For now, the Yankees are where they used to be a lot but haven't been for a while, which is at the top of the baseball world. They are three games better in the loss column than the Red Sox, six better than the Astros, the defending World Series champions,
For now, the Yankees are where they used to be a lot but haven't been for a while, which is at the top of the baseball world. They are three games better in the loss column than the Red Sox, six better than the Astros, the defending World Series champions, seven better in the loss column than the best record in the National League. So much of this is because of a couple of gifted kids at the bottom of their batting order, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar.
It means that a 21-year-old and a 23-year-old who both started the season in the Minor Leagues haven't just been this important to the best offense in the league, they have been two of the most valuable players in the game. Torres has 11 home runs so far. When he got to 10 about a week ago, he became the second-youngest Yankee, after Mickey Mantle, to get there since Mantle did it when he was 19. The third youngest is Joe DiMaggio.
And when Andujar had a streak of six straight games with an extra-base hit earlier in this season, doing so before his 24th birthday, he also hit himself into the record books with Mantle and DiMaggio. Neither one of them has hit as many home runs as Aaron Judge (18) and Giancarlo Stanton (15) have so far. They have still been as important to the success the Yanks have had as either one of the big guys higher up in the order. And perhaps more.
"They are," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday, "the booster rocket on the space shuttle we've built."
So then, to go with a team known as the Baby Bombers, they have now added the Baby Boosters.
Through this weekend's Subway Series against the Mets, one that ended with the Yankees getting shut out for the first time this season, Torres has 11 home runs, 29 RBIs, a .297 batting average and an OPS of .915. Andujar has eight homers, 28 RBIs, a .310 batting average and an OPS of .891. He generally hits eighth. Torres hits ninth. It seems like a distant memory that the Yanks started the season with Brandon Drury playing third, Neil Walker at second.
Andujar, who comes out of the Dominican Republic, was signed as an international free agent by the Yankees when he was 16 years old. So he has come all the way up through what Cashman has slowly built back into being one of the best farm systems on the planet. It was different with Torres. Cashman traded for him in the summer of 2016. The Cubs needed a closer if they were really going to end 108 years of waiting for a World Series championship on the North Side of Chicago. Cashman had one in Albertin Chapman, who was eligible to become a free agent once the '16 season was over. And he did. And is back with the Yanks now.
Before all that, Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, needed Chapman if he was going to do for the Cubs what he had already done with the 2004 Red Sox, when those Red Sox ended 86 years of waiting at Fenway Park. Of course Epstein knew what he had with Torres. Everybody did. Epstein had to make the deal, trade a future like Torres' to clean up the past once and for all with the Cubs. He made the deal. The Cubs won, but in the process, they lost the kid now playing second for the Yankees, one not just affirming what all the scouts always thought about him, but making you think at the same time that he is just scratching the surface.
Cashman was asked on Sunday if anything interesting was said about Torres when the deal for Chapman was being put up on its legs.
Said Cashman: "Thankfully, they just said yes."
The Yankees got a lot of talented and interesting young guys when they made their 2016 Trade Deadline deals, not just for Chapman but also for Andrew Miller, the left-handed reliever who helped pitch the Indians in the World Series. The best and most talented and most interesting of all of them has turned out to be Torres.
Torres got two hits on Friday night against the Mets, Chapman got the save. On Saturday night, Torres and Andujar both homered and Chapman got another save and the Yankees won again. As well as the Yanks have hit and scored this season, around all their strikeouts, there are still soft places in the batting order. Didi Gregorius has been in a freefall for a couple of months. Despite 12 home runs, Gary Sanchez is hitting .190. Stanton is batting .244 and has already struck out 84 times.
The Yankee record is still great with with not-so-great numbers like those; with Masahiro Tanaka maybe out for a month and Jordan Montgomery, who pitched the home opener, gone for the season because of Tommy John surgery. It's a record that sometimes seems to have been built from the bottom of the order on up -- a couple of Baby Boosters down there, trying to make them a rocket to the moon.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.