HOUSTON -- The Baby Bombers are all the rage these days.Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Luis Severino have Yankees fans dreaming about a "Core Four" sequel, one they're hoping will land in next week's Fall Classic.:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::But behind every spectacular rookie, there's a veteran
HOUSTON -- The Baby Bombers are all the rage these days.
Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Luis Severino have Yankees fans dreaming about a "Core Four" sequel, one they're hoping will land in next week's Fall Classic.
:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::
But behind every spectacular rookie, there's a veteran doing his part to help show them the way.
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No, Chase Headley hasn't fine-tuned Judge's powerful swing and Brett Gardner isn't giving Sanchez guidance on how to hit a ball 450 feet, but they're among the veterans who have played a key role in the maturity of the Yankees' fledgling group.
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"I give our veterans a lot of credit for accepting them for who they are and allowing them to be themselves, and continuing to show belief in them like we have," manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes for a veteran, when a young kid is pushing you and pushing you out, it can be difficult. But our guys have embraced them."
Gardner spent his early days surrounded by the likes of Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez, learning the ins and outs of big league life on and off the field.
As a rookie with the Padres, Headley looked to Mike Cameron, Greg Maddux and David Wells among others, watching the way the proven veterans went about their business as Headley embarked on the first of his 11 years (and counting) in the Majors.
"These guys weren't hard on you just because you were a young guy; they'd let you know when you were doing things the wrong way," Headley said. "We're counting on these guys; you need them to be comfortable. It was important that they felt like they fit in and that they belonged here. That was the collective feeling.
"A lot of the credit has to go to them, too. They make it easy. We have a good group of young guys; it's not like we're slamming our heads against the wall trying to get them to do the right thing."
When the Yankees traded Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran last year, it left two gaping holes in the club's leadership. The pair had helped fill the void left by Jeter's retirement, but now the Yankees were in need of others to do the same following their respective departures.
Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, stepped up. He, Headley and the newly acquired Matthew Holliday have served as mentors to their inexperienced teammates, who were a receptive group as they learned the ebbs and flows of the 162-game grind.
"The blend is vitally important," general manager Brian Cashman said. "First and foremost, all of them are high-character people who care about winning and respect each other. I do think, without question, that it's hard to go all-young. You need the blend. We already had a real stable crew. Gardy has been a big guy in this clubhouse for a long time, so when we said goodbye to Mac and Beltran, and both [Mark] Teixeira and A-Rod retired, the baton was passed. They picked up that baton and ran with it.
"The new guys knew this was going to be their time, but in the early stages of development, they also understood that they needed to genuflect and look to the people above them for guidance. It just came together really quick. It's been really just a seamless transition from last year to this year."
The dynamic of the clubhouse -- which had skewed toward accomplished veterans that had done and seen it all throughout the years -- changed with the addition of the kids, adding a spark to a team that seemed to need one following four pedestrian seasons.
"That's the beautiful thing about the game; it gets passed on," Headley said. "You do take pride that the game is getting better and the players around you are getting better and doing things the right way. I don't know how much we've had to do with it, but hopefully it's a little bit."
Not only did Judge, Sanchez and Severino post stellar numbers to guide the Yankees back to the postseason, but the old guys did their part, too. Headley posted his most productive season since 2012, while Gardner set a career high in home runs while posting his highest OPS over a full season.
Even as Judge and Sanchez starred for the Yankees this week against the Astros, it was Todd Frazier, Headley and Gardner who helped the eighth-inning rally get started in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
"Obviously those guys are doing a lot of the damage in the middle of the lineup, but you have to take some pressure off of them," Headley said. "They're going to go through those ups and downs, and the only way to offset that is to have everybody else being productive around them. Hopefully, they don't feel like if they don't come through in a big spot, the game is over. A lot of guys have done a nice job having good years around them, which makes the whole team that much stronger."
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.