“A must-read for anyone who wants to understand who these new Yankees are, and where they are going.” Ken Rosenthal, MLB Network and FOX Sports
Derek Jeter and the “Core Four” have passed the torch to a new generation of Yankees superstarsfeaturing Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, and Greg Birdwho have powered through the minors to become stars on baseball’s biggest stage. Joined by reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, this thrilling group is poised to chase championship titles for years to come.
The Baby Bombers details the inside-baseball strategy of the Yankees’ pivot to a younger, more exciting roster, the players’ fascinating paths to Yankee Stadium, their memorable 2017 playoff run, their amazing assaults on the record books, and a unified mission to hoist the franchise’s twenty-eighth World Series trophy.
Through new, in-depth interviews, veteran reporter Bryan Hoch fleshes out the transition from Jeter to Judge, scoring behind-the-scenes insights from general manager Brian Cashman, former manager Joe Girardi, executives and scouts, members of the current roster, opponents, and Yankees legends of the past.
Winning baseball in the Bronx will resume with postseason hero Aaron Boone in the manager’s chair, aiming to steer the franchise to its forty-first World Series appearance. Featuring nearly fifty photographs, The Baby Bombers tracks the rise of today’s Yankees from fresh-faced rookies into a group that is destined for pinstriped greatness.
“A new generation of stars are developing right before our eyes, and Bryan Hoch is the right journalist to chronicle this exciting time for Yankees fans. This is a must-read book for those that understand the potential of this new core.” David Cone, four-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees and analyst for the YES Network
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About the Author
Bryan Hoch has written about New York baseball for the past two decades, including covering the New York Yankees as a beat reporter for MLB.com since 2007. Regularly seen on MLB Network, Hoch’s work has also been featured in Yankees Magazine , New York Mets Inside Pitch, and FOXSports.com. He lives in New York City with his wife Connie and daughter Penelope.
Read an Excerpt
Changing of the Guard
Two years, seven months and 19 days had passed since Derek Jeter's final Yankee Stadium at-bat, and as the longtime captain tugged on a three-piece blue suit to walk the hallways once more, retirement seemed even more enjoyable than he had anticipated. No longer was he forced to check into a Rust Belt hotel at 4 o'clock in the morning or to keep an eye on the weather forecast, unless it was to check on a tee time. Your calendar opens up to a great number of possibilities when you no longer have to try to win the World Series each and every year.
Jeter scaled the steps leading to the first-base dugout and found himself surrounded by players nearly half his age, milling about in a set of pink pinstriped uniforms that the team had been issued in observance of Mother's Day. Offering a friendly grin, Jeter watched as his outstretched right hand was swallowed into the meaty palm of 25-year-old right fielder Aaron Judge, who held a good four-inch, 87-pound advantage over Jeter's final listed playing measurements.
Now 43, Jeter said he had not watched much baseball immediately following his retirement, eager to create some distance from the sport that had dictated his every action from February to October (and occasionally November) for more than two decades. Of late, he had found himself flipping on the TV in his Tampa, Florida, home more often, checking in on the only organization he had ever played for. As a child, Jeter's favorite Yankee had been Dave Winfield, a towering right fielder with power. Now, all these years later, Jeter was becoming an Aaron Judge fan.
"He's had a tremendous start to his career, but more importantly, he handles himself well," Jeter had said two days earlier in Rockefeller Center's Studio 6B, where he taped an interview segment with Jimmy Fallon for The Tonight Show. "He's a good person, he works hard, he has the right demeanor and attitude, and hopefully he has a long career."
Judge said he was humbled by the comment, calling it "incredible." Their careers had hardly intersected to that point; Jeter had been on the disabled list for most of the 2013 season, including the day that Judge signed his first professional contract and was rewarded with an invitation to the Oakland Coliseum, where he whacked batting practice homers with the big league team. Judge was across the street in minor league camp when Jeter went through the paces of his final spring training in 2014, but the parallels between the two players seemed evident on this May afternoon in 2017.
