Happy Tuesday, everyone. It’s a cold and dreary Tuesday several weeks into the lockout, and there really isn’t that much to talk about. I can’t really remember a time I’ve cared less about baseball than I do right now, and I think the same is true for many of us. Oh well. Not much we can do about i.
Anyway, it’s time for a mailbag – at least an abbreviated one. We got a bunch of questions this week but I wanted to spend more time on one question in particular, because I think it gets to the heart of so much Yankee fan anxiety these days. We’ll get to the others next week, and if you want to send your own question in, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To the question!
Daniel Asks: Do you think that the Yankees botched and squandered this potential championship window?
This is a simple question, but one that cuts bone deep for most Yankee fans these days.
After the unexpected joy and success of the 2017 season that ended a week too early, most fans, myself included, could close their eyes and see an emerging Yankee dynasty. It was hard not to! They core of the team looked to be ascendant superstars with a solid farm system to boot. Of course, the Yankees immediately traded for Giancarlo Stanton, hot off his historic 2017 campaign. It was the most exciting time to be a Yankee fan in a decade.
And while the Yankees won 100 games in back-to-back seasons following that trade, they didn’t win a title – and things have only gone downhill since. Here is an illustration by winning percentage:
- 2017: .562 (lost to Astros in Game 7 of ALCS)
- 2018: .617 (lost to Red Sox in Game 4 of ALDS)
- 2019: .636 (lost to Astros in Game 6 of ALCS)
- 2020: .570 (lost to Rays in Game 5 of ALDS)
- 2021:.568 (lost to Red Sox in AL WC)
No matter how you slice that, it is disappointing. The Yankees appear to be trending backwards – nobody who watched the Yankees in 2020 or 2021 can deny the team was anything other than infuriating. With the sole exception of Aaron Judge, every key player from that 2017 core (and those who were going to augment it) has regressed. They’ve been humiliated in four straight postseasons at the hands of their biggest rivals. (I am exempting 2017 since that was not embarrassing.) And on and on. You know the drill.
But did they squander the window? The answer, unfortunately, is complicated.
First, let’s consider the obvious. Over that period, they added premier talent, including Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. Last year at the deadline, they added Joey Gallo, who will certainly rebound in 2022. And they’ve made a number of smaller signings and trades that have bolstered the team significantly. They did this, and you can’t ignore it. It happened.
The tension is what they didn’t do. Even as they added Giancarlo Stanton, they shed $50 million in payroll before 2018, and they stayed under the luxury tax threshold in both 2019 and 2021. Over that period, they passed on other elite talent, including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin, and Justin Verlander (in 2017). That also happened, and you can’t ignore that, either.
I think that they could and should have done more to bolster their team in every single one of those offseasons, and at each of the deadlines, excepting last year. That would have given them a better chance to win the World Series, even though they had a pretty good chance as it was. On the other hand, they’ve been right there. So it’s hard to say that they “blew” it.”
Finally, every team blows their championship window – until they don’t. The Dodgers were in much the same boat until 2020, and their fans were up in arms, too. Catastrophic playoff failures and perceived operational deficiencies cost them, too. But they they won, and that was that. The same can and very easily could happen to the Yankees. After all, this about says it all:
It makes me sick that the Yankees have the second-most wins, by a lot, in baseball since 2010 without winning a title. But they also have been winning a lot of games, and that’s not an accident. That necessarily keeps the window open. Keep getting in, and good things will happen eventually. That’s the idea, at least.
The best indicator of future success is past success, so I have no reason to believe the Yankees will shut their window any time soon. But it sure would be nice for them to ascend baseball’s Mount Everest again, wouldn’t it?