Anthony Volpe will bring a ‘different swag’ to Yankees


TAMPA – Anthony Volpe is the Yankees shortstop because he has five tools. Because he brandished them under the glare of having to win a job this spring. Because every day in every way he looked as if he belonged.

But don’t disqualify energy.

This Yankee roster needed it. And the new rules are calling for it.

“Veterans feel the energy,” Willie Randolph said. “They like the enthusiasm. And teams sometimes need that.”

Randolph is an expert in this area. He was the 21-year-old injected into the veteran Yankees positional group in 1976 and helped the organization to its first pennant in 12 years.

He was the third base coach who championed a 22-year-old named Derek Jeter in the spring of 1996 when Jeter was not playing well and George Steinbrenner was wavering on whether to stick with him or to go get an experienced shortstop to play with a win-now veteran cast. The Yankees, of course, stuck with Jeter and won their first World Series since going back-to-back in 1977-78 when Randolph was the second baseman.

And Randolph, who has been in Yankee camp this spring as a special coach, sees the 21-year-old Volpe offering the same intangible to yet another veteran group.

Anthony Volpe was named the Yankees' starting shortstop after an impressive spring training.
Anthony Volpe was named the Yankees’ starting shortstop after an impressive spring training.

“I hate to compare to Jeter because right now there is no comparison,” Randolph said. “But I remember when I was one of the guys to go to bat for Jeter (in spring 1996), one of the things I said was, ‘Hey, he is going to bring us some speed. He is going to bring energy. He brings youth and a different swag.’ Teams need that. The energy of that is important.”

This Yankee positional group, in particular, had grown a bit stale; the same basic group meeting the same basic fate. To that group, the Yankees added no positional piece this offseason and lost Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter, two lefty bats and, in Benintendi’s case, contact and athleticism.

Think about what Opening Day was going to sound like at Yankee Stadium without Volpe, especially after he so clearly became the people’s choice this spring. It was going to be defined by Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa being booed – even louder if any are in the starting lineup. Now, it will be fascinating if Volpe or Aaron Judge get the louder ovation when called to the line on Thursday. It is going to produce so much more goodwill and positive energy in the building. The Volpe decision is near perfect for the Yankees – it is what the fans wanted and what they think is the right choice.

Anthony Volpe sliding into third base during a March 27, 2023 game against the Rays.
Anthony Volpe sliding into third base during a March 27, 2023 game against the Rays.

But where it matters most is in the games. The Yankees have lost in the playoffs, notably to Houston. And it is hard to ignore how much better the Astros are at playing baseball. The Yanks have kept putting the band back together around one note – righty power. And when that was defused, they had nothing else. There was an attempt to diversify in the past few years that didn’t fully hold because Joey Gallo couldn’t handle New York and injuries derailed Benintendi, Carpenter and DJ LeMahieu last postseason.

The Astros, meanwhile, have renovated a lot of the positional group from their first controversial championship in 2017 and won it all last year with a well-rounded rookie shortstop, Jeremy Pena, seamlessly replacing a star in Carlos Correa.

Willie Randolph during Yankees spring training on March 24, 2023.
Willie Randolph during Yankees spring training on March 24, 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera give the Yankees a chance to play at a different pace, and so does Harrison Bader when he returns and Oswald Peraza if he reaches the majors. This will be heightened in a season when new rules are going to increase the need for defensive athleticism/range and the ability to steal bases.

Volpe was 5-for-5 in stealing bases this spring, showed fine range at shortstop and played with zest. On Saturday, for example, he hit the first pitch Phillies co-ace Aaron Nola threw for a looping single to right. Nick Castellanos dove and missed it and, bam, Volpe was headfirst into third. As Yankees manager Aaron Boone cited, “I don’t think he is a burner by any means. He’s a good runner. But he’s a great baserunner.”

Teammates noticed it right away this spring. The skill, yes. But also the baseball IQ. And the daily passion. It is why – like Randolph in 1996 with Jeter – so many went to bat for Volpe. They understood the long season to come and saw the defibrillating powers Volpe’s talent and temperament could offer; the human jumper cables he could be.

Anthony runs down the first base line on March 1, 2023.
Anthony runs down the first base line on March 1, 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“A guy who can impact the game the way he does with speed and power, that in itself brings excitement to a team because I think he has a chance to be a great player,” Kyle Higashioka said. “You see somebody like that come up and hopefully they succeed. I think that will potentially bring a lot of energy.”

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