It is human nature that motivation comes differently to different people. For some, pains of the past leave a strong yearning to reach a goal in the future. For others, it is simply the prospect of attaining that future goal that fuels the desire to get there. However, both of these are the case in the Bronx as seen in the New York Yankees exhibition games.
The goal every year during Yankees camp is to hoist another World Series championship trophy at the end of October. That alone motivates the players. Although a formidable team has been built since the organization underwent a modified rebuild in 2016, that goal still eludes this core.
The team is no longer the rare-surprise contender that went to Game Seven of the 2017 ALCS. The expectations have been high, but the team has not delivered. The raw human emotion of disappointment and the subsequent pain that comes with it is also one of the main factors fueling the team in 2020.
More specifically, they remember the pain of losing to the Houston Astros on Jose Altuve‘s walkoff home run in the 2019 ALCS. After that game, right fielder Aaron Judge told the team to remember how they felt.
“Don’t forget this feeling,” said Judge. “Don’t forget this emptiness.”
Manager Aaron Boone sees the motivation in his players every day.
“I do remember Judgy in his way, in a strong way, saying that to us,” said Boone. “That added to the sting, to how real that moment was. I always feel like falling down does add another log to the fire…I’m witnessing that fire burning strongly.”
Using That Motivation
Overall, the team appears to have heeded Judge’s words and looks locked in. Having scored 17 runs in three exhibition games while allowing only five, that is quite evident. Additionally, they managed a late-inning comeback Monday to tie the only game of the three in which they trailed.
The Yankees have fielded the majority of their presumptive regulars throughout these exhibition games, and their offense looks in mid-season form. They hit eight home runs in that span.
They show tremendous depth. Outfielder Mike Tauchman is likely to start the season on the bench, but he recorded four hits in six at bats. Clint Frazier is another outfielder who will not crack the Opening Day starting lineup, and he hit a ball into Citi Field’s second deck Saturday night. Mike Ford contributed with his game-tying pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday.
The pitching depth is locked in, as well. While the staff held opponents to five runs in those three games, none of their projected top-four starting pitchers appeared. Mike King and Jordan Montgomery combined for nine innings and one earned run against a formidable New York Mets lineup. Although Deivi Garcia did struggle against the Philadelphia Phillies, four pitchers out of the bullpen held them scoreless for 7 1/3 innings. Of those four, only Zack Britton is a lock to make the Opening Day roster.
From the first player on the roster to the 60th, this team is ready for what lies ahead and is motivated to bring a championship back to New York after falling short in the previous three seasons. This is apparent in their mentality and Boone sees it in his players.
“It’s a hungry group,” said Boone. “I felt that way a year ago. I continue to see signs of it. I’ve seen that throughout this year already in spring training, and now summer camp, signs that mentally this team is where it needs to be.”
The Yankees are always motivated to win the World Series because that goal comes with playing for the organization. In 2020, they have more fuel on the fire, and they look ready for whatever the 60-game MLB season throws their way.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images