In the realm of baseball rivalries, the Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees once stood as the premier matchup from 2017 to 2022. However, the Bronx Bombers faced a disappointing 2023 season, failing to meet expectations. As the baseball world gears up for 2024, signs suggest that the famed rivalry might be making a grand return.
On Wednesday, New York, known for stealing headlines throughout baseball history, orchestrated a significant move by acquiring Padres outfielder and left-handed slugger Juan Soto. The Yankees, led by manager Aaron Boone, are banking on this trade to ignite a rebound after a lackluster season, where they finished with fewer than 90 wins for the first non-pandemic season since 2016, with a .506 winning percentage – the lowest since 1992.
Facing pressure heading into the new season, general manager Brian Cashman delivered with the acquisition of Soto, the National League’s standout left-handed hitter in recent years. Soto boasts a career 157 OPS+, the best mark among all players since 2018. In 2023, he led baseball with an impressive 132 walks while recording 129 strikeouts, offering a rare positive walk-to-strikeout ratio.
Soto’s addition addresses New York’s issues of having a predominantly right-handed and strikeout-heavy offense. His plate discipline, coupled with 35 home runs last season, presents a promising solution. Fans at Yankee Stadium are likely anticipating an impressive performance from the slugger in the upcoming 2024 season, with hopes of an American League pennant.
While Astros’ fans may not be pleased with the potential resurgence of the “Evil Empire,” the ever-improving landscape of the American League introduces uncertainty about a 2023 postseason clash between the Astros and Yankees. The absence of a certain competitive edge from Houston’s fan base in 2023 may see a revival in 2024, especially when Soto takes the field. The upcoming season might bring back the intensity reminiscent of 2017, 2019, and 2022, as the Yankees face the Astros at Minute Maid Park in late March.