The secret behind the New York Yankees' playoff push is ... a new pet?

BOSTON WAS BEAUTIFUL Saturday It's warm. Breezy. Just after noon, a yellow luxury coach bus sat outside the Four Seasons Hotel's front door. A small group gathered around a metal fence.
It was very simple. The autograph hunters carrying their bags full of cards and jerseys. Two college-age fans shouted their support for the team. Two women wearing New York Yankees Tshirts.

Slowly, the Yankees players started to emerge. Giancarlo Stanton. Aaron Judge. Gerrit Cole. Nestor Cortes was not the first to sign anything. He did this after being chastised by one of the regulars over a mean-spirited Instagram post.

A man and a girl were walking by when the man pointed out the players getting on the bus. The little girl stopped and looked at him. The big bus and big players caught her attention for a moment. Then, with the calm, matter-of-fact tone that only an adorable child can deliver, she asked the same question New York fans have been asking each others for months.

She said, "Daddy," "Who are those Yankees?"

The answer to that little girl's question, as any Yankees fan can tell you, has varied throughout this magnificently wonderful, maddeningly brilliant season. There have been stretches when the Yankees lost 10 of 15 games, 13 of 18, or 13 of 20, and there have also been other periods where they won 23 of 32 or 13 consecutively or 43 of 63. The Yankees are everything. They can be a juggernaut, or a disgrace. They can also be world-beaters, or they can't even get a hit off a highschooler. All the labels are valid because of their volatile fluctuations.

There are only six games left in this season. Here is an opportunity to discover a new identity.

The Yankees adopted a pet a little over a week ago.

The secret to the Yankees recent win streak was Nestor Cortes adopting an animal from a pet shop turtle. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Pandemic puppies are a popular trend. But Cortes, the Cuban lefthander, who played for the Yankees in 2019, led a group that was interested in becoming pet owners. They wanted a turtle, specifically.

After much discussion, a small, but adorable, turtle was purchased from a local pet shop. They were thrilled. The turtle is named Bronxie after its home borough. It lives a happy life. It spends most of its time in a tank that has a piece tape with the name "Bronxie the Turtle" written on it. It is well-fed. It can sometimes roam free, crawling on the blue clubhouse floor among the interlocking-NYs and white carpet.

Bronxie, the Yankees' organizational mascot is not well-known. However, he was immediately adopted by the team. Cortes is a proud papa. However, DJ LeMahieu, who seems to enjoy looking at Bronxie, is also involved and engaged as a caretaker. Bronxie joined the Boston team on their first road trip this week.

Brett Gardner claims that Bronxie, pictured in the Yankees clubhouse has been a "lucky Charm" during the team's recent win streak.

Brett Gardner, a Yankees veteran outfielder, said that there is a lot love and that everyone is aware of the recent events. Gardner was talking about New York's performance after Bronxie's adoption. A three-game sweep by the Texas Rangers, a three game sweep of Red Sox, and a dramatic eighth-inning comeback Sunday night. This is a crucial move from a spot outside the American League’s second wild card spot to one that puts them in the mix for the first. The Yankees will be playing the Toronto Blue Jays as well as the Tampa Bay Rays in their final six games.

Gardner stated that Gardner believed there was a connection between the two of them before Sunday's game. "At the conclusion of it, it would have been great if we were able to go out and buy him a little World Series Ring."

He smiled, and began to jog with his teammates. They must be Yankees. Perhaps they are Bronxie’s team.

ALTHOUGH THIS YEAR'S SEASON has brought the subject into sharper focus, the question about identity has been lingering over the Yankees for some years. Although the last championship dynasty (Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera) ended over two decades ago, many still hold onto the larger philosophical sentiment that underpinned those Yankees teams and all Yankees teams managed by George Steinbrenner.

This belief holds that the Yankees are the best. They buy the best players and use them to build the best teams. The Yankees should win every World Series.

Michael Kay, who broadcasts play-by-play of Yankees games on television, and hosts a weekday radio program in which he takes calls from fans, called this phenomenon the "Steinbrennerization of a generation."

Kay stated, "That's how George sold them." "So, the Yankees fans who want this to continue have been miserable since 2009. (In 2009, the Yankees spent over $400 million on CC Sabathia and A.J. Before winning the 27th franchise title, Burnett and Mark Teixeira were in the offseason.

Kay said that the Yankees, under Steinbrenner, Hal, are very different.

Kay stated that Yogi Benerra was fired 16 games into the season. Kay also said that it is unlikely George would have fired Aaron Boone. Kay added that baseball has advanced as a game. Analytics-based player evaluation has enabled a team such as the Rays to be objectively stronger than the Yankees. They are currently in first place, eight games ahead of them in the AL East.

A growing segment of Yankees fans and a significant portion of the Yankees organization considers that Rays' bargain-hunting brilliance to be aspirational as it is enjoyable. Who wouldn't rather have diamonds that were found than diamonds that were bought? However, there isn’t any agreement on this kind of seismic shift within or outside the team. This makes years like these even more difficult.

