This offseason was a perfect storm for Yankees’ World Series burden



Perhaps Dusty Baker is Andy Reid.

The terrific regular season manager/coach whose tactical blind spots lead to one postseason heartbreak after another. Reid, after Super Bowl Sunday, no longer has to be labeled the coach with the most wins never to earn a championship.

Baker has the second-most wins ever (to Gene Mauch) among major league managers never to win a World Series. His last best chance is now with the Astros, who with all their self-inflicted wounds remain a strong contender.

Maybe the 2020 Red Sox are the 2018 Rays. Remember that Tampa Bay was assailed for being in an all-out tank when either through free agency or trades they lost a load of their best players from 2017 (Brad Boxberger, Alex Cobb, Corey Dickerson, Evan Longoria, Logan Morrison, Jake Odorizzi and Steven Souza), and kept it up during the season by trading Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Nathan Eovaldi, Brad Miller and Wilson Ramos.

The 2018 Rays nevertheless won 90 games and set themselves up terrifically for the near future. One of the key architects of all the moves was Chaim Bloom, now chief baseball officer for the Red Sox. Bloom is locked and loaded to trade his best player, Mookie Betts, and the Rays lesson is that might not be doom.

Yes, there are rosy scenarios to paint for the teams that have represented the AL in the last three World Series and won two of them.

But there also is this — the ramifications of the sign-stealing scandals, the reality that Gerrit Cole is gone from Houston and Betts likely will be soon for Boston means the Yankees might actually be the Chiefs this year.

Look, Kansas City might have won the Super Bowl no matter what. But the Patriots losing to the Dolphins in the final regular-season game, forcing them to miss a bye and run into and lose to the hot Titans, who also took out the top-seeded Ravens, certainly left an easier path to a Chiefs championship.

The wounds to the Astros and Red Sox suggest a greater likelihood of a different AL champ for the first time since 2016. The Yankees are the favorites — even more so since Cole is not only no longer an Astros, but is a Yankee.

This is all good news.

Also the bad news. Because winning a championship is difficult. Ask Baker or Reid. Or the Dodgers, who last won in 1988, often falling short in the three-plus decades since with brilliant teams. They again are going to be the NL Yankees this year, especially if they complete a trade for Betts.

The Yanks have not waited nearly as long as the Dodgers, winning five times since then, most recently in 2009. But 2009 can feel like when Ruth and Gehrig played around here. So the pressure to win a title was going to be great for the Yankees, greater still when they enlisted Cole with a record pact, greater now with the sign-stealing scandal forcing the Astros and Red Sox into, among other shortcomings, shotgun marriages with new managers — heck, Boston still hasn’t named one yet.

So much can go wrong in a season as it did for the 2019 Yankees and not often does so much go right, as it did also for those 2019 Yankees of Mike Ford, Domingo German, Cameron Maybin, Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela.

Still, no matter which way this give-and-take plays out in 2020, the Yankees have the bullseye. Because of Cole. Because of what has befallen the Astros and Red Sox. Because, yeah, the Rays that Bloom left behind remain strong, but the talent gap still strongly favors the Yankees. Because the Twins did improve this offseason, but Minnesota has lost 16 straight postseason games, 13 of them to the Yankees, to whom they have lost five times in the playoffs since the turn of the century. One day Minnesota will have its 2004 Red Sox vs. Yankees playoff moment and end this hex.

Do you see it being 2020? Do you see the Angels having enough pitching? The Rangers enough hitting? The Indians enough of a reason not to trade Francisco Lindor? The White Sox enough talent even after a winter spending splurge?

We can be surprised. Did anyone expect the Dolphins to beat the Patriots or the Titans to eliminate the Ravens? It’s sports. No script.

But the way this has played out this offseason with a week to go until spring training is advantage Yankees — heck their manager, Aaron Boone, even picked the Super Bowl final score precisely.

The Yankees will enter spring training as favorites, with all the stress that comes with being the chased. For the Yankees, the Chief complaint is now as large an expectation as ever.

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