It is common sports dialogue to reference the Yankees’ massive payroll. They are annually at or near the top of Major League Baseball’s list. This season they are No. 1, with their players’ collective contracts for 2020 totaling $109.4 million.
At $5 billion, the Yankees are also the world’s second highest valued sports franchise according to Forbes, trailing only the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, who are worth a mind numbing $5.5 billion. But tons of dough hasn’t been able to buy the Yankees a World Series title since 2009. For an organization whose brand is synonymous with winning, that is an eternity.
On Tuesday night, only a few miles from where the debacle that was the presidential debate was being held, the Yankees began a mission to end their 11-year drought, bashing the Cleveland Indians 12-3 on the road in Game 1 of their best-of-three American League wild-card series. Game 2 was scheduled for last night (Wednesday, Sept. 30) and Game 3 if necessary—barring any postponements—will be tonight.
As part of the extensive safety protocols MLB has instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all opening round games are being held at the home stadiums of the higher seeds. The Indians are the No. 4 seed and the Yankees are the American League’s No. 5 seed.
The Yankees, who had an uneven regular season, entered the playoffs with a record of 33-27, which placed them second in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who won the division title with a mark of 40-20. Yet the Yankees’ exceptional talent remains unmistakable.
Beset by injuries to some of their best players, including outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and shortstop Gleyber Torres, the Yankees labored through much of baseball’s abbreviated 60-game schedule. The trio allayed concerns about their health on Tuesday. Judge blasted a two-run homer on only the fourth pitch from Indians starter Shane Bieber, Torres smashed a two-run homer and finished the night with four hits and three RBI, and Stanton added a solo home run.
More importantly for the Yankees, Gerrit Cole showed that he is primed to resume the dominance he displayed with the Houston Astros over the past few seasons. The righty completely mastered the Indians, striking out 13 batters over seven innings.
Cole is a player who the Yankees are expecting to yield high dividends off of their hefty investment in him.
Born and raised in Southern California, Cole was initially selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of high school but opted to attend UCLA. Three years later, the Pittsburgh Pirates made him the first overall pick in the draft. Last off-season, he was baseball’s most coveted free-agent. As a young boy, Cole became enamored of the Yankees and remained a lifelong fan. That, and most significantly, $324 million, the most money ever for a pitcher, lured him to the Bronx.
The Yankees and their fans know it will be an arduous journey through this unparalleled postseason. Some baseball purists may place an asterisk on the eventual champion’s name when it’s all said and done. Still, even under these unique circumstances, the reality of being the Yankees is World Series title or bust.