Perspectives: Winning Is A Mindset
by Paul Semendinger
August 28, 2022
I know there are a lot of Yankees apologists out there. I get it. We watch the Yankees because we love them and we hope for the best. I am also hopeful for the best... I just think that we already saw the best this team had to give. I don't believe they do not have anything else to offer. I don't foresee this team magically showing up on September 15 and then winning game after game as they did in April, May, and June. It's just not happening. Teams just can't turn it on and off. That's not how it works.
The 2022 Yankees are not a championship team, They simply aren't. I wish they were. I'd much rather write about wins and great decision making and high quality play. We won't be writing a lot about that because it's just not going to happen. I hope I'm wrong about this, but winners win. Winners don't take months at a time off from trying to be excellent. You can't turn winning on or off like a switch.
Some other thoughts:
The Yankees have been able to score runs in only two of their last 22 innings. They haven't been able to score against a team, the Oakland A's, who are the worst team in the American League. If this was a blip, we could say, "teams have tough games and stretches," but this isn't a blip. We've seen this pattern far too many times before. Good teams shut them down. Bad teams too.
I know that people still say, "The Yankees lead the league in runs and home runs..." and all of that. But much of that was accumulated when they were playing great in the spring. Spring turned to summer and the greatness disappeared. I think the autumn will be even worse. That the Yankees still lead the league in certain areas is irrelevant. The team that put up those numbers isn't the team on the field we see today. At all.
Have you ever run a 5K, or really a race of any distance, or watched one, and saw a runner go out really fast, only to not be able to sustain that pace? That's the 2022 Yankees.
For a period of time, even after it was clear that that person wasn't going to win the race, or possibly even finish, he was still leading the pack in numerous ways. Once it became clear that he wasn't going to win, whatever he was leading in became meaningless.
That runner knew that he peaked. He knew that he wasn't winning. He knew he couldn't sustain it.
The 2022 Yankees know they've peaked. They know that haven't been able to sustain it. They know they can't just turn it on again. It doesn't work that way.
The runner who goes out too quickly isn't a great runner, he's a pretender. That's the 2022 Yankees.
Winners set a fast past and sustain that pace throughout. That's how to win. That comes from focus, preparation, and great planning. It comes from knowing one's self. It comes from pride and determination. No one ever won a marathon by not doing well from miles 11 through 21 as the Yankees have done.
"He led for 22 miles out of 26, that's something." Sure it's something, but if he didn't break the tape at the finish, he didn't win. This Yankees team isn't breaking the tape at the finish. It's not even getting to the podium.
This idea that the Yankees decided that once they built a huge lead that they could rest players and take it easy is infuriating. On one hand, if the Yankees are really doing that, it is abhorrent. If their strategy was to put a substandard product on the field, well, that's simply wrong. It's an affront to their fan base - especially with the extremely high prices they charge for their product. Especially because they make fans pay extra on Friday's for their games. "Pay more, but we're not all-in."
If the players and the manager themselves don't have the deep desire to play hard and can't dig deep to win, well, that then says it all.
Winners don't quit. And quitters never win.
That is my answer now and always going forward to this idea that the Yankees decided to go on cruise control once July rolled around. Maybe they did, but if they did, they're quitters and losers. I have played sports my whole life, competitively and otherwise. Athletes give their best. Always. If there is an argument that the Yankees can turn it off, which they might be doing, and might have done, it speaks very poorly for the players, their leadership, and the organization.
Yankees fans remember Derek Jeter as a winner. Because he was. How did he learn how to win? He won because his father taught him to work his hardest always - to never give in. That's the Jeter story. Most stories of most winners are like that. "I gave it my all." I just read a biography of Johnny Unitas, another winner. There was never a time he didn't give his best. Winners never stop trying to be their best. Would Johnny U have played poorly or not given his best for a game or a period of the season? No way. Never. Period.
We hold players like Joe DiMaggio as the ones we treat as legends. What did DiMaggio say in that game late in a season when it didn't matter any longer who won or lost? He said, "I owe it to the kid seeing me for the first time or the last time to give my best." That's how a winner behaves.
Trading Jordan Montgomery (who just had his worst start as a Cardinal, but is still 4-0, 1.76) while knowing that the other starters were at or reaching their innings limits was just a bad, a very bad, a terrible baseball decision. It was and always will be. Trading him for a player who is injured and who still hasn't played - and who might not play - is even worse. That's not a winning formula. Winning teams don't get rid of players who can help them win in exchange for a player who has a long time injury.
Winners play to win. Period.
How does one know the team is falling apart? It's when there is a lack of seriousness and focus. Aroldis Chapman is back on the IL. He has an infection in his leg. From ESPN, "New York reliever Aroldis Chapman was placed on the injured list after getting an infection in his leg from a recent tattoo." He couldn't have gotten a tattoo in the off-season? Here's a guy having his worst season, a guy contributing to a losing environment, and that's the time he needs a tattoo? I would have thought his time might have been better spent figuring out how to throw strikes.
Also from ESPN, "Giancarlo Stanton got the night off after serving as the DH the past two days after coming off the IL." If swinging a bat and running the bases for two games is too taxing for Stanton, the Yankees have big problems and issues. Again, I just cannot fathom most winning players, any winning player, after being out for weeks and weeks and weeks, especially a supposed superstar, saying to the manager that it's okay to sit after just getting back into the lineup. "Yeah, coach. I am tired. I need a rest. It's tough to go to the plate five times in a night. Thank goodness you didn't expect me to play in the outfield too." Can you imagine the manager telling Don Mattingly that after DHing on back-to-back days that he needed a rest? I thought the idea of being the DH was the rest day.
Giancarlo Stanton needed a night off after being the DH for two whole games? Really? That, right there, clear as day, is why this team will not win a World Series. Period. It is as clear as day. They just don't know what it takes to win. They don't have the winning instinct. They think more in terms of resting than winning. It's how they operate and it takes the fight and the initiative away from the players.
Winning is a mindset. There is a way champions think and act and behave. They keep their focus. They give their all. They grind it out. They find ways to overcome. That's not the way the Yankees have operated under Aaron Boone. These Yankees look for days off. They seek time to rest. The organizational philosophy is to use "load management." When the philosophy from the leader is to not do one's best, that attitude permeates the entire team and organization. It allows players to mail it in, to take it easy - to stop giving their all. When historians look back at the Yankees of the Aaron Boone era, this is what they'll note. They'll see a team philosophy, from the top down, that was less than serious, that was less than focused on being the best each day and every day. They'll see an organization with unfulfilled talent. They will see teams that should have been able to win it all, but didn't, because the commitment to greatness, the commitment to excellence, wasn't there.
In one of Theodore Roosevelt's most famous speeches, he talks about "daring greatly." These Yankees don't dare greatly. They just don't. And that's why there hasn't been a World Championship flag hanging in the Bronx since 2009 - and it's why there won't be one again in 2022, or ever, if this approach is allowed to continue.
Winners never quit.
Quitters never win.