Growing up as a baseball fan in the 1990s, I watched the New York Yankees win titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Bronx Bombers won rings with a nucleus of four players: Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. The “Core Four” all came through New York’s farm system. Decades from now, baseball historians will still discuss those Yankees teams as one of baseball’s greatest dynasties.
There is an old saying, “All good things must come to an end.” After winning those titles, New York changed its formula. The Yankees became an organization that prioritized signing free agents over drafting and developing talent. General Manger Brian Cashman and the “brain trust” consistently traded away young prospects for aging veterans. The new approach to buying players simply did not pay off. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009. Organizations like the Red Sox, Cardinals and Giants have had more success in the past five years.
All that has changed this season. Cashman has traded away veterans like Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller and brought in a plethora of young talent, including outfielder Clint Frazier and southpaw Justus Sheffield from the Indians, shortstop Gleyber Torres from the Cubs and Dilon Tate, the Rangers’ 2015 1st-round pick. Despite losing Beltran, Chapman and Miller, the team has surprisingly remained in contention. Going into Monday night’s game against the Dodgers, New York has a record of 76-66 and trails Baltimore and Toronto by two games in the Wild Card race. The Yankees are winning with youth. Is this the rise of a new Core Four?
In 34 Major League games this year, catcher Gary Sanchez has 44 hits, 13 home runs, 21 RBIs and is batting .341. If he had been called up earlier in the season, Sanchez would have a great shot at winning American League Rookie of the Year. Fellow rookies Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin haven’t been as impressive as Sanchez offensively, but both have considerable power potential and bright futures in pinstripes. First baseman Greg Bird is set to participate in the Arizona Fall League after missing 2016 due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Organizations like the New England Patriots, San Antonio Spurs and Green Bay Packers have had success building the core of their team through the draft. Smart clubs understand that young players need time to grow and develop and — particularly in sports with a salary cap like basketball, football and hockey — young players playing on their first contract almost always offer more value than high-priced veterans.
The Yankees are finally getting back to building the team the right way. This is the way New York has done it going back to picking Thurman Munson fourth overall in the 1968 Draft to nabbing Jeter with the sixth pick in 1996. With fond memories of the Core Four on their mind, the Yankees’ future looks bright for the rest of the season and the next several years.
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