"He's a little bit like Derek, to me," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's got a smile all the time. He loves to play the game. You always think that he's going to do the right thing on the field and off the field when you look at him. He's got a presence about him. He plays the game to win all the time. That's the most important thing, it's not about what you did that day.
"I understand that's a big comparison, but I remember Derek when he was young. He grew into that leadership role, but that was Derek. Derek loved to have fun, loved to laugh and loved to play the game. Always had a smile on his face and was energetic, and that's what I see from this kid."
As the Yankees celebrated Jeter's accomplishments, retiring his uniform No. 2 while dedicating a Monument Park plaque in his honor, the current players lined the top step of the dugout to absorb a picturesque moment that promised to be recalled as their generation's Mickey Mantle Day. Jorge Posada called the afternoon "the end of an era," but it felt like another had already begun; Judge was even deployed in a supporting role, escorting Don Zimmer's widow, Soot, to home plate.
Jeter and his family were driven onto the field in golf carts, with a recording of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" playing on the stadium's loudspeakers. That same track had played on the night when Jeter notched a walk-off hit in his final Yankee Stadium at-bat, accompanying him as he strode alone to his shortstop position to crouch and say a prayer. Posada was correct in stating that this Derek Jeter Day represented a turning point for the organization, but a better place to pinpoint the milestone might have been September 25, 2014, Jeter's final day in pinstripes.
There had been gray skies reflecting off the roof of Jeter's late-model sport utility vehicle as it rumbled underneath the elevated tracks of the 4 train that afternoon, its wipers rhythmically dismissing some afternoon precipitation. Unbeknownst to anyone walking along River Avenue, one of New York City's most recognizable celebrities was behind the wheel, approaching the finish line of a 20-year journey.
Slowing to a crawl with Yankee Stadium towering above his left shoulder, Jeter slowly descended the ramp that leads into the players' parking garage. It was a commute that Jeter had made dozens of times that season, motoring from his swanky apartment in Manhattan's West Village, and this time he was grateful for the privacy of tinted glass. Choking back tears on the way to his final home game, the outpouring of love and appreciation in a season's worth of plaudits and celebrations had finally cracked the coolest Yankee.
"You almost feel as if you're watching your own funeral," Jeter said. "People are telling you great things, and they're showing highlights and reflecting. I understand that my baseball career is over with. But people are giving you well wishes like you're about to die. I've appreciated it all, but internally it feels like part of you is dying, and I guess that's true because the baseball side, it's over with."
Jeter detested the term "farewell tour," believing that it made his final pass through the schedule somehow more important than the outcome of the games, but in this case that was true. The Yankees had been officially eliminated from contention one day earlier, so this would mark just the second time in 2,745 career games that Jeter took the field with his club mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Once Jeter cleaned out his locker for the final time, it would mark the official end of the "Core Four," a vaunted group that celebrated World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and then again in 2009 after helping to open the glittering $2.3 billion cathedral that sat just across East 161 Street from the original.
The phrase "Core Four" always struck Jeter as being discordant. Bernie Williams had been just as important to the success of the 1996-2000 dynasty, arriving before the celebrated quartet of Jeter, left-hander Andy Pettitte, catcher Jorge Posada and right-hander Mariano Rivera. Williams made his big league debut in 1991, and the sensitive, guitar-strumming switch-hitter had been excluded only because his playing career ended three years before the Core picked up their rings for the thumb by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series.
The intensely passionate Posada had been the first to hang up his gear, announcing his retirement after a trying 2011 season in which he lost his job as the starting catcher and was transitioned into a designated hitter while occasionally clashing with Girardi. Rivera's season-long exit had been a league-wide source of celebration during the 2013 campaign, with the all-time saves leader returning from a catastrophic knee injury sustained while shagging batting-practice fly balls at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
It had been Girardi's idea to send Jeter and Pettitte to the mound on the evening of September 26, 2013, retrieving the baseball from Rivera for the final time. When Jeter told his longtime teammate, "Time to go," Rivera hid his tears by burying his face into Pettitte's left shoulder. Pettitte himself had just announced his retirement for the second time, ending his career two days later with a complete game victory over the Astros in Houston, about a half hour from his home in Deer Park, Texas.
