How have new Yankees stars played in Year 1?

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS



Most teams can only dream of trading for a hitter as talented as Juan Soto. Most teams will never acquire a player on the inside track to Cooperstown, who may not have entered his prime yet.

The Yankees aren’t most teams. They’ve had the good fortune — the wealth, as well as more championships than any American sports team — to travel that route many times.

The need for Soto — a left-handed power hitter with unparalleled plate discipline and the highest on-base percentage (.421) of all active players — is obvious, following the Yankees’ worst season since 1992, in which they ranked 25th in runs.

The most similar batters to Soto through their age-24 seasons — according to Baseball Reference — are Bryce Harper, Frank Robinson, Andruw Jones, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr, who have combined to win nine MVP awards. Soto is also a proven postseason performer, most memorably hitting .333 with three home runs for the Nationals during their triumph in the 2019 World Series.

But unlike the Yankees’ past acquisitions of marquee position players — from Babe Ruth to Giancarlo Stanton — Soto may only stay one season.

The 25-year-old is likely to enter free agency after next season — given the history of agent Scott Boras’ other clients — when Soto may sign a deal worth more than $500 million.

Even if the Yankees are willing to pay as much as Steve Cohen or the Dodgers or another big spender, Soto may no longer be interested in wearing pinstripes.

Jason Giambi’s Yankees tenure began with a chorus of boos in his first home game with the franchise. AP

Soto arrives in the media capital of the world from the most laid-back major league city. He joins a team that considers anything short of a championship to be a failure, a team which hasn’t reached the World Series since 2009 and needs far more than Soto, Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole to get back there.

Soto will also now play for baseball’s most demanding and impatient fanbase, which booed prized signing Jason Giambi during his 0-for-5 Yankee Stadium debut in 2002.

How long will it take Soto to adjust to New York?

The pressure doesn’t impact everyone. Ruth obliterated his own home run record (54) while batting .376 in his first season in The Bronx in 1920. Reggie Jackson solidified his reputation as “Mr. October.” Mark Teixeira was the AL MVP runner-up in 2009 and traveled down the Canyon of Heroes.

However, Alex Rodriguez’s first season in New York (2004) was his worst in seven years.

Stanton’s first — and healthiest season — here (2018) saw him produce 21 fewer home runs (38) and 32 fewer RBIs (100) than during his 2017 MVP season in Miami.

Hideki Matsui’s 2003 OPS (.788) was the lowest of his seven seasons in pinstripes.

Danny Tartabull — who signed the fifth-largest contract in baseball in 1992 — hit 50 points below (.266) his average with the Royals the season prior.

Dave Winfield went 1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series after hitting .154 in the ALCS.

But the future Hall of Famer didn’t have the option to leave town after being denigrated as “Mr. May.” Rodriguez and Stanton had to stomach countless boos, never to be embraced like their homegrown superstar teammates (Derek Jeter, Judge).

Alex Rodriguez always was compared to his more popular homegrown Yankees teammate, Derek Jeter. Getty Images

Unlike those stars locked into long-term deals, Soto’s future can be anywhere he wants. How quickly might his eyes wander if the losses pile up, if a slump stretches, if the boos mount?

The talent is worth the risk.

The risk may be even greater than it seems.

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Running in place

A little over a month into the season, the Knicks head to Boston on Friday night to face the Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG) for the third time. The Celtics (15-5) took the first two meetings, contributing to the Knicks’ 2-8 record against winning teams this season.

These losses to upper-tier teams — including the 24-point defeat to the Bucks in Tuesday’s In-Season Tournament quarterfinals — have only reinforced the belief that the Knicks (12-8) aren’t equipped to compete with the top contenders (Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia) in the Eastern Conference. Without a trade, it is hard to envision the Knicks surpassing last season’s trip to the second round of the playoffs.

“Thinking the movie is gonna end differently, it’s not gonna end differently,” Charles Barkley said on “Inside the NBA” after Tuesday’s loss. “The Knicks need to make a trade. … They’re not gonna beat those top-three teams with this team.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks handed the Knicks their eighth loss in 10 games against winning teams in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. AP

Kenny Smith added, “This is why the Knicks are gonna stay in the middle, every game that they play they always have the second-best player.”

Of course, neither analyst suggested whom the Knicks should acquire because there is no superstar currently available to transform them into contenders.

Because most superstars are untouchable.

The dream of landing Joel Embiid took a massive hit when Philadelphia traded James Harden and the reigning MVP’s play improved. The 76ers are 13-4 with Embiid in the lineup. Even a deal for Karl-Anthony Towns is now unlikely with the Timberwolves owning the best record in the NBA.

It usually takes luck to land a superstar. Some teams get a ping-pong ball to bounce their way (Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards). Other teams watched future MVPs drop into their laps in the draft (Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry). The only trades of superstars are demanded (Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis).

