Resurgent Yankees find motivation in a new rallying cry as they climb AL East ranks

Aaron Judge of the Yankees at Rogers Center, Toronto, on May 17, 2023.

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After the Yankees’ 4-1 victory against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, the players were preparing for their afternoon flight back to New York. Amidst this, designated hitter Willie Calhoun found a moment to relax. There was a stool in front of his locker, and he sat there with a plate in his lap eating leisurely. It was a brief pause in the midst of the post-game activities, allowing Calhoun to gather his thoughts and perhaps enjoy a meal before heading home. 

Calhoun finished his postgame lunch and then sat down to think about the last week. The Yankees had emerged victorious in six out of seven games, played across two countries. The four intense games in Toronto, in particular, stood out, as they were filled with thrilling moments and ended with three victories for the Yankees. Calhoun couldn’t help but be amazed by the drama and excitement that unfolded during those games.

He chuckled as he described the series as the “weirdest series early in the season” he had ever been a part of. Calhoun mentioned that there had been chirping from both sides, but despite the unusual circumstances, he found it enjoyable.

The Yankees got the spark to ignite

The Yankees too expressed their deep appreciation for the past week, highlighting how they triumphed over adversity. Last Monday, Aaron Judge faced a false accusation of cheating when he simply glanced at the first-base coach or into the Yankees dugout before hitting a home run. Domingo German, on the other hand, faced consequences as he was ejected from a game and later suspended for 10 games due to using an excessively sticky substance on his hands while pitching.

Additionally, the Blue Jays coaching staff engaged in petty gamesmanship by making third-base coach Luis Rojas remain in the box. In a regrettable incident, manager John Schneider resorted to disrespectful behavior by telling Yankees assistant hitting coach Brad Wilkerson to be quiet while referring to him using an inappropriate term.

The Yankees team led by Harrison Bader after their win over the Reds in Cincinnati on May 21, 2023.

In response to the challenges they faced, the Yankees showed their resilience by winning three out of four games on the road against a strong division rival. They continued their success by doing exactly what was expected of them and winning all three games against a weaker Reds team.

Calhoun explained that they have a mindset of blocking out external distractions and focusing solely on what needs to be done each day in order to secure a victory. After a successful 6-1 road trip, the Yankees returned home with a season-high record of 29-20, placing them nine games above .500. In addition, they have made significant progress moving up from last place to third in the AL East standings. With their recent streak of 11 wins in 14 games, they have managed to close the gap to 5.5 games behind the first-place Rays, after being 10 games behind previously.

Boone happy over the motivated team

Manager Aaron Boone, who was understandably in a cheerful mood after Sunday’s game, expressed his delight in spending the weekend in Cincinnati. It was significant to him because that was where he first played professional baseball at the Major League level. Over the course of the weekend, he was able to catch up with Pete Rose and a number of other old pals, which made for a fantastic time for him.

What brings the most satisfaction to Boone is witnessing the Yankees’ ability to keep winning, even in the face of significant adversity. Despite the chaotic events that unfolded in Toronto, the team has managed to overcome obstacles. Furthermore, the Yankees have had to deal with additional setbacks, with two more players, starting catcher Jose Trevino and talented bullpen pitcher Ian Hamilton, being added to the already extensive injured list.

Boone emphasized the factors that have contributed to the Yankees’ recent success after Sunday’s game. He mentioned the team’s new rallying cry, which revolves around the principles of preparation and competition.

 “Prepare and compete. They’re doing that at a high level right now,” he said.

According to Boone, the players have been embodying these principles at an exceptional level, and it has played a significant role in their current winning streak.

Bader too reflected on it

Harrison Bader, who went 2-for-4 and hit a home run in the fifth inning on Sunday to help his team overcome a 1-0 deficit and win 2-1, reflected on the team’s growth over the last week. He conveyed that the team had gained valuable insights about themselves during the recent road trip. He mentioned that they had faced challenges, including external controversies and high-energy situations that were unrelated to the game of baseball. Bader indicated that these experiences provided the team with a deeper understanding of their dynamics and how they handle such situations.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees is at the dugout in Cincinnati against the Reds on May 21, 2023.
NamethatYank/ Twitter

Bader expressed satisfaction with their ability to navigate through these challenges on a nightly basis and in the heat of the moment. The central fielder highlighted the team’s focus on staying true to their game plan, maintaining their energy within the team’s environment, and not getting distracted.  He acknowledged the beauty of the game of baseball and expressed excitement about carrying the momentum forward and continuing their progress.

The way ahead for the Yankees

After a busy stretch of games, the Yankees will enjoy a day off on Monday before they embark on a series of three games at home. They have two formidable opponents in the American League East’s Baltimore Orioles and the National League West’s San Diego Padres.

This respite couldn’t have come at a better time for the Yankees, who have been facing a punishing schedule. They recently completed a stretch of playing games for 17 consecutive days and have participated in 33 out of the last 34 games. 

Boone commented on the team’s recent trip, describing it as a great one. He acknowledged that the past stretch of games had been difficult, with 33 out of 34 games played and various levels of player health. While some players have returned, the team has also faced injuries. However, Boone expressed excitement about the team’s impressive competitiveness.

“We learned a lot about ourselves this roadtrip,” Bader said. “If we didn’t already know prior to having some stuff go a little sideways and have some high energy (the controversies) that was away from the game of baseball, we learned it now.

He emphasized the team’s ongoing efforts to improve their health, recognizing its positive impact on their overall strength. Boone commended the team for their strong performance, particularly during the challenging stretch of games leading up to their upcoming day off during the homestand. He expressed optimism for the team’s future success in the upcoming games.

Despite facing numerous challenges and distractions in Toronto, the Yankees remained focused and emerged victorious. Boone mentioned that it was something they constantly try to prepare for and discuss. He acknowledged that they were aware they would encounter adversity and experience both highs and lows. He emphasized the importance of being prepared and equipped to handle any situation, noting that the team had managed it effectively thus far. However, he also expressed their understanding that there was still a considerable journey ahead and emphasized the need to continue making their best efforts.

Boone reiterated his rallying cry, expressing satisfaction with their performance on the road trip. He mentioned their adherence to the principles of having an edge, being prepared, and competing. He stated that they were actively embodying these principles.

“I’m pleased with how we came out on this roadtrip, and that’s edge, prepare, compete,” he said. “We’re doing it.”

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