Yankees' Milestones That Will Be Delayed With No MLB in 2020

Max Goodman

Sports Illustrated's Matt Martell published a piece Monday highlighting a few of MLB's brightest stars that may not reach historic milestones should the 2020 regular season be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the Yankees, there's no one quite like Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols currently on the roster – that is, no one nearing 500 and 700 home runs respectively at the end of their careers. 

What New York does have is several players on the brink of their own significant milestones on the winding path into baseball's history books

Aroldis Chapman – 300 saves

The Yankees' flamethrowing closer currently sits comfortably at 273 saves. That means he's 27 shy of eclipsing the 300 mark, something only exactly 30 other hurlers have done in MLB history.

Over Chapman's eight seasons as a full-time closer, he's tallied more than 27 saves all but once (he had just 22 in his first full season with the Bombers in 2017 as Dellin Betances had 10 saves of his own).

Had the novel coronavirus pandemic never occurred, this would have been the left-hander's age-32 season and 11th in the big leagues. 

With the wear and tear of throwing as hard as he does, it's hard to envision Chapman pitching for as long as someone like Mariano Rivera did. Certainly there's no chance Chapman can rival Rivera's record of 652 saves ... a reminder of how impressive that feat is.

WATCH: Aroldis Chapman hasn't stopped bulking up during MLB's hiatus in quarantine

Perhaps a better comparison, however, is longtime Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. The right-hander had 257 saves entering his age-32 campaign and ended up with 368 when he retired after a dozen total seasons. Tack on another five years of 24-or-more saves and Papelbon finished ninth all-time in that department. 

Losing a full season, still in the prime years of his career, could certainly hinder Chapman from vaulting higher into the ranks of the best closers to ever play this game.

Gerrit Cole – 1,500 strikeouts and 100 wins

You could argue the biggest milestone of all, had the 2020 season began as scheduled, would have been Gerrit Cole's regular season debut on Opening Day. After all, his first official appearance with the Yankees has been two decades in the making. 

Nonetheless, one of the best starters in baseball is close to a major stepping stone en route to an iconic career.

Cole presently has 1,336 strikeouts and 94 wins across his seven big-league seasons. Based off his performance in 2019 – with 20 wins and 326 strikeouts (to lead all hurlers) – he'll have absolutely no problem clearing these statistical benchmarks next time he takes the field. 

Further, if the season is shortened after a lengthy delay, even the COVID-19 pandemic won't be able to hold this ace back.

To put those numbers into perspective, CC Sabathia (who retired after the 2019 season with 251 wins and 3,093 punch outs) had exactly 100 victories and 1,142 strikeouts after his first seven campaigns. 

Missing out on the final season before Cole turns 30, however, would be a tough pill to swallow. That's not to say Cole can't bounce back in 2021 and win a handful of Cy Young Awards before he retires, but imagine how much better he could be with this season included in those numbers down the line...

Brett Gardner 1,500 games played

The longest tenured player on New York's roster needs one more game to reach 1,500 career appearances in a Yankees uniform.

Sure, there's no doubt Brett Gardner will play his 1,500th game, but Gardy isn't getting ay younger. The outfielder turns 37 this summer and although he's proven he still has productivity left in the tank, no one can play forever. 

Subtract a season from his final few years before he inevitably hangs it up and those tallies in the 'games played' column that Yankees fans have been accustomed to since his debut in 2008 will begin to rapidly disappear. 

Gardner's played in 12 seasons so far – averaging 125 games per season. If he can reach 1,786 (287 more contests) he'll pass Don Mattingly and enter the top-ten in games played in Yankees franchise history. When you consider the amount of legendary players that stuck around in pinstripes for their entire illustrious careers, that's something for Gardner to be very proud of.

Gleyber Torres 100 home runs

From one of the oldest Bombers to a phenom who's age is mentioned practically every time he does something impressive between the lines (in other words, almost every game).

Gleyber Torres has hit 62 home runs thus far in his two seasons in the Major Leagues (across 267 games played). That leaves him 38 long balls shy of reaching triple digits. 

We know he's capable of mashing 38. Maybe he can even hit more than that, as two shy of 40 was the exact number of homers he hit this past season. Should the 2020 campaign eventually come to fruition in a shortened format – say, a 43-game season – or not occur at all, he'll surely have to wait until 2021 to hit his 100th big fly.

There's no question Torres is on pace for a special, historic career. His pace when it comes to slugging the ball out of the park, however, is up there with the best in baseball history. 

Philadelphia's Ryan Howard holds the record for the fewest amount of games played before his 100th home run (a mere 325). That would mean Torres has to hit 38 in the next 58 games to break that big league record. 

Two of his current teammates came close to beating Howard. Gary Sánchez almost did it last season, hitting his 100th after just 355 games while Aaron Judge reached the milestone in a total of 371 contests. To have bragging rights in the Yankees clubhouse, Torres needs those 38 homers in the next 88 contests to best both Sánchez and Judge. 

Starting off the 2020 season, building upon his power surge last year, would've given the shortstop a solid shot at it. It's possible a silver lining in a canceled season gives Torres more time to get stronger and improve with his bat before Opening Day next March.

If you ask anyone on the Bombers, however, records and waiting until 2021 won't be on their minds. Even for something as controversial as the proposed 'Arizona Plan,' Yankees players have voiced their opinion and the consensus is they want to be back on the field as soon as possible. 

After all, who can blame them. With these aforementioned players on their roster, this club is capable of accomplishing anything it sets its mind to, no matter how long the season is. 

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees

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