Aaron Boone, Yankees could be on the cusp of something special


Aaron Boone is full of praise for his team's "singular focus". (AP)
At the YES Network studios, we receive a satellite feed of Aaron Boone's daily press conferences as they happen or minutes after they have happened. While I prepared for last Sunday's pre-game show, I was taking notes and listening to Boone's interview. I straightened up in my seat the moment Boone said this.
"When I look at our team now, we're capable of being the best team in the world," he said.
Those words resonated with me because of what Boone said, how he said it and when he said it. Quizzed about the areas where the Yankees needed to improve, Boone decided to discuss how good he thinks the Yankees already are. Sure, the Yankees will likely add a pitcher or two before the trade deadline on July 31, but, as he waits, Boone emphasized that he likes these Yankees just the way they are.
And it's difficult to argue with him.
The Yankees have the best record in the American League at 57-31, they are on pace to win a whopping 105 games and they have accomplished this while sending 21 players to the injured list. Every time the Yankees could have or should have stumbled, they didn't. Domingo German wasn't supposed to be the ace for two months. Gio Urshela wasn't supposed to imitate Graig Nettles at third base. D.J. LeMahieu was supposed to be very good, but this good? All of this winning has transpired without one pitch being thrown by Luis Severino or Dellin Betances.
Boone mentioned the "singular focus" the Yankees have exhibited while playing to win the next at-bat, the next inning and the next game and then starting the process all over again. The Yankees have a resilient and ferocious lineup that is second in the Major Leagues in runs per game at 5.715 (to Minnesota's 5.719). There are no soft spots in a lineup that has received almost no production from Giancarlo Stanton, who has played in only nine games, and Miguel Andujar, who is done for the season after shoulder surgery.
But, as the Yankees peek ahead to October, they are concerned about their rotation and about which pitchers they can trust in the playoffs. If the Yankees had to play a postseason series right now, I think they would start Masahiro Tanaka in the opener. They would love to be able to start James Paxton in Game 2, but the problems with his four-seam fastball have been worrisome. German has actually been their best starter, but he's a rookie who will have innings limits and new challenges in the second half. CC Sabathia has a respectable 4.03 ERA and can still baffle batters, but J.A. Happ (5.02 ERA) has been stung by homers and hasn't been the reliable pitcher he was in the second half of 2018.
With a rotation that is sporting a 4.22 ERA, the 12th best in the Majors, GM Brian Cashman has been vocal about adding some pitchers. I don't think Cashman will overpay for a rental and I also don't think he's eager to trade Clint Frazier so I'm curious to see which arm they might import. The names being bandied about include Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Zach Wheeler and Matthew Boyd. Severino could return and be a contributor, but the Yankees can't count on that.
As the second half of a potentially special season begins, Boone is confident the Yankees will keep playing with a singular focus. The best stories in sports are the ones that no one expects and no one expected a team decimated by this many injuries to be this dominant. But the Yankees have been. Now the Yankees will try to make Boone sound prophetic and try to prove they are the best team on the planet.