Perspectives: There's A Time For Us...
by Paul Semendinger
October 21, 2022
There's a time for us
Someday a time for us...
It's discouraging. Very discouraging. We are seeing the same play, acted out, albeit with some slightly different actors, but with the same main cast, and the same producers, year after year.
I love the musical West Side Story. I remember an outstanding performance that my wife and I saw when we were still dating, back in the 1980s. The play was at Susquehanna University where she attended. I loved it all. The music, the story... (my date). I had spent most of my "growing up years" watching baseball (and Rocky movies). I didn't know the story of this play so everything that happened was new to me. I was crushed when it ended, this modern-day Romeo and Juliet tale. I wanted Tony and Maria to live happily ever after.
In the years since, we have seen West Side Story on Broadway a few times, we've seen the original movie, and when he was in high school, Ethan performed in a tremendous rendition of this great musical. Every single time I see a performance, I hope for a happy ending. I know it can't happen, and that it won't, but I still hope that, somehow, someday, somewhere... it just might.
It has become like that watching the Yankees. Year-after-year, season-after-season, we see the same production. There are different players acting in the key roles, but the story remains the same. It ends in tragedy.
In the highly regarded business book Good to Great, the main point that is driven home, time and again, is that good enough never is. The book says it best, "Good is the enemy of great."
The Yankees have been good for a long time. They haven't been great in a longer time. It's getting closer and closer to forever. 2009 was a long time ago.
But, in many ways, that 2009 season was an outlier. It's an outlier that tends to make this cold period, a long period of disappointment, seem not quite as bad and not quite as long.
When the party line is, "They last won it in 2009," it sounds somewhat okay. Thirteen years? It wasn't that long ago. (It was in the world and the history of the Yankees, but that's not my point here.) 2009 was the outlier. It was the year that stands out. Unique and alone. And because of it, the overall drought, dating back to 2001, doesn't sound or seem as bad.
But this had been a long, tired, frustrating, and in some regards, miserable slog. I use the word miserable because, in some ways, that word really describes all of this. The Yankees are good, they're just not good enough. And it's miserable, in many ways, to have to go through the same show year-after-year-after-year hoping for a different result. The Yankees aren't great. They always stop short of being great. For the Yankees good enough is good enough.
"Look at us! We've been better than .500 for 29 consecutive years!"
"Look how many times we're in the post season!"
"No team wins as many games as us!"
"Our manager is the first manager to win 100 games so many times and get to the playoffs so often to begin a career."
"Our GM has never had a losing season."
On and on.
These good results are the enemy of the great results that could be had. It's not like the Yankees don't have the resources to be great. It's that they are unwilling to use those resources to make themselves the very best team in baseball.
And what the Yankees do not understand, is that for this franchise, unique among all other sports franchises, just reaching the playoffs, being good, isn't good enough. It's not. Not by a long shot. No way.
Yankees fans expect greatness. And the Yankees themselves sell the fans on that greatness. We're inundated with it always. "We're the Yankees. We're the franchise with the most rings. We're Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Maris. Mantle. Berra. Munson. We're Reggie. We're Mariano. We're Jeter. We're the team of legend."
The Yankees make a fortune selling that idea and that ideal. It's on every telecast. It's everywhere. The Yankees sell the fans on their greatness.
"We're the Yankees, the greatest of the great."
Except they aren't. And they have not been. And for the better part of this century, they've come up short. Time and again. Year after year. They've been good. Not great.
There is an expectation from Yankees fans that the team cares about winning as much as they do. The Yankees don't. Not at all. They care enough to get to .500 or better. They care enough to reach the post season. They don't care enough to build a team, top-to-bottom, that is or can be the best team. They always stop short.
Sometimes the best team loses. The Dodgers lost. It happens. But, at least those fans can say, "We were all-in. It just didn't work out." The Yankees can never say that. They Yankees aren't all in. Instead, year-after-year, we get treated to, "Here's this year's tease. We're good, not great, but we can get you, often against your better judgement, to eventually believe."
And we do. We buy in. Sometimes slowly. Often reluctantly. We tell ourselves that, "If this happens... If he can just do what he did in May... Or if he pitches as he did last year... If... If.... IF!"
But we know, deep in our hearts that we're grasping for straws. Paper straws. The ones that get soggy the longer they're in the drink...
We know, when we watch West Side Story, that it cannot work out. We hope. We dream. We wonder. We put our logic on pause because we want to believe in the impossible, if we know that Tony and Maria can't be happy, there's not point in buying in. The great actors are the ones that convince us that the dream can actually come true. Happily ever after can come...
This is what the Yankees do. They convince us...
But, in the end Tony dies. He always does. Tragically.
As do the Yankees.