The New York Yankees are playing with house money. They're crashing a party they weren’t supposed to be invited to for another year or two. This young, exciting, up-and-coming bunch has a chance to make some real noise.
The names -- such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino -- will become a little bigger under the October spotlight. They're in the dance this year, but it might just be the dawn of the franchise’s next dynasty, with more assets on the way in the minors and buckets of money about to come off Hal Steinbrenner’s spreadsheet.
For right now, the Yankees look destined to host the wild-card game. Even in the friendly confines of the Bronx, it's a coin flip. But if the Yankees can get past it, they'll be a tough out for either the Indians or the Astros. With their bullpen and their home run power, these young Yankees are dangerous.
By making the playoffs, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman guaranteed they'll be welcomed back next year, and, if either were to leave, it would be on their accord -- and not because of Steinbrenner, who has never seemed inclined to get rid of them anyway. Cashman, who masterfully rebuilt the franchise over the past 15 months, was always assumed to be returning. Girardi has been a pretty good bet, too, but if he had failed to guide the Yankees to the playoffs after the first half and the middling teams chasing them, it would have been far from a sure thing.
If the Yankees were on the outside looking in, much of the fan base likely would've wanted Girardi gone. Steinbrenner would've been forced to stand up to the angry mob. That's no longer an issue, as the Yankees get set to play just their second playoff game since 2012. Girardi, with his World Series ring from 2009, can decide if he wants to stay in charge of what might be a burgeoning dynasty.
If the Yankees are, in fact, embarking on their next great run, this October could mirror 1995. That was the year Mariano Rivera gave a glimpse of who he would be when the Yankees nearly beat the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS. A year later, Derek Jeter would show up, and the Yankees would go on to win five titles over the next 14 years.
This Yankees team is headed in the right direction, but things can change fast. Just look across town at the Mets, who were in the World Series just two years ago, though it feels like 100 now. But those are issues for another day.
Today, the Yankees are back in the playoffs, just one year after Cashman tore down the old, cranky, veteran roster and rebuilt it with youth. Judge, Sanchez and Severino have transformed into All-Stars, while the veterans played their parts in spurts.
The playoffs are a crapshoot; especially the wild card. The Yankees might be a one-and-done. But they're back in the showcase, earlier than expected.