Perspectives: Good Enough Never Is...
by Paul Semendinger
August 29, 2022
Is this fun? Is watching the Yankees any fun, at all, any longer?
The Yankees have been a bad baseball club for the last 52 games. That's basically 1/3 of the season.
The Yankees just finished a series against the Oakland A's, a team that traded away most of its talent... and who are the worst team in the American League. The Yankees could not win the series.
The Yankees have won one series in the month of August. One.
Yeah, not fun.
For a team and an organization that supposes itself to be a championship team, this is just unacceptable. They have to do better. That seems like such a simplistic answer, but it is the answer.
As I have noted before, I don't think they can do better because I believe that the culture of the team is one of being just good enough, but not great. They say this through their actions and have said this in so many ways over the last five years:
When the Yankees pass on free agents who are among the greatest players in the sport, they are saying that they don't care to be great.
When the Yankees fail to trade for the best players when they are available, they are making that same statement.
When the Yankees fail to recognize players who are performing poorly and are years past their prime and keep running them out there, they are showing what their priorities are.
When the Yankees hired a manager with no experience as a leader at any level, they delivered that same message.
When the Yankees renewed the manager even though the Yankees hadn't really improved much (or at all) under his watch, they said it even louder.
When the owner focuses on the luxury cap and costs rather than the product on the field it speaks volumes.
All of these things, and more, contribute to an environment that seems less than serious about winning. The Yankees of the Aaron Boone era have been good, not great. They'll win games because there is a lot of talent, but they won't be able to win the big games, because they do not embrace a culture of excellence.
- When players loaf and are not taken to task....
- When the IL seems to be used as a place of rest...
- When a superstar player misses more than a month, comes back as the DH for two games and immediately needs a rest...
All of those things (and more) send a message. Add them up, look at the sum total of all of this and one sees that this is not an organization that has winning as its number one priority. They just don't. This is the reason the Yankees have been without a championship since 2009. And this is the reason that 2022 will not be the year that the championship banner rises again.
In order for the Yankees to recapture their glory, they need a complete organizational shift in philosophy. Until that happens, we will watch season after season of what we've seen these last many years. We will see a team that wins 90+ games. We'll see a team that reaches the playoffs. And we'll see a team that exits the playoffs quickly.
in the Rocky movies, the thing that defined the main character was that he had "heart." He cared. He wanted to win. These was a deep desire to be the best - to be a champion. The great players we celebrate in sport have that characteristic. They are driven. Success is what they strive for. They play. They play hard. They give everything they have. When they don't win, you know that they tried their best.
I don't see that kind of passion or commitment to excellence on this team.
Don Mattingly never won, but the fans loved him because he left it all out there. Paul O'Neill was recently recognized with a number retirement because he was a warrior. Think of the players like that - guys who gave everything they had. Think of Joe DiMaggio coming back with an injured foot and destroying the Red Sox. Think of Mickey Mantle being taped up just to get out on the field. Think of Jorge Posada and his passion for the game. Think of Jeter diving into the stands... On and on.
Remember when Mike Mussina was celebrated for wanting to stay in a game? The fans loved that. He showed passion. Jordan Montgomery showed a similar reaction and, coincidence or not, he was soon traded away.
All of these factors contribute to the culture of a team. There is either a culture of excellence or not around an organization. There was a scene from the Yankees game yesterday that showed the players in the late innings sitting around already defeated. That shot spoke volumes. Did they look like winners? Where was the leader, any leader, showing spark?
Where was the manager or a coach saying, "Let's go!" (The manager was standing in the corner of the dugout spitting sunflower seeds or blowing bubbles...)
Where was a team leader?
This is just not a team with a winning culture. They are defeated.
Sure, they'll win some games the rest of the way. They have a roster of talented players.
Yeah, they are good enough.
But good enough never is.
Some other notes:
From the great Katie Sharp on Twitter: The Yankees have seven games with two hits or fewer this season. That's the most in the MLB.
The next time you hear, "But they have the most homers," you can say that they also have had the most games where they didn't even show up.
I know that Matt Blake has done a great job with the pitching staff. But, is anyone else concerned that the following Yankees pitchers are all on the Injured List right now: Zack Britton, Chad Green, Michael King, Albert Abreu, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Miguel Castro, Clay Holmes, and Stephen Ridings. (Note that I'm not counting newly acquired Scott Effross or Aroldis Chapman who has a tattoo injury.) Is there, at least, some concern that this year Chapman, Jonathan Loaisiga, Ron Marinaccio, and Domingo German have all also been on the IL? That's a lot of pitchers.
Is it possible that whatever it is that helps the Yankees pitchers find a few miles per hour on their fastball or increases spin rate or whatever it seems to do to make them successful - also promotes injury? Is that possible? I'm concerned.
This will be a topic we discuss a great deal in the coming months, but it has to be clear to the players themselves what the Yankees culture is. They have to also know that it's not a winning approach or philosophy. They see this, they live this.
Does anyone think the team is inspired by a manager who spends his time blowing bubbles and spitting sunflower seeds?
Might al of this play a role in whether or not a superstar right fielder wishes to return to the franchise?
Aaron Judge will get one chance at a huge payday, but, in addition to that, this will be his one and only chance to play for a World Championship team. The team he picks will be the one he spends his last best seasons with. Aaron Judge will get to look at the organizations who are bidding for his services and to determine which of them are the most serious about winning.
Simple question... if your goal was to win a World Series in your career, and you had the chance to play for the New York Mets or the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Diego Padres or the New York Yankees, right now, and looking out over the next five years, which team would you choose? Which of those franchises seem most committed to winning? It's not the Yankees. It is absolutely not the Yankees. Not by a long shot.
If winning a World Series mattered to you and you could choose between the Yankees and the Mets, or the Yankees and the Dodgers, why would you choose the Yankees? They're not all-in and haven't been all-in for a long long time. Aaron Judge knows this. He lives this. He knows this better than all of us.
If you were Aaron Judge, would you sign up for seven (or more) years of this, knowing that your contract is going to be one big reason that the Yankees don't win. Would you want to be the lightning rod that takes the brunt of the fans' frustrations as they watch team after team fall short? Would you want to be the guy eating up a large portion of the luxury tax cap space?
So many people think that all things being equal that Judge will of course return. I'm saying that all things being equal, there is no way he returns.
Remember when the Yankees had the best record in the MLB? Well, now they are behind the Dodgers, the Mets, the Astros, and the Braves. I made the analogy of the runner who sprinted too fast and wasn't good enough to sustain that pace and the field eventually catching and passing him. That's the 2022 Yankees.