The Yankees’ season has been over for the three weeks. It feels like it’s been three months.
1. When you bring back your manager for a fifth season after four underachieving, mostly miserable seasons, it means the roster has to be changed. However, I don’t think the Yankees will actually make real changes to their roster. The team had the same payroll in 2021 that it had 16 years ago despite the exponential increase in ticket prices, merchandise and concessions costs and the amount of income they have brought in on broadcast rights over that time.
Will they get a shortstop? Sure. Brian Cashman said as much in his end-of-the-season press conference. Does that mean Carlos Correa or even Corey Seager? Probably not. They will cost money and a lot of it, and the last thing the Hal Steinbrenner Yankees want to do is spend more money. It’s why Rougned Odor was a Yankee in 2021. It’s why the early-season bench had Jay Bruce, Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford on it. It’s why the Yankees gave up more prospects to acquire Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo in order to get the Cubs and Rangers to cover the monetary ends of the deals. The Yankees like free. They like cheap. Every once in a while they will sprinkle in a big-money contract to make fans think they are still the Yankees. But they’re not.
2. My expectations for this offseason are low because Hal Steinbrenner has made them low. Hal would like to win, but he doesn’t need to win. If the Yankees happen to win, great! If they don’t, oh well! As long as the Yankees continue to turn a profit (and they will never not turn a profit), he’s happy. The annual statements he releases about being unsatisfied or unhappy with the team coming up short of a championship or the fans deserving more have about as much credibility Aaron Boone’s evaluation of his starting pitcher in postgame press conferences. When Hal’s father said it, it meant something because it’s how he truly felt.
Whether the Yankees won the World Series or had what George considered “a failure” and didn’t win the World Series, immediately following the end of the season, he would be back in Tampa planning how to win the next season. There was no grace period. There was no time off. Winning consumed him and taking a day to celebrate the team’s recent achievement would be one less day he had to try to achieve the same level of success the following season. His son just took two weeks to simply decide if he should bring back the same manager whose teams have produced one division title, one wild-card game embarrassment, two ALDS losses, one ALCS appearance and two postseason exits at the hands of the rival Red Sox in four years. Hal brought him back and Boone will now be the first manager in franchise history to go into his fifth season without a championship.
3. In another time, Boone wouldn’t have survived this offseason as Yankees manager with George in charge because he wouldn’t have survived the previous two either. George had his faults as an owner, but every move he made was made with one goal in mind: to win. He didn’t always make the right or best decision, but he made every decision believing it would increase the Yankees’ chances of winning. His son couldn’t be less like him in that regard. (After coming one win away from winning the pennant in 2017, Hal cut payroll by $50 million for 2018). Likely because of that, George didn’t want to leave the team to Hal. George wanted to leave the Yankees to his son-in-law, likely knowing what would happen if Hal took over. And that’s what’s happening now.
4. A wild-card game appearance as the second wild-card team is an embarrassment for the Yankees and should be treated that way. In a season in which they were expected to go to the World Series and were a heavy favorite to win the American League, they finished third in the AL East and fifth in the AL. It’s why I nearly threw up when Brian Cashman said, “We’re proud of the many successes we had this year … We were once again a postseason contender.”
The Yankees played an extra nine miserable innings this season and that somehow qualifies them as a “contender.” I wish the Yankee had missed out on the postseason completely rather than getting humiliated by the Red Sox for the third in the last three times the teams have met in the postseason since 2004, just like I wish the Yankees had lost the 2018 wild-card game knowing what took place in the ALDS.
5. The Yankees were never going to win that game three weeks ago. I wrote as much. Not with Gerrit Cole pooping his pants in the first inning on the Fenway Park mound, completely failing to show up with the season on the line after failing to show up for all of September. Not with the offense doing its latest October disappearing act, which has become a staple of these Yankees over the last five seasons. Not with Boone giving every pitcher in the game one extra batter to see if they could magically find it on a night when all of Fenway reminded us all that the Yankees do in fact suck.
6. Over the last 21 days, I have had to watch the Red Sox upset the Rays and the Astros laugh the overrated White Sox out of the playoffs. If not for Jose Altuve’s series-changing home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS, the Red Sox would be hosting the Braves on Tuesday night on their way to their fifth championship in 18 seasons. As much as I hate Altuve, I’m thankful he saved me from having to watch yet another Red Sox roster and yet another Red Sox general manager win a championship, while the Yankees continue to run in place.
7. Boone loves to say how “slim the margin” is between the Yankees and the teams that actually do have success in the postseason. Cashman loves to say the “postseason is a crapshoot” and success in it is “random.” That must be why the Astros are in the World Series for the third time in five years after reaching the ALCS in every season since 2017. It must be why the Astros and Red Sox just met in the ALCS for the second time in four years and why the Red Sox came two wins away from going to the World Series for the fourth time since 2004. The Dodgers must just be really, really, really lucky to have appear in the NLCS six times since 2013 and what a random coincidence the Dodgers and Braves just met in the NLCS for the second straight year.
Unfortunately, I find myself rooting for the Astros in the World Series because of Cashman’s belief. If the Braves win as an 88-win club that didn’t get over .500 for the first time until August, it will only give credence to Cashman’s idea the baseball playoffs are nothing more than a roll of the dice. I doubt he thought that when the team he inherited in 1998 won 114 regular-season games and the World Series and then the next two World Series, appearing in the Fall Classic in five of his first six seasons as general manager. I don’t think Cashman was attributing postseason success in the late-’90s and early-2000s to shear luck after taking over Gene Michael’s creation.
8. It’s been 12 years since the Yankees last appeared in the World Series, and it seems like even more with all of the ALCS losses (2010, 2012, 2017 and 2019), ALDS losses (2011, 2018 and 2020) and wild-card game losses (2015 and 2021) since. Add in the team’s one division title since over the last 10 seasons and 2009 seems like so long it almost feels fake.
The eight-year championship drought from 2001-2008 felt like an eternity while it was happening. The current drought has now been four years longer with no end in sight. The three-year contract for Boone proves Hal is OK with that. Giving a loser another three years to lose and another three years (with an option for a fourth!) to make losing even more acceptable within the organization is an immensely regrettable decision.
9. But these are the Yankees I root for, for better or worse. Mainly for worse. A team that spends all summer talking about turning corners that never appear, getting on a roll that never comes and how tomorrow is a new day until there’s no more tomorrow the way there wasn’t after the wild-card game in Boston or Game 5 of the 2020 ALDS or Game 6 of the 2019 ALDS or Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS. (I won’t lump Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS in as that way pre-Boone. Back when there was hope and promise with this core.)
10. At least once a day I think back to how I felt when the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. The loss didn’t hurt. I wasn’t angry or frustrated or disappointed. I was excited. I wanted the next day to be Opening Day because that’s how promising the future looked for these Yankees. Now here we are four seasons and four years later and the team has gone from coming within a game of the World Series to having their postseason last four batters in the wild-card game. They have never gotten back to within a game of the World Series and have suffered excruciating and humiliating postseason exits since.
I can’t believe how I felt just about four years ago and how I feel today with the Astros and Braves still playing and about to play for a championship. I envy Astros fans and Braves fan and I miss the feeling they’re feeling. Unless the Yankees drastically change their roster, I don’t know the next time I will experience that feeling.
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