Yankee fans really need to take a deep breath here, be a little more realistic about who their team is, has been for a long time. We hear constantly about the Yankee “brand.” Well, here is what the Yankee brand has become: Winning a lot of regular games, drawing a lot of people, making a lot of money. They are big winners, unprecedented winners, April through September. Just rarely in October. October was the old brand.The New York Braves.... Boy do I hate the sound of that.
And they’re still working off an old script at the new Yankee Stadium. The comments from members of the Yankees’ high command after the team doesn’t make it to the World Series have become as predictable as their baseball team not making it to the World Series.
Once the bottom line for Steinbrenner the Elder was winning it all, or else. For his heirs, it seems the bottom line is more about profit and loss, and that sure doesn’t mean the kind of loss the Yankees just suffered at the hands of the Tigers.
The modern Yankees are a rollicking good show, good home-run show, now that they’ve moved across 161st St. Beasts of the AL East. Brian Cashman, the general manager, says he is going looking for more home-run hitting monsters, even though we all saw what just happened in the postseason when good pitching kept the monsters the Yankees already have in the ballpark.
Understand: The Yankees clearly have a tremendous business plan. It’s just not exactly the one they’re selling about how every season is World Series or bust. They are a long-running TV series for YES (even though ratings were down this season), the money absolutely keeps rolling in. They are hairy monsters in the regular season. But what happens in the postseason keeps happening, no matter how surprised they act every time it does.
We keep hearing that they’re going to get the payroll down to $189 million by 2014 to avoid serious luxury-tax penalties, but that is a bit of a hustle, too. The next year they can go right back to outspending everybody (well, maybe not the Dodgers going forward) if they choose to.
Understand: They have made a lot of smart decisions in that time to keep the pump primed, don’t worry. Cashman had one of his best years in 2012 with Ibanez, Ichiro and Hiroki Kuroda, and maybe it’s fitting that his best work turned out to be with guys whose ages are 40, 38, 37. The Yankees, year after year, are always a win-now team.
But when it comes to the World Series, they have become a win-then team.
Under Joe Torre they won four times in five seasons, made it to the World Series five times in six seasons, finally six times in eight. But starting in 2002, they have become the New York Braves.
Obviously there is no shame in that, the people in charge can point to other teams spending big money and not having nearly the regular-season success the Yankees have had. You think Mets fans wouldn’t trade places with Yankee fans? But the idea that the sky is falling because they just did what they usually do — fell hard before they got to the Series — is just plain dumb.
They consistently fall short of what they say their mission statement is, but nothing really changes in the organization. You know the only person who effectively got fired from the World-Series-or-bust Yankees lately? A.J. Burnett. They paid the Pirates to take Burnett off their hands. They might pay somebody else to take A.E. Rodriguez off their hands. That is the modern Yankee idea of holding somebody accountable.
Everybody talks about the Yankees making more big changes. Maybe getting another big player or two. But in the end, and with as much money as they spend, they are mostly about big coin that keeps coming in. That’s the real difference between the way they are run now and the way they were run when the old man was still in charge. That’s the real bottom line with the modern Yankees.
The people in charge say what they think George M. Steinbrenner would have wanted them to say. But with the old man, it was more than just talk.
I do have some concerns about the way the team is being run--I'm sure we all do. Hal is certainly not his father, and winning doesn't seem to be as important to him. That said, this team did still have a huge payroll and did win 95 games. And a few big hits or defensive plays earlier on in the ALCS and we may still be playing now.
What do you guys think? Is part of the Yankees problem the change in philosophy from father to son, or, as many has suggested, they were good enough but just choked?