TAMPA — It was the first look at Murderers’ Row 2.0, a potentially record-shattering lineup for the 2018 Bronx Bombers that will include some combination of Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius following one another on most nights, assuming they can all stay healthy.
“It’s as good as it gets,” special guest of the week Russell Wilson said. “It’s fun to hit with those guys.”
Detroit’s Daniel Norris found out just how difficult it is to handle the Yankee juggernaut in the first inning Wednesday. The Tigers lefty retired Gardner and Judge to open the frame. But Stanton skied a single that found the grass in right, and Sanchez tattooed Norris’ next pitch over the scoreboard in left.
Just like that, it was 2-0 Yankees, with the All-Star catcher reminding everyone that this team isn’t just built around Judge and Stanton.
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“It looked like he was back in the (Home Run) derby, kicking my butt,” Stanton said, referring to Sanchez’s first-round upset in 2017. “That was nice. Sat on the first one, and put us up right away.”
Sanchez’s mammoth blast may have been farther than the 493-footer he belted against Detroit last season.
“That was loud,” said Judge, who saw it on the clubhouse TV because he was taking some swings inside. “He’s explosive. That’s what Gary does. I feel like he could just wake up out of bed with no swings and get into a game and do that.”
Aaron Boone was equally impressed.
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“It feels like he’s on the hunt,” Boone said of Sanchez. “He’s up there just looking to do damage.
Boone has some decisions to make as to who hits where and how he aligns them vs. lefties and righties – a problem pretty much every manager not named A.J. Hinch only wishes they had.
Specifically, I wouldn’t mind Boone stacking Judge and Stanton together in the No. 2-3 holes all the time, and I like the idea of both sluggers being guaranteed to hit in the first inning.
I also like that Stanton would be protecting Judge as he heads into his second season with greater expectations — even if some baseball people don’t seem to put as much of a premium on that anymore.
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If the concern is back-to-back righty power hitters vs. righty power relievers with hard breaking stuff later in games, well, I’d be fine going down with the reigning NL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year award winner in those instances. That’s why you have them.
But I could just as easily see Boone sliding Bird in-between Judge and Stanton — at least against righties — with Gregorius and Sanchez following the trio in some order to make late-game bullpen matchups more difficult for the opposition.
In any case, there’s a reason many have looked up the MLB team records for most homers (264, 1997 Mariners) and runs scored (1,067, 1931 Yankees) in a single season. You never know what these guys are capable of — even if that second mark seems unbreakable.
“The other team can’t let their guard down with the type of players we have,” Judge said.
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Boone has already stated that one of his mantras for his team in 2018 is control the strike zone. The Yankees are going to strike out a lot, but they’re also going to put up a lot of crooked numbers too. Still, cutting down on those Ks is going to be key if/when the Bombers face elite pitching in the postseason.
Regardless, this is only the beginning, when players of all calibers are still rounding into form.
Judge only just made his spring debut, while Stanton produced his first two hits of the spring, adding a roped double to right later in the game.
They can come at you in waves, these Bronx Bombers. And they’ve got plenty of lineup depth to handle slumps and injuries.
Four of those top six hitters have been All-Stars, and it’s possible that all six could be by the break if Bird and Gregorius participate in their first Midsummer Classics.
It’s easy to dream on Murderers’ Row 2.0, potential records and all.
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