Ranking the Top 5 Yankees stories of 2021

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·7 min read
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  • New York Yankees
    New York Yankees
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Corey Kluber
    Corey Kluber
    American baseball pitcher
  • Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit Cole
    American professional baseball player
  • Joey Gallo
    Joey Gallo
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  • Aaron Boone
    Aaron Boone
    Baseball player
  • Anthony Rizzo
    Anthony Rizzo
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Anthony Rizzo/Aaron Boone/Gerrit Cole Treated Image
Anthony Rizzo/Aaron Boone/Gerrit Cole Treated Image

When you have a 92-70 record in an MLB season, it's normally not considered a mundane year.

However, for this year's Yankees, it kind of felt that way.

There wasn't the big free agency splash like Gerrit Cole the year prior. There wasn't a patented hot start that solidified the World Series contender predictions. And though there was a pretty impressive win streak in the second half, the Yanks weren't the most exciting team in baseball this past season.

But there were still some big storylines. Without further ado, these are the Top 5 from 2021 in the Bronx:

5. Corey Kluber no-hitter vs. Rangers

The season was only about a month and a half in, but five no-hitters had already been thrown — just goes to show why so many believe there's a pitcher advantage now.

But the veteran right-hander had another advantage when he took the mound May 19 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas: Kluber was a Ranger the year before. He may not have pitched much due to a shoulder injury, but he knew the Rangers' hitters pretty well.

Still, no one expected him to blast through them and become the first Yankee to toss a no-hitter since 1999 when David Cone was perfect against the Montreal Expos.

"It was a lot of fun, I think it was a special night," Kluber said after the game. "I've never been part of one, witnessed one, let alone thrown one."

It would've been a perfect game had Kluber not walked Charlie Culberson. But the former Cy Young Award winner still goes down in history in what was an early feel-good moment for him in pinstripes.

4. Yankees trade for Joey Gallo & Anthony Rizzo

Leading up to the MLB trade deadline, no one really had a feel on what the Yankees wanted to do. They were over .500 but not in a clear playoff position.

GM Brian Cashman saw that as an opportunity to jolt their team, and he was primarily focused on a left-handed bat to place in the middle of the lineup. To that point, the Yanks were heavy on the right side of the plate.

Then, news came a couple days before the deadline: Four prospects were sent to the Rangers for Gallo. The Yanks needed some outfield help, too, and Gallo fit the bill.

But Cashman wasn't done. He landed Rizzo just before the deadline to sweeten his roster even more. The Chicago Cubs were looking to sell off their stars, and with Luke Voit's injury problems remaining an issue, why not add a savvy defender with a contact-first lefty approach?

It was the spark the Yanks needed after the All-Star break, with Rizzo and Gallo planted right in the middle of the lineup, creating tough matchups for pitchers.

3. Aaron Boone signs extension as manager

It was never certain even entering the 2021 campaign that Boone, who was in the final year of his contract, would be back to lead the Yanks in 2022 and beyond. The end of the Yankees' season made it even more murky, and the front office truly took its time to think about its options.

However, Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner and the rest of the organization believed Boone was still the right guy to bring a World Series back to the Bronx, and he ended up signing a three-year deal with an option year for 2025 on Oct. 19.

"We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward," Steinbrenner said. "As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period. I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship."

2. Gerrit Cole at forefront of 'sticky stuff' crackdown

On June 15, MLB made the decision to crack down on foreign substances being used by pitchers on baseballs. It was a controversial move by the league that didn't sit well with a lot of players, as umpires would be checking starters and relievers throughout games in between innings to make sure they were following the rules.

As MLB explained in its lengthy memo on the subject, illegal sticky substances -- Spider Tack is the widely known one at this point -- helped pitchers add spin rate and movement to pitches. With the gap between pitcher and hitter too wide, MLB made a statement.

But it was Cole, easily a Top 10 pitcher in MLB, who seemed to become the poster child of this new rule. He was accused of using sticky stuff, as were Max Scherzer, Adam Wainwright and Kluber to name a few.

"Look, we're all just trying to play by the rules," Cole said on June 16 after tossing 104 pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays, a game he won. "Play by what the commissioner has handed out going forward. Spin rate's not everything, you can still pitch well if you don't have a high spin rate."

However, Cole did say "I don't quite know how to answer that" when asked directly if he's used Spider Tack while pitching.

Cole's numbers after the sticky stuff crackdown did dip, but he was still a Cy Young Award candidate before a hamstring injury ruined his homestretch.

Cole remained a prominent voice throughout on this matter, saying he'll continue working with everyone in the league to find a happy medium for pitchers, hitters and the commissioner's office.

"We've heard from the commissioner's office about a universal substance," Cole said. "I certainly think that's something to be discussed. It's so hard to grip the ball. For Pete's sake, it's part of the reason why almost every player on the field has something, regardless if they're a pitcher or not, to help them control the ball. I don't have a solution, but again, we're aligned in a lot of areas with the commissioner's office on this.

1. Wild Card blunders at Fenway Park

It came down to the wire but the Yankees managed to pull off an AL Wild Card berth, and were taking on their division rival, the Boston Red Sox, in the do-or-die game on the road at Fenway.

Cole was starting, which gave the Yanks a clear advantage... or so they thought.

Instead, Nathan Eovaldi was the ace of the night, as the Sox starter was electric from the second he stepped on the mound.

As for Cole, this was the first blunder of the night: With two strikes on Xander Bogaerts, he threw a changeup that just hung in the middle of the plate.

Center field. Two-run homer. Advantage home team.

The lead would never be relinquished by the Sox, even when it looked like Giancarlo Stanton was about to tie things up at three, launching his second fly ball off the Green Monster. It was an absolute missile but just didn't have the height.

Still, Aaron Judge, racing around the bases, was sent home by third base coach Phil Nevin despite Bogaerts already getting a nice relay from Kike Hernandez. Another solid throw and Judge was nabbed at the plate.

That was the last sign of momentum the Yanks had all night.

A meaningless Stanton home run in the top of the ninth — he really was the only one who showed up to play that night — would cap the season for the Yankees.

One and done. That's not where they were supposed to go.

The Red Sox would lose to the Houston Astros later in the ALCS, while the Yankees once again looked ahead to the offseason.