The 2016 season of the New York Yankees has not gone well. Those of us who watch the games every day have a sense of doom every inning, every pitch, every at-bat and every bullpen decision. Nothing has gone right and everything has gone wrong. Joe Girardi's body language in the dugout looks like a man being leeched by some 19th Century doctor. For this generation of Yankee fans, this is unprecedented and shocking. Perhaps, what is needed is a new perspective to get us over these troubled waters. First of all, this is a fan generation that has not seen a Yankee team with a losing record since 1992. That first season under Buck Showalter saw a team finish ten games under .500 and twenty games back from first place. This is also a fan generation that has not only seen consistent above .500 teams but also teams that only failed to make the playoffs three times since 1995.
You all know that such sustained success is impossible right? You understand it is also unnatural, right? That kind of run doesn't happen in sports. Perhaps the closest thing to that kind of sustained success would be the New England Patriots. And sooner or later, that run will come to an end too. It has to.
Let me re-phrase that a bit. It has to these days with the draft and salary caps and player acquisition rules. The New York Yankees did go from 1926 to 1964 with above .500 teams every season. That nearly-forty-year run was in a different time when money and power could buy the best players and use other franchises as personal minor league teams. But in this day and age with the draft and money constraints, parity has been the goal. And still the Yankees kept winning.
In many ways, the Yankees sustained that streak by fighting the system and signing free agents for top dollar and beyond the shelf life of the players they signed. The team got away with it as long as it was willing to continue spending more and more and getting taxed by baseball more and more. Many fans are furious that fiscal sanity has reigned in what was an unrelenting business model.
For all those who rant at "Hal," many would do the same thing if it was their business. The belief that George Steinbrenner's penchant for spending money was what made the Yankees great starting in 1995 is just plain wrong. It was developing great players and sprinkling some free agents into the mix to plug holes. The one thing old George did was spend to keep those "kids" that got developed in the fold in a free agent era.
For a myriad of reasons, the Yankees have not been able to restock the team with home-grown stars which led to the recent splurge into the Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia era. Those signings plus the last hurrah of the home grown "Core" gave us 2009. The team and fan base has had a struggle since and perhaps the Yankees find themselves where the Phillies were in 2014 with an aging and intractable team. Maybe this is what transition looks like.
The Yankees have chosen to wait out some contracts and get younger. The get younger part has shown some signs of promise. Most of the rotation is young (including Masahiro Tanaka). The middle infield is young. Teixeira, Beltran and Sabathia will come off the books after this season. A-Rod can be phased out and perhaps if the team continues to tank all season, some of those guys can be perhaps traded for some unexpected talent. But the team is still stuck with Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner for a while.
It will remain to be seen whether the team's Minor League talent develops into the stars they need to be. But there is some hope there. In the meantime, we are stuck with what we see on YES every night.
And perhaps, just perhaps, this is just a down time in what can still be a successful season. The Texas Rangers won the A.L. West last season. Do you know what that team's record was on May 2 of last year? Yes, 8-15. Every team goes through bad stretches in a season. Perhaps the Yankees are going through one early and will be very competitive the rest of the season. As unlikely as that seems right now, it is still far too early to say it is over. As long as that Number 8 is on the Yankee uniforms, we might as well say that it ain't over until it's over.
But what if it is? Well, then we become the kind of fans like I was in the sixties, early seventies and eighties that just rooted for the team because they were our team. Eating hamburger after 23 years of filet mignon can still be tasty (as can a veggie burger). It is just different. You cannot always be the kings of the world--at least not in this MLB model.