Yankees betting on Marcus Stroman to shed baggage like Sheffield did

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In 2004, the Yankees embraced the risk associated with Gary Sheffield, a highly skilled but temperamental free agent. Despite concerns about potential clubhouse discord and his volatile nature, George Steinbrenner perceived something unique. His intuition paid off handsomely: Sheffield excelled in the Bronx, contributing two impressive seasons and establishing himself as a beloved figure among fans.

Former Yankees great Gary Sheffield

Fast forward two decades, and the Yankees are once again taking a gamble, this time with Marcus Stroman. While his talent is unquestionable, apprehensions about his fiery demeanor and past conflicts with management have raised cautionary flags. However, akin to his father’s decision with Sheffield, Hal Steinbrenner has opted to heed a different perspective.

Similar to Sheffield, Marcus Stroman holds a profound desire to wear the iconic pinstripes. A native of Long Island who spent three seasons with the Mets, he could have opted for a quieter life with the Angels or Giants. Instead, he willingly accepted a pay cut to join the Yankees, showcasing his unwavering commitment to achieving success in the Bronx.

Yankees has done a thorough vetting of Marcus Stroman

Yankees 2024 rotation will have Marcus Stroman, Gerrit Cole, and Carlos Rodon

Desiring reinforcements for their pitching staff, the Yankees didn’t hastily pursue Marcus Stroman. They undertook a meticulous background examination, consulting industry sources and even reaching out to Marcus Stroman’s father, a police detective. Judge, Cole, and Boone were also involved in both promoting the Yankees experience and assessing Marcus Stroman’s maturity.

Undeniable whispers surrounded Marcus Stroman’s fiery personality and previous discord with Brian Cashman. However, those closely involved in the process believe he has “matured” significantly in recent years. At 33, his primary focus is securing a World Series ring, and he views the Yankees as his optimal opportunity.

Can Stroman integrate like Sheffield?

The pivotal question revolves around whether Marcus Stroman can assimilate into the Yankees’ culture as Sheffield did under Joe Torre. While cautiously optimistic, the team vividly recalls the unsuccessful courtship of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a player who initially signaled interest before choosing the Dodgers.

Unlike Donaldson and Gallo, acquired through trades with pre-existing behavioral concerns, Marcus Stroman is a free agent who made a conscious choice to join the Yankees. He comprehends the intense scrutiny, the demanding fanbase, and the pressures of the AL East. Although he cannot single-handedly rectify the disappointments of the 2023 season with 82 wins, he has the potential to stabilize a rotation fraught with uncertainties.

Upside and potential challenges

Pitcher Marcus Stroman is reportedly interested to join the Yankees in 2024.
Eve Edelheit-Wall Street Journal

Assuming he remains healthy, Marcus Stroman possesses the potential to outshine any Yankees starter except Cole. His potent sinker has the capability to be a game-changer, but success extends beyond sheer arm strength. The mental aspect, the ability to adapt to New York’s high-pressure environment, will be pivotal.

The Yankees are embarking on a substantial gamble, reminiscent of their decision with Sheffield two decades ago. Much like his father, Hal Steinbrenner is trusting his instincts to prove the skeptics wrong. Can Marcus Stroman replicate Sheffield’s success and become a revered figure in the Bronx, or will he succumb to the pressure similar to Donaldson and Gallo? Only time will unveil the outcome.

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