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Brian Cashman: Yankees are ‘little engine that could’

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Last year virtually no one making predictions had the Yankees making the playoffs. None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them figured the Yankees would be playing in the postseason. Most people thought that the Yankees were going to rebuild in 2017 and, even if their rebuilt might not take as long as some other teams’ rebuilds, it could be a bit before they tasted the postseason again.

Of course the Yankees played wonderfully last year, getting a ton of contributions from young players, essentially ending the rebuild before it began. They defeated the defending AL champ Cleveland Indians in the ALDS and took the eventual World Series champion Astros to Game 7 of the ALCS before falling. In the process, the Yankees — maybe for the first time in their history — credibly played the “no one believed in us” card:

As I wrote at the time, it may have been crazy, at first blush, to hear anyone call the Yankees underdogs, but they were. It was a totally fair stance for them to take.

What a difference a few months make. The Yankees now look like an absolute power, both because of what we learned about them as they marched to Game 7 of the ALCS, but also because they picked up NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton in an offseason trade. Yes, the Red Sox are good, yes the Red Sox are the defending AL East champs, and yes the Red Sox just signed J.D. Martinez, but anyone thinking that the Yankees are not among the best 3-4 teams in the game is deluded.

Yet, there is still that need to cast oneself as the underdog:

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman thinks his team can compete for another division title this season, but until that potentially happens, he only sees them one way.

“We’re ‘The Little Engine That Could,'” he said Wednesday as a guest on ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show.”

The statement was accompanied on air by laughter

Thank God for the laughter, because if he was 100% serious about playing the “no one believes in us” card in 2018, he’d need to have his head examined.

Still, he notes in the article that, until someone beats the Red Sox, they’re the defending division champs, so there is at least some element of seriousness to his stance, I think. I guess that’s technically true, but c’mon, man. Ain’t no one gonna jump on the Yankees-as-underdog train. At least I hope not.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.