By Lenn Robbins
Reason No. 139,203 why there’s no better place too live than New York City.
One day a year, anyone can celebrate the Irish, or Italians, or Puerto Ricans, or Gays, or Chinese or Blacks or Jews or Tartans, and so it goes. Or there’s Labor Day or Veteran’s Day or Easter or Thanksgiving or Memorial Day.
Heck, hang around Madison Square Park almost any weekend from spring through fall and a parade will break out. And who doesn’t love a parade? Especially down Canyon of Heroes. Now that’s a parade – ticker tape, balloons, confetti. And man does the Department of Sanitation do an incredible job of cleaning up the detritus of joy.
You could almost count on a parade every year from 1996 to 2000, courtesy of the Yankees, who delivered in 2009 as well. Man do I miss those parades. And the Yankees aren’t going to give us one this season, too.
Yes, the Yankees, who are scheduled to open their 119th season Thursday (1:05 p.m.; ESPN) against the Toronto Blue Jays, are all-in and one has to respect and appreciate a franchise coming thisclose to the salary tax in its quest to win a World Series, even if that franchise has more sponsors than the supertanker Ever Green had tugboats.
The Yankees have the best pitcher in baseball (Gerrit Cole), one of the best pure hitters (DJ LeMahieu, one of the most accomplished players coming off the bench (Brett Gardner), the most exhilarating power hitter (Aaron Judge), a dominating closer (Aroldis Chapman) and the most classic uniforms in all of baseball.
Call me old school, but what the Yankees don’t have is strength up the middle and health. Gary Sanchez has hit less than 20 home runs in two of the last three seasons while striking out 283 times and has 39 passed balls in the last four seasons.
Aaron Hicks, after returning from Tommy John surgery, hit just six home runs, but walked 41 times. LeMahieu, at second, and shortstop Gleyber Torres, who is better suited to playing second, combined for 13 home runs in last season’s COVID-19 shortened season.
And then there’s the starting pitching brought to you by – insert your favorite hospital here. If Cole goes down with a significant injury Yankees fans will turn their masks into handkerchiefs. Corey Kluber (fractured forearm) and Jameson Taillon (Tommy John), haven’t pitched in two seasons. And Domingo German (domestic violence) is going to have win back the trust of his teammates while enduring the scorn of fans. Not easy.
All of this will take place in what we will refer to as the Pinstripe Bubble, the pressurized environment in which winning the franchise’s 28th World Series but the first since 2009 is the only way out. The Dodgers ended their drought last season by winning their first title since 1998, so they can play free and easy.
Only the Yankees live with the burden of World Series or bust, day in and day out, losing streak to losing streak, sometimes inning to inning.
“We’ve got our eyes set on that ultimate prize,’’ Gardner told reporters. “It’s been way too long since we’ve been back to the World Series.”
Getting back isn’t good enough. Only a parade will suffice.