First of all, congrats to all Red Sox fans as you celebrate another championship team. It is what baseball fans live for and I lift a bottle of Sioux City Birch Beer to toast your happiness. That said, it has been nine seasons since Yankee fans have had that sort of feeling. It is time to think about what the Red Sox are doing right and what the Yankees need to do to turn these feelings around.
Unequivocally, the Red Sox have simply outsmarted the Yankees. No, that does not mean they tricked the Yankees. What it means is that they have been run smarter. They made the first move in the manager cycle by firing John Farrell, a terrible manager, for Alex Cora, a brilliant one. Of course, there were times during the season when the Red Sox Nation were anti-Cora on Twitter. But that is what fans do.
The Yankees could not do much about this though as they were still in the playoffs at the time and the Red Sox were smarting over their playoff loss. The Yankees came within a game of the World Series in 2017 and then fired Joe Girardi in favor of Aaron Boone. Boone is a nice guy and all, but Girardi was a better manager and Cora was the best choice for 2017.
The Red Sox also pulled the trigger on J.D. Martinez. People were worried about his feet and his age and those factors may still kick in as the contract continues. But Martinez was the right guy at the right time and as soon as he was signed, the Red Sox could have started selling World Series tickets. It was the perfect signing. Martinez took them from an average hitting team to the smartest and most effective offense in the game.
In a way, the Red Sox are like the Gene Michael / George Steinbrenner team of today. They will go out and spend money, but they spend it wisely and use their tools wisely. The Yankees, meanwhile, were trying to stay under the salary cap (call it what you want). I really cannot blame them for doing so. Why get "fined" millions and millions of dollars when you can take a year and reset the penalties. It might work out better in the long run.
I credit Martinez for making all of the Red Sox hitters smarter hitters. When you read about his fanatical approach to film and studying the art of hitting, it rubbed off on all the hitters in Boston. Freed from dour Farrell, the younger players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts could look to Martinez as the role model and blossom.
The Yankees won a hundred games. That is pretty impressive. Most of that work was done in the first half. The Red Sox won 108. That is no fluke. They were the better team. So what now?
First of all, the Yankees need at least one stud pitcher. Yes, they have Luis Severino. But they could use another one. There are a couple of choices in the free agent market. It will be disappointing if they don't get one of them. You cannot count on Jordan Montgomery yet and we will have to see what kind of pitchers Justus Sheffied and Jonathan Loaisiga can be.
So a rotation of New signee, Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, the better of the young guys (you cannot leave out Domingo German here) and perhaps bring CC Sabathia back for $8 million or so. The Red Sox proved that despite recent horrifying trends, the starting pitcher is still important in Major League Baseball. Hurrah that! I do not believe any team can keep expecting to get fifteen outs from the bullpen every game. But then again, I have always hated change.
The Yankees need a very good first baseman. They have given up (finally) on Greg Bird and though it was fun, Luke Voit is not that guy.
I would really hate to see the Yankees sign Manny Machado. I know that is an unpopular thought. But the guy just turns me off. I do not want to root for him and I do not want him to come to a team that is full of excellent people as well as players. Besides, Gleyber Torres IS a shortstop and there are options for second.
I cannot see the Yankees renewing Brett Gardner. It is a cruel world, but he is in Bernie Williams territory. He can field much better than Bernie, but he cannot hit like Bernie. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-reference had Gardner with a WAR at 2.5 or slightly higher. That is worth the $11.5 he was paid. So maybe one more year. We will see what happens.
Gary Sanchez needs to get fixed somehow. He could not do anything right in 2018. If he does not return to 2017 form, it will be tough because Austin Romine should never get more than a game or two a week.
The game now is about youth. The Yankees went that route and it almost paid off in 2017. They were darned good in 2018. Just not good enough. Long-term geezer-ending contracts stink at the end and I hope the Yankees avoid that. Whatever they do, perhaps they could learn a few things from their highly successful division mates up north.