Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Sports

Yankees day care: Do the Steinbrenners have the patience for these youngsters?

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TAMPA — Under construction.

It's hard to tell which is undergoing the more major renovation, Steinbrenner Field or the Steinbrenner Yankees.

Hard hats are swarming New York's spring training home, performing a $40-million makeover. You can't swing a tool belt without hitting men at work. Now if only they could tear down the remaining four years on Jacoby Ellsbury's contract ...

But behold the other work crew, those kids with the bats and balls and gloves, the new wave — the Baby Bombers — at George M.'s stadium and at the Yankees' Himes Avenue complex.

"We haven't been this young in a long time, probably since maybe 1996," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

"This feels different," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told media.

Meet the new Yankees, the profoundly younger Yankees, the Yankees as we haven't seen them in decades. You might indeed need to set the wayback machine for 1996, which would suit the Yankees fine, harkening to the birth of the "Core Four" — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada — who helped make a Tyrannosaurus run of postseasons and championships.

Let's not get ahead of things here.

Baby steps.

But it's about time the Yankees took a step back to move forward.

Fennelly: Heartbreak over Miami

Will it last?

Can the Yankees possibly have the patience to run a day care?

For now, it stands as pinstriped reality. Mark Teixeira has retired. Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have been traded. CC Sabathia and his fat contract are done after this season. Alex Rodriguez retired, too, though he'll be at spring training as the world's highest paid special advisor and instructor, as he is still owed $21 million. That's a lot of fungoes to hit.

The future, shiny and bright, the paint still drying, is everywhere with these Yankees. It rides with kids like 24-year-old catching and hitting sensation Gary Sanchez, who dazzled with 20 home runs in 53 games in 2016. It's young talent like first baseman Greg Bird and 6-foot-7 outfielder Aaron "So-Called" Judge. That is not really Judge's nickname, but wouldn't it be great if it was?

The Yankees haven't won a playoff game since 2012. So it's time to try something new. Last season at the trade deadline, the Yankees were sellers, not buyers. GM Brian Cashman filled the farm system with treasure.

Let's not get carried away. New York isn't paying guys in beaver pelts. The payroll is still more than $200 million. The Yankees brought back million-mph closer Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million) and signed Matt Holliday (one year, $16 million) to DH.

But when New York traded Chapman to Chicago last season, it received, among others, 20-year shortstop Gleyber Torres, one of the top prospects in baseball. When Miller was traded, he fetched outfielder Clint Frazier and pitcher Justus Sheffield, two more promising prospects.

"I think there's a lot of talent in this room," Girardi said. "I think these kids can do a lot. I think they can help a lot. And, again, there's more coming."

But will they produce? That's the question. You know, along with the starting rotation.

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Girardi said, "I think about '96 and it was kind of the year that Jete and Mo burst on the scene, but Mr. Posada was coming and started to become a huge impact in '97 and I feel that that's kind of what we have here, young players that have a chance to have a huge impact at different positions ..."

This team is so young, and that concept is so new to the Yankees, that for the first time the mighty club organized an offseason getting-to-know-you caravan through New York City to help introduce some of the new wave to fans. Among those on the trip to the big city and skyscraper canyons was Justus Sheffield, all of 20. He's a left-handed pitcher from Tullahoma, Tenn.

"I have a cornfield in my backyard," Sheffield said with a grin.

Here are the kids, coming out of the cornfield.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees went back to being the Yankees after this season, when superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado hit free agency. The Yankees might not to be able to help themselves. Or maybe they will.

Guess it depends on the story the Baby Bombers build.

Under construction.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

     
     
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