AL pennant is high-powered Yankees’ to lose in 2021

Aaron Judge Giancarlo Stanton Yankees
Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and the Yankees are one of the favorites to win the 2021 World Series.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Eleven years is an eternity for Yankees fans.

The 2021 season provides the Bronx Bombers with another golden opportunity to capture that elusive American League pennant and get back to the World Series for the first time since they won it all in 2009.

Frustratingly close misses have dotted their journey back to overwhelming American League favorites, as they were last season — though they couldn’t keep up with the Cinderella Tampa Bay Rays.

“We understand we’re a talented team, but we also understand we haven’t done anything yet,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We hope that we’ve started to lay a foundation to be a championship club. It’s a lot of guys that have, in a lot of cases, been here now for a few years and experienced a lot of highs of playoff success, playoff failures, and disappointing ends to the season. We’ve gone through a lot together as a team and we’ve added to the mix that we feel can be ingredients to help us get us over the hump. I’ve felt this way the last couple of years: it’s a very hungry group. We want to kick that door in in the worst kind of way. I think the fans will see that.”

In 2021, however, most of the Yankees’ main competition in the American League has taken noticeable steps back.

The Rays dealt their ace, Blake Snell, to the San Diego Padres.

The Houston Astros lost George Springer to free agency, opting to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays, while they’ll be without Justin Verlander for the entire season.

Those very same Blue Jays won’t be without Springer for potentially the first month of the season, but a young core that will have them in the running for the AL East — featuring Vlad Guererro Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette — is still at least a year or two away from legitimately competing.

The same goes for the up-and-coming Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, though they were dealt a sizable blow just last week when it was discovered young slugger Eloy Jiminez will be sidelined for four-to-six months because of a torn pectoral muscle.

Meanwhile, their biggest rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are a team that is expected to do nothing more than flirt with .500.

This is a Yankees team that is overpowering on the offensive side of the game with some of the very best hitters, like DJ LeMahieu, and most feared sluggers in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton inhabiting its ranks.

Most importantly, Judge and Stanton are healthy heading into 2021, which is good news for a team that has been decimated by injuries over the last two seasons.

“I think we’ve been ready for quite a while now,” Judge said. “I’m as fired up as ever.”

Boone himself, thankfully, is healthy after he had to undergo a procedure for a pacemaker earlier this offseason.

“I’ve gotten built up these last few weeks as well, but as I said, it was a gamechanger for me immediately,” he said. “I feel good and I’m excited along with the guys to get that thing going.”

But concerns still hover over this team, even with the offensive star power supplemented by Gleyber Torres and American League Cy Young favorite, Gerrit Cole.

The pitching staff is precariously perched to depend on three pitchers — Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery — who have struggled with major injuries in recent years.

Behind the plate, Gary Sanchez is getting what appears to be one final chance to prove his worth after another nightmare season both offensively and defensively.

“There’s no question there’s been peaks and valleys,” Boone said of his catcher. “There have been real peaks. This is an All-Star catcher… we know what he’s capable of so we’re betting on that upside and bringing that out of him.

“Now we get to go find out and hopefully he can put last season behind him.”

The excuses have been eliminated and their conditions are favorable. Now we all get to go find out just how serious the Yankees are this season when it comes to adding a 28th world championship.