Because those two exits stood as the most memorable moments of an otherwise unremarkable 2013 season for the Yankees, Jeter sensed that his own expiration date was approaching. Jeter had dealt with a catastrophic injury himself, having shattered his left ankle while chasing a ground ball in the 12 inning of Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series, an injury attributed to the repeated cortisone injections that had kept the captain on the field in the second half of that season.
Though Jeter could not have suspected it at the time, that 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers marked the final game of his illustrious postseason career. He had spent an entire extra season in October: i158 playoff games against the sport's best teams and pitchers, in which Jeter batted .308 with a .374 on-base percentage and a .465 slugging percentage, collecting 200 hits, 20 homers, 61 RBIs and 18 steals — and those numbers don't even quantify feats like the iconic "Flip Play" that turned around Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series, helping the Yanks recover from an 0-2 series deficit against the Oakland Athletics.
In a hint of the publishing aspirations that would mark the beginning of his post-playing career, Jeter bypassed the traditional media in order to announce his own retirement on a Wednesday afternoon in February 2014. Having spent the previous evening personally crafting his message, Jeter clicked the "Post" button on a 735-word Facebook announcement that created a seismic ripple throughout the game.
"The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward," Jeter wrote.
Playing shortstop for the Yankees had been Jeter's dream since his days as a Little Leaguer in Kalamazoo, Michigan –he'd announced as much to his fourth grade classmates — and he had achieved almost every personal and professional goal that he had set. Other thoughts were beginning to enter Jeter's mind. His sister, Sharlee, had recently given birth to a son, Jalen, who would steal the show of Jeter's final home game when television cameras caught the adorable toddler tipping his "RE2PECT" cap in his uncle's direction.
That introduction to family life stirred up new aspirations for a man who was perennially known as one of Manhattan's most eligible bachelors. To the approval of his teammates, the idea of marriage was finally on the table. "There was always hope," Rivera had joked. By the summer of 2016, Jeter had tied the knot with Sports Illustrated supermodel Hannah Davis; the couple would welcome a daughter, Bella Raine, in August 2017.
Throughout his playing career, Jeter often voiced his desire to secure an ownership role with a Major League Baseball team. His many years playing under the late George M. Steinbrenner had instilled a desire to call the shots; if and when that opportunity ever came, Jeter said he intended to use some (but not all) of the leadership traits employed by "The Boss" during his tumultuous reign over the game's most valuable franchise.
In a twist, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria — a New York art dealer who, less than three years later, would agree to sell his franchise to a group involving Jeter for $1.2 billion — happened to be among the 48,613 clutching tickets for that final Yankees home game of the 2014 season. South Florida was a dream for another day; for now, Jeter needed to boil his focus down to get through nine more innings without his frazzled nerves going completely haywire.
Jeter made his way through the clubhouse, hidden underneath the field level seats on the first-base side. At 30,000 square feet, it is the largest in all of baseball — 2 1/2 times larger than its predecessor across the street, so large that Jeter had gotten lost in April 2009 while trying to return to his locker from the players' dining area. In the players' plush dressing area, Jeter's locker sat on prime real estate, just to the right of a double-doored exit that was off-limits to the reporters covering the team. That allowed for a quick escape whenever necessary.
The Yankees are perhaps the most closely chronicled team in baseball, with numerous "beat" reporters attached to their home and road games. In Jeter's final season, outlets regularly covering the team included the Bergen Record, the Journal News, Newsday, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, plus representatives from ESPNDeportes.com, ESPNNewYork.com, MLB.com and W FAN radio. That did not even include the host of Japanese outlets tracking the careers of outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and right-handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, both of whom were on the team at that time.
Suffice it to say that Jeter was accustomed to being interrupted by an eager questioner at some point during his daily ritual. Entering the clubhouse, he would set down a venti "Red Eye" on a shelf of his locker — black coffee with an extra shot of espresso and two sugars. Jeter had started his Starbucks addiction a few years prior with sugary Frappuccinos, but now joked that he was slowly but surely turning into his father, Charles. He'd then sling a pair of athletic socks over his shoulder and begin the task of getting dressed for batting practice.
