+). What a player.

9. Austin Romine Homers at the Deadline (0.41 WPA)

Trade deadline day was a weird one for the Yankees, who made zero moves despite a general expectation that they would. Adding to the weirdness is the fact that they were facing Arizona’s Zack Greinke…who would be traded mid-game to the rival Houston Astros. With fans upset over the lack of action, the Yankees also looked lifeless at the plate.

That is, until savior Austin Romine came up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 7th. The Yanks were trailing 3-2 but had one man on base, and Romine drilled a go-ahead, two-run home run. The Yankees didn’t look back and won the game 7-5. That home run propelled the Yanks to a nine-game winning streak and, more broadly, into a stretch where the Bombers won 16 of 19.

8. Brett Gardner Ties it in the 9th (0.43 WPA)

The A’s were a menace to the Yankees this year, with the Yankees seemingly struggling against them quite a bit, especially in Oakland. Brett Gardner made sure to put a stop to that on September 1, when he came to the plate with the Yanks trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th. He drilled this homer off Liam Hendricks, setting the stage for Mike Ford to keep Truck Month rolling into September.

The Yanks’ 5-4 win was their 90th of the season (90-48) and kept their lead in the American League East at 10 games. Ford’s walk-off homer in the next at-bat was the Yankees’ second consecutive walk-off win over the A’s after DJ LeMahieu’s (who else?) 11th inning walk-off the day prior. The 2019 Yanks. They were fun, folks.

7. Gary Sánchez’s Three-Run Blast Seals the Deal (0.46 WPA)

The Yankees went 17-2 against the lowly Orioles this season, and a huge reason why was the barrage of home runs they hit against them. Only one (more on that in a moment) was bigger than the Kraken’s missile on May 20. The Yankees trailed in this game 6-1 and 7-3 but managed to win 10-7 anyway. It was their second win in a seven-game win streak and stretch during when they won 11 of 13.

Givens’ fastball came in at 98 mph, but it was no match for our Gary. His three-run blast down the line was the clinching blow and it extended the Yankee lead in the ALE to one-game. They would only be in second place for one day in the season after this game. At the time, Gary was hitting .265/.341/.646 (151 wRC+) on the season, serving as a reminder of what he’s capable of when it’s all clicking.

6. Brett Gardner’s 100th HR Comes in Grand Fashion (0.46 WPA)

I covered Brett’s grand slam in detail just the other day, so I won’t spend too much time on it here. This homer is my personal favorite of the year, though. I love Gardner and this blast was a personal achievement for him. It also clinched a two-game sweep over Boston. You love to see it. I was sitting in the bleachers for this one, and let me tell you–it was a playoff-like atmosphere out there. It was only April 17! Just great stuff. Remember when the narrative was that the new Stadium didn’t get loud?

Anyway, the Yanks were trailing 3-1 in the 7th and sat at just 7-9 on the season. After Gardner’s slam, they won 5-3 and improved to 5.5 games out of first. As we all know, that didn’t last very long.

5. Didi’s Double Torments the Twins (0.47 WPA)

Without a doubt, this was the game of the year. There’s another highlight from this Game MVP Aaron Hicks below, but let us not forget Didi’s contributions to this insane game. Our guy had five hits and seven RBI in the wild affair, and none were bigger than this double.

With the Yankees trailing 9-8 with two outs in the top of the 8th, Sir Didi came to the plate and delivered a huge at-bat. Check out the strike zone plot from this one:

The seventh pitch of the AB was right over the plate and Gregorius did not miss it. Two runs scored and the Yankees had a 10-9 lead that they would not hold for very long. More on this game, obviously, in a moment.

4. Gio Urshela, The Most Happy Fella (0.47 WPA)

In the very same inning as LeMahieu’s walk-off single, Gio Urshela had an even bigger hit. With the Yanks trailing 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the 9th, Giodude came to bat with Gleyber Torres on base. Despite being down 0-2 in the count, Gio managed to blast one to dead center that tied the game.

That set the stage for LeMahieu to be the night’s ultimate hero, but, if we go by WPA alone, it was Gio Urshela who had the biggest blow. What a season for Gio. I still can’t believe it.

3. Clint Frazier Breaks the Orioles’ Hearts (0.57 WPA)

It feels like a lifetime ago now, but the Yankees were really scuffling on April 6. Although it was early in the year, the team under .500 and were already dealing with a barrage of injuries. It was a frustrating time to be sure. The Yankees called on Clint Frazier for support, and boy did he deliver.

He came to the plate with the Bombers trailing 4-3 with two-on (including Gleyber Torres) and two-out in the inning. He worked a five-pitch at-bat and, on a 2-2 pitch, hit a blast into the left field seats that gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead. My favorite part is the reaction of Pedro Severino behind the plate. He was just so frustrated. I love it when the Yankees do that to the opposition. I love it so much.

The Yankees won this one 6-4 and improved to .500 (5-5). I think it’s fair to say that this was the very first instance of Next Man Up in 2019, and it sure was a big one.

2. Aaron Judge Puts the Rays on Ice (0.59 WPA)

Pretty wild that the Yankees won 103 games on the season but their best player on has one of their 10 biggest hits, isn’t it? But boy was it a satisfying one. On July 16, the Yankees were 60-33 and held a five-game lead over the Rays in the AL East. They lost to the Rays the night before in the first game of a pivotal four-game set in the Bronx.

The next night, it looked like the Rays might do it again. With two outs in the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees trailed 3-2, though Torres was on base. That brought Aaron Judge to the plate against Colin Poche, who threw him seven (!) consecutive fastballs:

The seventh was low and inside on the hands, and Judge absolutely drilled it to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. What an at-bat in an absolutely huge moment for Judge. If the Yankees lose this one, their lead slips to four games in the division–but instead it climbed back to six games. The Rays never got this close again for the rest of the season.

They’d eventually load the bases and Gregorius would stab the Rays in the heart with a majestic grand slam four batters later. The Yanks would win 8-3 and take three of four from the hated Rays in what was my favorite game of the season. Just great stuff.

(Side note: the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd biggest hits of the Yankees all had one thing in common: Gleyber Torres was on base. Even though he didn’t deliver any of the hits himself, our man Gleyber was in the center of all of the action. What an absolute stud.)

1. Aaron Hicks Breaks the Twins’ Hearts…For the First Time (0.71 WPA)

Was there a more memorable game in 2019 than this one? It featured two of the top 10 biggest hits of the season, as well as Aaron Hicks’ absolutely incredible catch to seal the victory. But it’s easy to forget that Hicks had another huge moment in this game: his two-out, two-run, go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th inning.

Rodgers’ 97 mph fastball stood no chance against Hicks, who hit a rocket into the bullpen to give the Yankees an 11-10 lead. Although it would not hold, it ended up being fine…again because of Hicks. I can’t talk about this game and NOT show this one:

What a night for Hicks (and Gregorius). Anyway, the Yankees would win this one 14-12 in the end, and I’m not sure there has been a more fun Yankee game since the ridiculous comeback against the Orioles in April 2017. It’s only fitting that a moment from this one tops this list.


I wish the Yankees season ended with champagne and not a bitter defeat, but I love doing exercises like this. It reminds me of all of the good times and clutch hits we got to witness during the regular season. This was a hell of a fun season. Even if I extended this list to the top 20, all of those hits would be memorable or have come in memorable games.

The 2019 Yankees were a joy to watch, and doing this leaves me with one final question: is it 2020 yet?

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