For this generation of Yankees fans, they were their version of the Beatles. The Beatles were dubbed the Fab Four; the Yankees had the Core Four. They were four homegrown baseball studs who built this Yankees dynasty from the inside out. Floating around like protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the five championship teams were Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and of course, the Captain, Derek Jeter. With the retirement of Pettitte, the Core Four is now down to the Big Three. And with Posada in the last year of his contract, it’s time to start thinking of the next batch of youngsters that could comprise the sequel.
So who are some potential candidates to try to fill the VERY big shoes of their predecessors? You know, the four pairs of shoes that are filled with a combined 20 World Series Rings? No pressure. Let’s discuss.
The first name that comes to mind is Robinson Cano. He is coming off a career season (29 homers, 109 RBI, 103 runs scored, 57 walks, .381 on-base percentage, .914 OPS -- all career bests) and he is the lone homegrown successor in the infield right now. He’ll be 29 on Oct. 22.
The next name that comes to mind is Phil Hughes. He turns 25 on June 24 and is also coming off a career year. Hughes has been handled with kid gloves, but this year the gloves will be completely off. His leash was a bit longer last year, and it allowed him to put up a career best 18 wins. In a year filled with doubt in the rotation, Hughes could silence critics and make a play for a spot in the nucleus with another solid season. In Sunday morning’s meeting with Joe Girardi, the manager was asked about his perception of Hughes. Girardi said, “I don’t look at him as being a veteran, but I don’t look at him as being a young kid either. I’ve seen him since 2007 when I was a broadcaster. He understands what he has to do and what it takes and how you have to make adjustments. In a sense, you don’t consider him a young kid anymore.”
There you have it: confirmation that the gloves are off.
Let’s move to the outfield now. It can’t be Nick Swisher. It can’t be Curtis Granderson. So it has to be Brett Gardner. I know I will take some heat for putting
Next up is a bunch of kids that “Could Be” considered in the mix of the Nucleus, The Next Generation. Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos on the pitching end of the equation, and their receivers are the other candidates getting some consideration, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.
It is way too early to tell on these “Baby Bombers,” but there is a reason for excitement surrounding them, especially with the soon-to-be 20-year-old Banuelos, who was electric in his two innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday. He was hitting 94 on the gun and featuring an 80-82 mph changeup and a knee-buckling curveball. As eye-popping as he has been, though, Girardi warned that it’s only been three innings, and it’s only Spring Training. But even though Girardi is cautiously optimistic about his teenage lefty, he did heap some praise on the kid, saying, “The one thing you don’t know is how a guy is going to handle the situation once he gets here, being so young. Is he going to overthrow? Is he going to throw strikes? Is he going to be able to execute his pitches? He’s showing he’s capable of all of those things, and the surroundings haven’t fazed him.” He went onto say, “To be able to have the stuff he has at 19 and to be able to pitch here is shocking.”
Do any of these guys deserve to me mentioned in the same breath as the guys who were basically the Lords of the Rings? No. Not yet. They have a lot of work to do to get to that level. But it’s very possible. Yes, the future seems to be bright on the “homegrown” front.