Jeter had seen it all by this time, but even he was taken aback when he turned the corner from the team's kitchenette and was greeted by a pack of more than 100 media members, all there to chronicle his every movement. Dealing out an assortment of clichés with an extremely short shelf life — "My feelings are, I hope the rain stops," was one — proved a simple task compared to what took place when the media was finally booted from the clubhouse two hours before game time. On behalf of the players, pitcher CC Sabathia presented Jeter with a painting and a gold watch. Jeter had to turn away, so overcome with emotion that he dared not make eye contact.
"Again, I almost lost it, and I had to turn away from them in order not to," Jeter said. "At that point, I wasn't sure how effective I was going to be in the game."
Despite threatening forecasts, the weather never proved to be an issue. The dark skies gave way to a blue and orange panorama, setting up a crisp and clear evening that felt and sounded a lot like October — and that was an atmosphere in which Jeter felt right at home. Taking the field for the top of the first inning, chants of "DE-REK JE-TER" rang out at deafening decibels, prompting Jeter to take a deep breath and stare into his glove, a future Hall of Famer transformed into a frightened Little Leaguer.
"I was honestly out there saying, 'Please don't hit it to me, because I don't know what's going to happen,'" Jeter said. "To be honest with you, I don't know how I played this game. I went up my first at-bat, I forgot my elbow guard. I was throwing balls away. I was giving signs to [Stephen] Drew on who should cover second base on a steal, and there was no runner on first. I was all messed up."
Jeter's muscle memory responded. He turned on a 95-mph fastball from Baltimore right-hander Kevin Gausman, pelting the left-field wall for a first-inning double, and knocked home a go-ahead run in the seventh inning on a broken-bat ground ball that shortstop J.J. Hardy threw away for an error. As far as Jeter was concerned, he would have been satisfied if the story ended right there. The top of the eighth produced another chant from the bleachers: this one, "THANK YOU, JETER," which was acknowledged with a wave of the shortstop's glove. Jeter's eyes moistened.
"I'm thinking to myself, 'What are you thanking me for? I was just trying to do my job,'" Jeter said. "Really, they're the ones I want to thank. They're the ones that have made this special."
There had been a healthy amount of discussion amongst team brass about how to best orchestrate Jeter's departure from the field, and in fact, there was a plan in place. Equipment manager Rob Cucuzza had come up with the winner, suggesting that Jeter should take a celebratory lap around the stadium's warning track. In the final turn, he would have been joined by Pettitte, Posada, Rivera, Williams, Tino Martinez, Gerald Williams and Joe Torre, who would have appeared to escort Jeter down the dugout steps and into retirement.
"We were going to make him walk around the whole field," Girardi said. "And then when he got to the left field corner, that group was going to walk out — the Posadas, the Torres, the Mos. They were going to wait for him at home plate, let him walk off into the tunnel; basically saying, 'It's time to join us.'"
Reliever David Robertson altered the plan in the ninth inning, surrendering long home runs to Adam Jones and Steve Pearce and erasing what had been a 5-2 Yankees lead. Standing at shortstop, Jeter slumped his head ever-so-briefly in disbelief, and the scramble was on to complete Jeter's Bronx tale on an appropriate note.
Excerpted from "The Baby Bombers"
Copyright © 2018 Bryan Hoch.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsContents
Foreword by Mark Teixeira
Chapter 1 Miami Heat
Chapter 2 Changing of the Guard
Chapter 3 The Knighted Successor
Chapter 4 Repairing the Pipeline
Chapter 5 Unleash the Kraken
Chapter 6 Bird is the Word
Chapter 7 Deadline Dealing
Chapter 8 The Handoff
Chapter 9 Spring Forward
Chapter 10 All Rise
Chapter 11 Aces High
Chapter 12 The Future Is Now
Chapter 13 Playoff Push
Chapter 14 Lights, Camera, October
Chapter 15 Take It To the Limit
About the Author