Even in the worst of times, there are signals that the best of times are just over the horizon for the New York Yankees. This season has been a bust for the Yankees until Jasson Dominguez saved them with a soft landing for 2024.
On Friday, The Martian landed on the Yankees’ roster with a homer in his debut at-bat. If you spotted any unidentified flying objects lighting up the New York skies last night, it might have been Dominguez bashing the skin off cowhide. Wednesday night, in the third inning of his first game at Yankee Stadium wearing the pinstripes, Dominguez crushed a 96-mph fastball into the short porch to lead off the third inning and propelled New York to its fifth straight win. Dominguez has now reached base in all five of his games with the Bombers and his only mistake so far has been misinterpreting Spielberg’s E.T. by extending his right pointer at the sky as an allusion to his El Marciano moniker. If you’re not going to respect the classics, then what are we even doing here?
As for the Pinheaded pinstripes, the team’s late-season winning streak has the most obnoxious fanbase in the majors (Ed. note: Second-most obnoxious, as long as Boston exists) manifesting delusional postseason sand castlesagain with 23 games remaining on the schedule. But how many times must we go through this with the Yankees? When the vibes are positive, they’re a threat to add another World Series banner. When they’re looking to the future, every prospect is the next planet-killer. This season, their massive payroll investments crashed and then, within that crater, Dominguez terraformed the ground before his very feet.
When the initial hype wore off after the Yankees signed Dominguez as a 16-year-old international mega-prospect, and the pandemic resulted in a cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, he struggled with each matriculation to a higher level of competition. But just a week into his major-league career, Dominguez is playing himself into Mickey Mantle comparisons. Like Mantle, Dominguez switch hits, too, which makes him lethal to righties, southpaws, and my personal disdain for Yankee kismet.
It’s very likely he regresses, at least toward the mean. Few rookies come right out the womb as fully gestated one-in-a-generation hitters. But because these are the Yankees, Dominguez will dominate the AL East discourse for the next month, and throughout the winter. As recently as 2020, Venezuelan-born Gleyber Torres was marked as the Jeter clone du jour. He hasn’t been humiliating, but the production has dipped. Since then, his Yankee tenure has been a record scratch that could end with him playing elsewhere next season at the age of 27. Last year, the Yankees minor league Jeter factory pumped out shortstop Anthony Volpe. Nobody does hype like the Yankees.
Dominguez’s type of production represents the other type of player Brian Cashman covets. The hope is that Dominguez develops into more of a Mantle type than a slugger who deposits 30-plus dingers a season into the bleachers but can’t slash singles or doubles, steal bases, or advance runners in scoring position. This season, the Yankees lead the majors in runners left on base. For Cashman’s sake, he needs Dominguez to pan out. He’s the most important prospect Cashman’s ever signed because of the farm league famine New York has endured this decade. Aside from Aaron Judge, which is a big aside, the front office’s track record in growing All-Stars is pretty spectacularly bad.
Wander Franco’s alleged transgressions might result in his career coming to a screeching halt, which makes Dominguez, the divisions, most exciting whippersnapper Dominguez is going to have the Baltimore Orioles young guns feeling like Kurt Russell in 1981, trying to escape the penumbra of New York and Dominguez expectations. There’s another 80s reference Dominguez can butcher.
The last decade has been a nice reprieve. No championships, Aaron Boone has twiddled his thumbs and kept the Yankees on life support just long enough to make it seem like they’re alive. A few ALCS losses have humbled the New York Steinbrenners. Judge’s 62-home run contract season was an adrenaline rush, but the Dominguez revelation feels like a headache waiting to happen for the anti-Yankee establishment.
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