Is it because the Yankees have high-priced stars that they are able to perform? Or is it because of the poor decision-making by the manager and the front office? Is it because Brian Cashman, the general manager pushes them to too heavily rely on analytics when they swoon? Or is it not enough?

DJ LeMahieu described the Yankees' season as one of the best in roller-coaster history, describing it as "Getting punched in the face and coming home." Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Boone is the centerpiece of the story. He was a former Yankee and had an indelible moment in his history against Boston in 2003 with the AL Championship Series-winning homerun. Boone remains as warm-hearted and thoughtful today as he was during his playing days. Boone is from a baseball family. He was raised in major league clubs and played 13 seasons in the big leagues. His presentation is essentially that of a classic baseball player. He is a staunch advocate for his players and their ability perform, sometimes to absurd ends. He is positive and never gives up. He is not afraid to rely on well-worn clichés ("Every game matters," "I believe my guys") when interacting with beat reporters.

Boone tried to get involved with the analytics Cashman brought to the club through his assistant GM Michael Fishman. However, it is not his natural inclination. His coaching staff is a mixture of numbers-rooted and old-school coaches. He is often the target for criticisms about his inconsistency among the swarming multiverse of Yankees fans online. (Sunday's decision by Clay Holmes to retire reliever Clay Holmes after a single inning in which Holmes had struck out was the latest example.

Boone's unwavering commitment to being unruffled can sometimes give him a pained look from the bench. But Kay stated that he felt a difference in Boone a few weeks ago in August. Kay stated that it happened during one of the Yankees best stretches this year, but that it wasn't because they were winning. Due to COVID-19 protocols and injuries, the Yankees were forced to play lesser-known players like Greg Allen, Andrew Velazquez, and Kyle Higashioka. Their style also changed, not by accident.

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The Yankees suddenly became more aggressive in their baserunning. There were more steals. There were more hits-and-runs and fewer double plays. The Yankees were more assertive. They didn't wait for analytics to make a lasting contribution to the game, but they did so.

This type of play (and these types of players), according to the numbers, isn't always as reliable. It is still engaging.

Kay stated, "I believe if you gave him truth serum, Boone might say that it was the best season he ever had." He managed the team as if it were a team before analytics existed.

CASEY STENGEL ONCE stated that managing is getting paid for the home runs of someone else. While that's true, it doesn't address the personal aspect of modern sports leadership.

Boone's ability to play baseball is great, but it doesn't matter what you think about his motivational skills. Boone's job is to make sure that the players feel, regardless of what has happened, that success is possible.

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Boone made this a key part of his team talk during the first day in spring training. He said to me in Boston, "I wanted them be clear about that right away." "I told them straightly: There is adversity ahead of you. Because it always has been. It's not about when, it's about how. They should know that I will be there to support them in any way they need.

Boone admittedly didn't anticipate a season that would be so extreme -- the Yankees went preseason title favorites, to underwhelming, possibly out of contention, and now back to dangerous postseason picks. But while it's possible to look at the Yankees season as a series inconsistencies, another interpretation of the season is to view it as one of perpetual redemptions.

LeMahieu said it best: "The story is getting punched in your face and coming back."

It remains to be seen what story the 2021 Yankees will tell, but a sweep against Red Sox in their final meeting of the season is a good start. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

It is amazing enough that the Yankees can plow on. But, to dig deeper, it is their unshakeable belief that they will be able plow down that makes it feel like something special. Stanton watched as Boston lefty Darwinzon Hernandez attempted to retire Anthony Rizzo, leaving the Red Sox trailing by one run in the eighth inning.

Stanton thought one thing as he watched the game: "They better get Rizz." Stanton was able to see Rizzo and hit Hernandez to load the bases. Stanton then strode to the plate, obliterating the first pitch that he saw. He rocketed the ball into the night sky for the grand slam that gave the Yankees an unlikely victory that made summer seem so far away.

These moments will they continue? Is that energy going to last forever? Or, to put it another manner, who are these Yankees? Gardner replied when I asked him that question the next day, "Well, that's still to determine, isn't? It is.

Stanton hit another home run on Sunday and the Yankees won again. This is what will ultimately push the Yankees to the limit. They'll need to mash. Pitch. Take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you. They will need Stanton. Judge. Cole, who was a great pitcher in Friday's win. Gardner. The bullpen guys. Yes, Bronxie.

Six games remain in this serpentine season. There was serious discussion about Bronxie's fate as the Boston series neared its conclusion. Bronxie is a tricky turtle to travel with so the question was: Should Bronxie continue on to Toronto? Perhaps he could return to New York with his familiar surroundings.

There was much talk. There was much discussion. The Yankees finished their rally and Bronxie moved to a perfect record of 6-0. Everyone knew the answer. Bronxie is currently in Toronto. He and the Yankees are not going anywhere.