Tuesday Discussion: By What Measure, Success?
April 25, 2023
This week we asked our writers to respond to the following:
How do you define a successful season for the Yankees? It it 90 wins? 95? 100? Is it reaching the playoffs? Is it reaching the World Series? Is it inning the World Series? Or is it something else altogether?
Here are their replies:
Lincoln Mitchell - I like this question a lot, because it is very subjective and reveals more about the person answering it that it does about the Yankees. Clearly winning the World Series would be a successful season for the Yankees, but that is a criteria that will lead to way too much anger and heartbreak than I need in my life. I am in my mid-50s. Realistically, the Yankees might win three more World Series before I shuffle off my mortal coil. Baseball is much more competitive than it was in the 20th century. I am not willing to be that disappointed almost every season. For me, a successful season for the Yankees means making the playoffs and making it past the first round, but it has to be something more than that. I want to root for a fun team. That means a team that promotes prospects, does not make terrible mid-season trades and has a few players that I like and can root for. Every intense fan has personal favorites, so when the team has a few of my personal favorites that also makes for a better season. In other words, in years when they don’t win the World Series, which is the overwhelming majority of seasons, there has to be something fun about the team.
Paul Semendinger - Success? Success in the Yankees' world is winning it all. But, they won't win it all every year. (I'll take 8 out of 10, is that fair? Ok, I'm kidding. A little. I think...)
What I want to see from the Yankees each year is the true desire to be the best team. I don't want to see the Yankees finding players on the scrap heap and hoping they perform. When it happens, it's fun, but it's not sustainable. And it's frustrating when the Yankees go for a Matt Carpenter over a Freddie Freeman (as a poor example because that wasn't exactly what happened, but close enough. The Yankees needed a lefty bat, passed on Freeman, and got Carpenter later on. And, yes, the ride on Carpenter's Magic Carpet was fun, but it wasn't going to last - and it didn't. This is similar to Franchy Cordero's home runs to begin 2023. These players quickly return to earth. Carpenter, by the way, looks very pedestrian this year.)
I know the Yankees can't win it every year, but when I see a team being built that has glaring and obvious holes, then I feel the team isn't all in. If they're not all-in, I wonder why I should be?
Success comes from the feeling that the Yankees are in it to win it. I haven't felt that for a long time. It was certainly true in 2009, but it hasn't really been true since then. They'll go out and get a player, but then cut corners in other areas. The Yankees shouldn't be about cutting corners. If they win it all in 2023, that'll be a success - obviously. But if they don't, I'm not left feeling like they went for it. They didn't. So a failure to win it all this year, is an unsuccessful season in my opinion.
James Vlietstra - To win a World Series has never been harder than now. There’s four rounds of playoffs to get through.
The Yankees last won the World Series in 2009. In the 13 completed seasons since then, they have won lots of games. Enough that most Yankees fans are spoiled.
They’ve reached the playoffs 10 times. Won 90+ 8 times. Won 95+ 6 times. Won 100+ twice.
What they have not done is win the ALCS. They’ve reached it 5 times and lost each time.
To me, we won’t know if 2023 has been a successful season or not until October 23+/- when the LCS is over and 28 other teams have been eliminated and the Yankees are the American League’s representative in the World Series.
Ed Botti - When the team has a top payroll ($279,047,000 - 2nd in MLB), they decide to keep their general manager and manager at season’s end because of the strength of their process, then add a $162mm pitcher, and supposedly solved all the problems from the prior year’s disappointing sweep in the ALCS, the only way 2023 is successful is if they win the World Series. Anything short of that, is not a successful season and a failure, in my IMO.
No alibi this year. Get it done!
Mike Whiteman - I've never really had a "championship or failure" mindset. This is baseball, not NASA (“failure is not an option”).
Since I became a fan in 1979, the Yanks have won eight AL pennants and five World Series Championships, the best in baseball on both accounts. That leaves about 35 years in which they didn't make the World Series in that span. That's a lot of time to live with failure, and it wouldn't be a lot of fun to me. For a successful season, I like the Yanks to win something, at least the AL East. They have won eighteen division titles during my "fan years", and while I felt disappointment when they didn't win the World Series each of those seasons, I'm hard pressed to call any of these teams "failures". Winning a division generally is usually a culmination of six months of successful play. It's not easy! Now, this "criteria" is not set in stone.
The 2017 team won the Wild Card but made a postseason run. That season felt great! The 2015 team struggled to 87 wins and lost the Wild Card game. That did not feel successful. The 2004 and 2022 teams look fine on paper but had such dramatic flameouts in the postseason that put a damper on the whole season.
My sense of optimism/pessimism about the current season lies in the possibility of success, and I’m optimistic (as one can be in April) about the 2023 edition.