A crisp autumn afternoon at Fenway Park would normally be an ideal setting for pennant race baseball, but today it was the backdrop for the end of the Yankees’ disappointing pursuit of a division title.
After weeks of playing out the string, the Yankees chances of winning the AL East finally unraveled with an 8-4 defeat to the Red Sox. So, instead of flying back to the Bronx to open up the ALDS, the Yankees will be packing their winter jackets and heading to Minnesota.
The Yankees have been the American League wild card three times in the past, and each time exited the playoffs in the first round. However, the disappointing aspect of finishing with the post season consolation prize is not the implications for the road ahead, but how the organization’s willing acceptance of second place betrays its past.
Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.” – George M. Steinbrenner III
Throughout its history, the Yankees have always been a team focused on being the best in all aspects. George M. Steinbrenner was famous for saying, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next,” and everything the Yankees seemed to do reflected that unmitigated passion to come out on top. In the team’s first season without the Boss, that philosophy seems to have changed.
By sending Dustin Moseley to the mound, Joe Girardi was only driving home a point he made perfectly clear with his decisions over the last three-plus weeks: winnings isn’t its own reward. Instead, the manager paid lip service to the importance of winning the AL East, while making contrary decisions cloaked in a dogged pursuit of “rest”. The result was an abysmal end to the season, which saw the team finish 13-16 over the last month-plus and cede first place after holding the position on Labor Day for only the third time in franchise history.
It’s very easy to conjure up an argument in defense of Girardi’s “lose the battle to win the war” strategy. Home field probably doesn’t mean much in the long run, and there is certainly a benefit to being well rested come October. However, achieving that end by accepting a lesser fate just doesn’t seem to mesh with what is, or used to be, the Yankee way.
You can blame the second tier players for failing to perform, or even major league baseball for not providing enough incentive to win a division title, but there is still no excuse for the attitude of indifference with which the organization handled the stretch drive. Losing is ok…not trying to win is not.
The Yankees theme song proudly proclaims “everyone knows they play to win because they’re the New York Yankees”. Those words ring hollow this season.