From Tom Verducci today -
Here is a message for George Steinbrenner, Derek Jeter, Brian Cashman and everyone else who has bought in to the Yankees culture that the season is a failure if New York does not win the World Series: The ’90s are so over. The baseball world has changed so much from when the Yankees won four titles in five years that the Yankees’ world-championship-or-bust mentality has become awkwardly outdated.
Don’t get me wrong. The aspiration to win it all should always remain paramount. But the Yankees continue to set themselves up for joyless seasons and their own definition of failure by thinking they should win the World Series every year. Last season they lost two-thirds of their starting outfield and they still won more games than any team in the league and blew the doors off the rest of their division — and went home horribly unhappy, ready to fire the manager, run a Hall of Fame pitcher out of town and heap more abuse on an all-time great third baseman. Their fans have zero interest in Division Championship hats.
Do Yankees fans need to level-set their expectations these days? It’s a fair enough point – but, where do you set them? Winning 90+ games? Just making the post-season? Winning the LDS? The LCS? Or, should it still be ‘the ring is the thing’?
I do not think that it’s wrong for Yankees fans, given the team’s payroll/roster, to expect the team to finish first in their division (and make the post-season). I also don’t think it’s wrong for Yankees fans to expect their team to play well in the post-season.
Note that I said “play well in the post-season” – and did not say “win in the post-season.”
It’s fine for the Yankees to be defeated by a better team in October – as long as the Yankees put up a fight. That’s what happened in the 2001 World Series. On the whole, the Diamondbacks played better that series – and won. But, New York took it to the very last game.
However, in 2002, the Yankees did not play well in the ALDS. Ditto that in the 2003 World Series. And, we all know about the 2004 ALCS, 2005 ALDS and 2006 ALDS. Losing was not fun in these years, sure – but, what made those series painful was the way in which the Yankees lost them. When you get beat by the likes of Shawn Wooten, Alex Gonzalez, Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera and Curtis Granderson in big spots – and your big guys do little in big spots – that’s when you start to get your undies in a bunch (and rightfully so).
It’s not about missing the ring that’s the failure. It’s about the way they missed the chance at the ring that’s the failure. There’s a big difference between the two.