TAMPA — Great moments in great weather create great trash talk.
At least, that formula worked to perfection Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Could the 2019 Yankees break the all-time, single-season home-run record of 267 established by their immediate predecessors? Two of their most prominent players went deep twice each here for this Yankees split squad, with two more guys contributing one bomb apiece, and then, upon the conclusion of the club’s 7-1 victory over the Tigers, that duo volunteered a forecast of more history.
It began, fittingly enough, with Sunday’s leadoff man, Brett Gardner, who reacted to a reporter’s statement of last year’s round-tripper record with, “We’re going to hit more this year.”
The second hitter, Aaron Judge, presented with Gardner’s proclamation, seconded: “Oh, definitely. With this whole team healthy, we’re going to crush the record that we set last year. We’ve got a good team, a lot of guys that can make a lot of solid contact, a lot of big boys who can make contact and make it go. We’re a team that’s primed and ready to do that.”
As Ron Burgundy said in “Anchorman,” that escalated quickly.
Everyone knows the 2018 Yankees didn’t win it all despite their prodigious power, and the champion Red Sox wielded a better all-around offense, with fewer strikeouts and a higher batting average. The Yankees know they can stand to get better at making contact in particular, and that contributed to their pursuit of infielder DJ LeMahieu. Yet as Gardner and Judge both pointed out, their offense possesses the ability to get notably better if returnees like Gary Sanchez (who hit his first homer of the spring in the third inning) and Greg Bird play up to their ceilings.