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The Yankees weren't even supposed to be in the postseason yet

Thursday’s Say Hey, Baseball looks at the well-ahead-of-schedule Yankees, the latest from the NLDS, and 69 years of Cleveland sadness.

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

You know it's true. Search your feelings. The Yankees defeated the Indians in Game 5 of the ALDS and have moved on to an ALCS matchup with the Astros, but New York wasn't supposed to be here. They weren't supposed to be in the ALDS, or even the AL Wild Card Game, and yet, here they are.

That's not a negative critique of the Yankees or what they have done. In fact, it's the opposite. They weren't supposed to be here: they are, anyway. The Yankees were rebuilding, adding youth to the roster while avoiding adding any costly veterans, a year removed from trading away Andrew Miller for prospects at the deadline, months removed from dealing Brian McCann to another contender in order to make room for Gary Sanchez to play full-time. Fans wondered who would be packaged off next to speed things along. It turns out that the answer was “no one,” because the Yankees who remained were well ahead of schedule.

At the end of March, Aaron Judge was still potentially going to start the season at Triple-A. He had crushed the ball in spring training, but he had also struggled in 2016, and this wasn't some can't-miss prospect the Yankees were dealing with. Judge's best season of his entire professional career came in 2017, and it came out of nowhere, and it's one of the major reasons New York is where they weren't yet supposed to be.

Judge isn't the lone reason, even if he's a major one. The 24-year-old Sanchez continued to thrive. Aaron Hicks basically doubled his OPS+ from 2016, and combined with his glove, put up about a four-win season despite only playing half of one. Luis Severino went from being a young starter who might have a future in the bullpen to a legitimate ace who can still throw an effective 100 mph deep into games. CC Sabathia not only was able to tap into whatever fountain of youth he found in 2016 once more, but he built on that season to put up his best numbers since 2012 — the last time he was a dependable arm near the top of a rotation.

The Yankees weren't supposed to be here yet, but they were building to exactly this — it just happened much earlier than anyone expected. There is a real chance here for New York to kick off a multi-year stretch of success, powered by their impressive young players, and they haven't even hit the part of their schedule where Bryce Harper is available.

The Astros stand in the way, and they were supposed to be here by now. Everything they've done has led to this, and the timing is so spot-on that Sports Illustrated released a cover story years ago proclaiming 2017 the year for Houston. It's odd that the Astros are the ones who were meant to be here and the New York Yankees are the surprise, but this is baseball we're talking about.