The Yankees, baseball's sleeping giant, is waking up in 2017. The Baby Bombers are surprising everybody this season with a 45-41 record at the All-Star break. They have one of the best offenses and two cornerstones in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez that are putting up historic numbers in their short careers. With a few holes to fill this upcoming off-season, expect them to become serious contenders starting next season.
They've stumbled a bit in June and early July, but are still in good shape to make a run at the playoffs, an experience their young core would benefit tremendously from. The chemistry and potential this 2017 team is showing has fans having flashbacks of the '90s when then up and comers Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera were on their way to forming the core of the Bronx Bombers' most recent dynasty.
We got up with Tino Martinez, who played in pinstripes from 1996-2001 and then again in 2005, at Pepsi's 1838 Club in Yankee Stadium to mix some cocktails and talk Baby Bombers. Like every Yankee fan, Tino looks forward to the future and believes this young crop of players can eventually lead the Yankees back to the promised land. Check out his thoughts on what it's going to take to get the 2017 Yankees over the top.
Does team remind you a little bit of ‘96?
It does but it also reminds me of the ‘98 team, the year we won 114 games. I’m not saying they’re going to win that many games but the way they take the field, they act like they’re going to win, they feel like they’re going to win every single game. No matter how far behind. They fall five, six runs down and they know they’re coming back. They’re playing with fire and they’re playing with intensity and they’re just a lot of fun to watch.
What do you think the team is missing? I’m surprised at how good they’re doing. I had low expectations and I’m thinking in the next two or three years, these guys are gonna be contenders.
They’re going to good the next couple years. I think the pitching is doing OK. CC [Sabathia] was was doing a great job before he got hurt, Tanaka has been struggling a little bit but I think they have what it takes to win. They have a good enough pitching staff, a good enough bullpen, and they score a lot of runs, so if they add a pitcher or two it would be great but I think they know they can win with what they have.
Play GM. What pitcher would you add?
I’d add Clayton Kershaw [Laughs.] That’d be great.
He’s not too good in the playoffs.
I don’t care [Laughs.] You got to get to the playoffs.
Greg Bird has been having a hard time. What advice do you have for him?
First of all, he’s got to get healthy. His biggest problem is that he’s been playing hurt and that’s kind of affected him a little bit. Once he gets healthy, I told him take it one at bat at time. At the end of the year, his numbers will be there but he’s got to get healthy first and foremost.
Who’s your favorite player in the game right now that’s not a Yankee?
So I can’t say Aaron Judge, he’s out. I like Carlos Correa from the Houston Astros. I think he’s phenomenal. Cody Bellinger, the new kid that came from the Dodgers. He’s really impressed me with the start he’s had and what a great swing he’s got.
Do you have any memories from the perfect games or no-hitters you played in?
Yea, I remember all of them: Doc Gooden, David Cone, David Wells. They’re a lot of fun to play in but they’re also a lot of pressure. When you get to the sixth or seventh inning and you see the zero on the board with no hits, then you start realizing as a first baseman that nobody has gotten to first base yet. So you really don’t know what’s going on until the sixth or seventh inning. From that point on, when you hear the crowd react every time the pitcher would take the mound, you would have to buckle down and play good defense.
Talk about playing with Derek Jeter and taking in the ceremony they did for him that day.
Derek’s a great guy and a great player. One of the best players of all time. I enjoyed taking the field with him and being a teammate of his over the years. Just watching him go about his business the way he did every single day which was amazing. To be out there for his jersey retirement was awesome and a culmination of a great career and to be apart of that having seen most of his success over the years, I’m very proud to be a part of it.
Do you think this team has a real shot this year?
I think this team has a real shot. I’m sure Brian Cashman will add a piece here and there they need but they’re a great offensive team, good pitching staff, good bullpen and they have that killer instinct. They have a great chance to win. They’re in a good shape. They’re fun to watch and the most important thing is they believe in themselves and they believe they can win.