Zach LaVine may be available on the trade market, but it’s unlikely he would drastically alter the Knicks’ ceiling. USA TODAY Sports

So, the Knicks can make another push for Donovan Mitchell, who actually wants to play in New York, but has never been past the second round of the playoffs and is a poor fit as another undersized, shoot-first guard beside Jalen Brunson.

Or they can shoot for a big name with massive injury risk, such as Zion Williamson, Kawhi Leonard or Paul George.

Or they can settle for lower-tier talent — including Chicago’s Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan — who won’t turn the Knicks into contenders and aren’t worth the draft capital the franchise has accrued.

In the offseason, the Knicks might have a better shot at landing a franchise-changing player, but don’t count on him coming by the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

It’s anybody’s race

The majority of teams in the NFL can picture a trip to the postseason.

In the AFC, which received a mild shakeup with the Steelers’ Thursday night loss to the Patriots, 11 teams are .500 or better. In the NFC, nine teams are .500 or better, and the 10th-place and 11th-place teams are within one game of a wild-card spot.

But after this week, the playoff picture could look much different:

Texans (7-5, #7 AFC) at Jets (4-8), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Zach Wilson makes his uninspired return against Houston, which has won four of its past five games and is the only one of the three 7-5 teams in the AFC (Browns, Colts) whose starting quarterback is healthy.

Rams (6-6, #8 NFC) at Ravens (9-3, #2 AFC), 1 p.m. ET: Baltimore will have to earn the top seed in the AFC, facing the toughest remaining strength of schedule (.650) in the NFL. The Rams have re-entered the playoff race with three straight wins, their longest streak since the 2021 Super Bowl season.

Colts (7-5, #6 AFC) at Bengals (6-6, #10 AFC), 1 p.m. ET: Cincinnati, left for dead after Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury, found hope during Monday’s upset at Jacksonville, where Jake Browning threw for 354 yards while completing 86.5 percent of his passes. The Colts, riding backup Gardner Minshew, have won four straight games — all against sub-.500 teams — but close with five games against teams in the postseason hunt.

Gardner Minshew has proved to be more than a character in NFL folklore in guiding the Colts to four straight wins and into the AFC playoff picture. AP

Buccaneers (5-7, #10 NFC) at Falcons (6-6, #4 NFC), 1 p.m. ET: NFL rules state someone has to win the NFC South.

Jaguars (8-4, #4 AFC) at Browns (7-5, #5 AFC), 1 p.m. ET: Trevor Lawrence could be sidelined because of a sprained ankle. The Browns will turn to rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson or 38-year-old Joe Flacco, who has been with the team less than three weeks. Highlights will suffice.

Vikings (6-6, #6 NFC) at Raiders (5-7), 4:05 p.m. ET: Does Josh Dobbs have any magic left? Since signing with Minnesota and winning his first two starts with the team, the Vikings have lost back-to-back games, which included Dobbs’ four-interception outing against the Bears on Nov. 27.

Broncos (6-6, #9 AFC) at Chargers (5-7), 4:25 p.m. ET: Despite a gut-punch loss to Houston last week, the Broncos have won five of their past six games. Sean Payton’s remarkable turnaround could continue with only one of Denver’s final five games against an opponent with a winning record.

Bills (6-6, #11 AFC) at Chiefs (8-4, #3 AFC), 4:25 ET, CBS: Without a win, Buffalo would need to win its final four games to have any realistic chance to return to the playoffs. Without a win, Kansas City may not have home-field advantage in the AFC for the first time with Patrick Mahomes as its starting quarterback.

Josh Allen’s Bills are running out of chances to put together a good enough record to get back to the postseason. USA TODAY Sports

Eagles (10-2, #1 NFC) at Cowboys (9-3, #5 NFC), 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC: The Eagles — who won the Nov. 5 meeting, 28-23, in Philadelphia — essentially will clinch the NFC East with a win. Even with a win, Dallas will have a hard time claiming first place due to the league’s second-toughest remaining schedule.

What we’re reading 👀

Breaking down the field of suitors for Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, which begins with the Mets and Yankees.

⛳ Jon Rahm, the Masters champion and world No. 3, is defecting to LIV Golf for a Saudi bag that reportedly could be worth up to $600 million. It’s a massive blow to the PGA Tour, which is said to be in “chaos” behind the scenes.

🏈 What’s the chatter inside the Jets’ locker room about Zach Wilson’s latest comeback attempt? The Post’s Mark Cannizzaro asked around.

🏈 What do the Giants have in second-year wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, now one year removed from ACL surgery?

🏒 The Rangers need to dial it back up before a weekend back-to-back against the Capitals and Kings, writes The Post’s Larry Brooks.

🏒 Two goals for Mat Barzal. Two goals for Bo Horvat. Points in 10 of their past 11 games and, look at that, the Islanders are in a playoff spot.

🏀 The NBA In-Season Tournament final is set for Saturday night after Tyrese Haliburton led the Pacers past the Bucks and LeBron James’ Lakers routed the Pelicans in the semifinals.



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