This winter couldn’t have gone much better for the Yankees.
The last four months have seen some of their most bitter rivals — both tangible and geographical — take exceptional blows that only increase their standing as the team to beat in the Big Apple and the majors.
General manager Brian Cashman took care of business, for the most part, on his own when he signed Astros ace Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking $324 million deal. His arrival provides the Yankees with the one true ace they’ve been missing and one of the top arms in baseball.
All that was left for them to do was sit back, brew a nice cup of tea, and watch Major League Baseball implode around them.
Cole got out of Houston just in time as MLB’s investigation of the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing allegations resulted in heavy fines for the franchise and the eventual firings of manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow.
It was going to be difficult enough for Houston to repeat as AL champions with the Yankees reloaded for another serious run at a pennant, but now they’ll have to produce under the seemingly-insurmountable pressure of being the most hated team in baseball this summer.
Should the likes of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, or Carlos Correa struggle in 2020, the entire baseball world will point to the sign-stealing fiasco as the reason for their recent success.
The fallout from commissioner Rob Manfred’s investigations didn’t end there.
New York’s bitter division rival, the Boston Red Sox, parted ways with manager Alex Cora after he was found to be one of the masterminds of the Astros’ scheme as the team’s bench coach.
Across town, the Mets dismissed Carlos Beltran just three months after he was hired to replace Mickey Callaway as manager because of his role as a player in his final MLB season with Houston.
The Red Sox have yet to name a new manager while the Astros hired veteran skipper Dusty Baker to do damage control and the Mets promoted 38-year-old Luis Rojas to take over.
That alone provided plenty of joy for the Yankees faithful, but it got better on Tuesday.
A source informed amNewYork that the Mets’ new potential owner — billionaire Steve Cohen — is falling through due to a breakdown in negotiations with the Wilpon family.
Just hours later, the Red Sox completed a blockbuster trade that essentially meant them waiving the towel for the 2020 season. They traded former AL MVP and superstar outfielder Mookie Betts — along with veteran southpaw David Price — to the Los Angeles Dodgers for promising youngster Alex Verdugo.
Betts’ departure suddenly makes the AL East look even easier to take from a Yankees standpoint and given the microscope that the Astros will be playing under this season, it’s clear that the Bronx Bombers are the overwhelming favorite to take the American League pennant.
Their biggest obstacle for World Series title No. 27? It could very well be Betts and the Dodgers as they try to get over the hump and win their first championship since 1988.