With bitter wait almost over, Yankees’ Opening Day provides rare sweetness

The new ace of the Yankees, Gerrit Cole. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Joe Pantorno

Generally, as a franchise, the New York Yankees haven’t necessarily needed to abide by the philosophy of patience. 

It’s fair to say that 99.9% of its living, breathing fan base has experienced at least one golden era in their respective lifetimes. That’s what comes with the territory of winning 27 World Series titles — a reason why the franchise and its supporters are often detested amongst the major-league ranks. 

But the Yankees have had to be awfully patient over the past nine months (I know, boo-hoo) of Major League Baseball’s extended offseason created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They have had to sit on the brutal loss to the Houston Astros in the ALCS when Jose Altuve socked the series-clinching, walk-off home run — anger that only intensified after the Astros’ reputation was obliterated when it was discovered that they illegally stole signs during the 2017 season. That year, they won their first-ever World Series, beating the Yankees in the ALCS to get there. 

Naturally, skepticism arose during the Astros’ 2019 AL pennant at the expense of the Yankees; especially when Altuve clutched his jersey closed, telling his celebrating teammates to stay away on that walk-off round-tripper.

It’s something that has remained fresh on the mind of slugger Aaron Judge, who is fueled by the feeling of last year’s heartbreak.

“Thinking a lot about the way last year ended — it’s motivation,” Judge said. “I tell the guys don’t forget that feeling. Don’t forget that emptiness! I tell the guys to use it as fuel!”

Despite MLB’s heavy punishments on the Astros and its geographical schedule limiting travel amid the pandemic to ensure that Houston and New York doesn’t meet during the regular season this year, the two clubs remain on a crash course for the postseason as they remain two of the strongest teams in the American League.  

They have had to wait to see their new prized arm, Gerrit Cole, take the mound in Pinstripes after signing a gargantuan nine-year, $324 million contract during the offseason. The American League Cy Young runner-up last season who has been one of the baseball’s most dominant pitchers gives the Yankees something it has lacked during their warp-speeded rebuild: A true and bona fide ace. 

They have had to wait to see their powerful, ruthless, imposing offense return to full health as they’ve seen the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Miguel Andujar deal with injuries over the last calendar year. 

The waiting is over.

The Bronx Bombers open up the 60-game 2020 Major League Baseball season on Thursday night in the nation’s capital against the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals (7:08 p.m. ET first pitch, ESPN) where we all get a first look at Gerrit Cole as a Yankee facing off against Max Scherzer, arguably the top pitcher in the National League alongside New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom. 

With it comes the heavy expectation of winning World Series title No. 28 given their embarrassment of riches. Since June 1, 13.25% of all of the bets placed on the betting market to win the World Series have gone in favor of the Yankees — more than any other team in that time frame, according to OddsChecker.com.

Normally, this would be the time to sarcastically say something along the lines of “no pressure.” But because of the overwhelming might of the Yankees, it might be best to just wish good luck to those who cross their path this summer instead.   

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