I was prepared to open this post with something along the lines of "at the end of every unsuccessful season," but that doesn't feel quite right.
The Yankees finished with the best record in the American League, and the second best mark in Major League Baseball. They led the Majors in run differential (often the best indicator and predictor of a team's success) and placed either second or third in most offensive categories, including runs scored, OPS, wRC+, wOBA, and fWAR. The much maligned pitching staff - the cement shoes that would sink the Yankees season before it even began - ranked in the top four in the American League in ERA and FIP, while placing third in all of baseball in fWAR.
As fans, we were able to appreciate the emergence of Jesus Montero, David Robertson, and Ivan Nova, regardless of what their future may hold. We enjoyed the dominant left-handed duo of Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, both of which have an argument for the best player at their position. We watched Brett Gardner cover more ground than any Yankees outfielder in recent memory, and we haven't seen an outfielder like him visit the Bronx recently, either. We wrote off, at least in part, Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada, only to see them come up huge as the season wore on. And so it goes.
Yes, none of this propelled the Yankees to another World Series victory. There were ample disappointments along the way, as well - I'm quite certain the names Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez will remain infamous to Yankees fans for the next several months. And yet, it is difficult for me to place the onus for the ALDS loss on anyone but the collective 'Yankees' ... the twenty-five men on the roster and their manager.
At this juncture, I'm sure everyone remembers the moments that led us here - I see no reason to detail them further. However, be sure to keep those moments in a clear context. It is quite simple to blame the last man standing (or swinging and missing, in this case) ... but there were missed opportunities abound. Each moment of impotency could have changed the pace of the three losses. Some will say the hitters were too passive. Others will claim that the strikezones were inconsistent at best, biased at worst. Many will assert a lack of 'clutch,' and search eagerly for a single goat with a high price tag.
Sure, Girardi could have put the team in a better position to succeed ... but turning to a rookie like Montero or a borderline washed-up veteran like Eric Chavez (as evidenced by my own venom) could have ended up just as disastrously. I will forever question many of Girardi's decisions, but that comes with an obvious caveat - there really were no simple changes to be made, and stating anything to the contrary would be inane.
And in the end, perhaps this season wasn't a success. Perhaps anything that could call forth such vitriol must be a failure.
To me, however, this season was a success. Obstacles aplenty were overcome. Young players were given a shot, and oftentimes thrived. The marathon that is the regular season went to the New York Yankees and, while it may not lend itself to the cliché 'flags fly forever' sentiment, I enjoyed it. And I'm glad it happened.