With all this talk about the Houston Astros stealing signs in 2017, conversations this week have been all about hypotheticals.
Spring Training is less than a month away -- 26 days to be exact -- and instead of talking about which players are poised to breakout in 2020, the baseball world is back to debating who should have won the 2017 AL MVP.
Similarly, rather than 2020 World Series predictions, several individuals -- like recently-retired CC Sabathia -- have spent this week looking back at 2017.
On a recent episode of his podcast R2C2 with Ryan Ruocco, Sabathia shared some strong feelings as to the Astros' sign-stealing scheme and how it impacted the Yankees that season.
"We should have won the World Series," the former Yankee said on Thursday, "I don’t care what nobody says. And now that this happened, nobody can ever f-king tell me that we wasn’t gonna win it. We should have won!"
The Yankees fell to the Astros in the ALCS in 2017, losing all four games on the road in Houston. New York's season abruptly came to an end with a loss in a decisive Game 7 of that series at Minute Maid Park.
"They couldn't beat us here," the southpaw said, pointing out that the Yankees won all three games at Yankee Stadium against the Astros in that series. To Sabathia, who emphasized just how close and winnable the games on the road were -- as two were decided by one run -- the entire series legitimately could have come down to one stolen sign.
"I had got over it," he said. "Maybe I was tripping, they were a better team. They won, they beat us. And then this came back, and now I feel it again. I’m pissed!"
As for what would have happened next, assuming New York did advance against the sign-steal 'Stros, Sabathia was confident the Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't have stood a chance against the Bombers.
"We would've whooped the Dodgers' ass," he joked. "I'm sorry, that's just how I feel! We were rolling!"
Sabathia does have a point about that last part. The 2017 Yankees were coming off a 91-win season -- the franchise's most regular season win total since 2012 -- and had won three consecutive games to clinch the ALDS against Cleveland heading into their bout with Houston.
In a hypothetical, where the Astros didn't electronically steal signs and cheat, let's say the Yankees make the 2017 World Series to face L.A. How would they have matched up against the National League pennant winner?
The Dodgers won 104 games in 2017, losing just one postseason game prior to the World Series. The club featured six All-Stars, including National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger. Who wouldn't have been a fan of watching Bellinger take on Judge -- the American League ROY -- on the national stage?
Speaking of what to watch for, New York would have faced Curtis Granderson and Chase Utley in this speculative Fall Classic.
Granderson spent four seasons with New York, including a performance in center field in 2011 worthy of the Yankees' 2010s All-Decade Team. The Dodgers didn't use Granderson in the 2017 World Series against Houston, but it's possible skipper Dave Roberts would have penciled him in if the opposing team was his former club.
Utley, who was in the midst of the final full season of his illustrious career, hit five home runs against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series -- his bat in Los Angeles' lineup could have been dangerous for Yankee hurlers.
On the mound, perhaps Clayton Kershaw would have had more postseason success against the Bronx Bombers? The Dodgers' southpaw had made his seventh consecutive All-Star Game that season, winning 18 games and finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award race. On New York's side, Luis Severino finished third in votes for the AL Cy Young Award, producing his own ace-caliber season on the mound.
How does a Severino and Kershaw pitchers duel sound for Game 1?
Beyond the two club's aces, L.A. and New York had very similar pitching staffs that season statistically. Both teams finished the season with an opponent batting average of .228. While Yankees' arms struck out 11 more batters on the season, the Dodgers had a superior team ERA -- but only 0.34 lower than that of the Yanks.
Finally, this matchup would have been a dream come true for television executives across the nation. With two historic franchises from the game's biggest markets coming together to duke it out for a World Series title, ratings would have been through the roof.
Who knows, maybe baseball fans will finally be treated to that series in the 2020 Fall Classic. In baseball history, the matchup has gone down eleven times before -- making it the most frequent World Series meeting ever -- although it hasn't happened since 1981. New York has history on its side -- the Bombers are 8-3 against Los Angeles in World Series appearances.
Either way, CC Sabathia believes Houston's covert sign-stealing scheme was a crucial component in the Yankees inability to make it to the World Series that year. To CC, New York should have won No. 28 in the fall of 2017.
"That team in '17 was good enough to win the World Series and should've," Sabathia said. "We had magic that year and they stole it from us."
To keep up with all of Yankee Maven's coverage, click the "follow" button at the top righthand corner of this page. For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman