Last week over at River Ave Blues (one of the very best baseball blogs, not just Yankee blogs), the great writer Mike Axisa stated:
"This team is so freaking good, man. Even with all the injuries and Luis Severino’s recent slump. They’re just so good. They’re so good and I feel like not enough people have taken a step back to appreciate just how good they are. The 2018 Yankees have to be the most complained about great team in the social media era. Hands down."
This has been a common theme with much of the Yankees reporting this year. "The team is good, really good, they're on pace for a million wins, and if not for the Red Sox having a great season, we'd be in love with this squad."
Critics of Yankees fans (commentators, media voices, and writers) often then state that Yankees fans are spoiled, unappreciative of greatness, unrealistic in their criticisms, etc... Yankees fans are told that they should appreciate this team, that they should enjoy the ride, that this is a team that deserves to be loved...
Yankee fans have been told over and over that the 2018 Yankees are great.
Of course, the fact that there is so much negativity about the team has to say something. I think saying that Yankees fans are spoiled (or any variation on that theme) is just too easy of an excuse. It's more than that. The fans are seeing something. The Yankees should be better than they are. Much better. I think the fact that so many see and know this is at the root of the frustration.
All season long, I have tried to truly understand this team. At times, they have been able to put together some periods of sustained success. They go through streaks where they try to make me believe. But, to be fair and honest, even when they are winning, it just doesn't feel that good. Sometimes, even when they are winning, they seem to win in spite of themselves.
After the Yankees swept the Orioles in late August, the team seemed to finally turn a corner. After playing .500 ball since mid-June, they finally seemed to get their act together. The Red Sox were hitting a dry spell and the Yankees crept within 5 games of first place in the loss column with an easy week ahead playing the White Sox and the Tigers - two teams that were having very very bad seasons. This was just one week ago.
So much has changed.
Instead of feasting on these poor teams, the Yankees won three games and lost four. For a team looking to play deep into the post season, weeks like this can't happen. They just can't. At all. It is weeks like this that truly define this squad. As much as people want to say the fans are unappreciative, for too much of this season, the Yankees just have not been and have not played like a great team. (Yes, in spite of their record.)
Since June 22, the Yankees are 36-29. That's good. It's not great. A 36-29 record equates to a .553 winning percentage. Over a full season, that plays out to just 90 wins (by rounding up). It's not great. In spite of the success they have had, this has been a frustrating team. Since that June 22 date, the Yankees have never won more than four games in a row. Yet, at one point, they did lose five games in a row. Greatness is not defines as such.
This morning even Mike Axisa seems to be understanding why this team that is so good gets complained about so much. He wrote the following:
"Far too many times this year the Yankees have played a terrible team and looked inferior. It happened again Sunday afternoon. They dropped the series finale to the Tigers 11-7. The Yankees went 3-4 on a seven-game homestand against the White Sox and Tigers, two teams on pace for 98 losses. Not only that, the Yankees scored first only once on the homestand and they trailed at some point in all seven games. Terrible homestand. Everyone involved should be angry — not disappointed or embarrassed, angry — about that performance against those teams at home."
Great teams just don't play like this. Take away that early season 17-1 stretch (small sample size) and the Yankees are just a 69-50 team. That pace translates to 93.9 wins over a full season. Is that great? If it's not (and it's not), then I think it's fair to say that this team, to date, in spite of its overall record, has not been great.
I believe the Yankees are a very good team. The reason fans are frustrated with the team is that before the season they believed that the team would be great. Because the Yankees have been very good, and not great, the fans are frustrated. This is what happens to good teams - they have flashes of brilliance that makes fans gloss over the apparent and obvious weaknesses as they hope and dream that the current streak is real and not a mirage. When reality strikes, as it always will, fans are shocked, disappointed, and frustrated.
After watching this team from the start, I think we're in for more such emotions in September. Fans want this team to be better than it is. That's why so many are frustrated.
(*Also of note - I do have to laugh to myself when commentators state that Yankees fans are spoiled. Spoiled? The Yankees have not been to a World Series since 2009. Since 2001, they have won just one World Series. One World Championship in 18 years is not great. It's just not. Absolutely not. Also, if the Yankees don't make the World Series this year and next year, they will have have failed to reach the World Series in a calendar decade (2010-2019) for the first time since before Babe Ruth. Here's a quick re-cap of the Yankees' World Series appearances by decade:
- 1920-1929= 6 times
- 1930-1939= 5 times
- 1940-1949= 5 times
- 1950-1959= 8 times
- 1960-1969= 5 times
- 1970-1979= 3 times
- 1980-1989= 1 time
- 1990-1999 = 3 times
- 2000-2009= 4 times
- 2010-present= 0 times
Since the 2013 season, the Yankees have been in the post season a grand total of two times. Two (2015 - a Wild Card loss and last year). This is success? The Yankee brand, the Yankee image, the Yankee mystique, and all of that was not built on the results of the last five or six years. The Yankees pride themselves and market themselves on championships. In recent years (really since 2001), there have been far too few of them.
Yankees fans today are spoiled? Really?)