Halftime Sports

The Plight of No October: Yankees on the Decline

April 3, 2014

Did the Yankees just lose?

We don’t have the highest payroll?

As the era of the Core-Four comes to a close, the Yankees appear to be sinking into mediocrity. This is a shocking sight for those of us born in the ‘90s who enjoyed five World Series championships and a run of constant relevancy. Had we taken care of business against the Diamondbacks in 2001, and had the Red Sox collectively not been possessed by Satan in 2004, the last 20 years would have been almost perfect for the Yankees. Yet, the aura surrounding the Yankees has changed, just in the last few years.

After the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008, we brought in Mark Texiera, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Nick Swisher and rolled to a World Series in the new Yankees Stadium in 2009. That’ss the Yankee way—when you run into problems, spend to win. At the end of the day, the Yankees did not lose consistently—any setback was met with enough spending to ensure that it did not happen again.

The Yankees did not make the playoffs in 2013. And we went out in the offseason and lost the best player on our team, Robinson Cano. One can rationalize our offseason as mediocre, but the point is the Yankees do not have mediocre offseasons. On April 1st, the Yankees lost 2-6 to the ASTROS. The same Astros that pinch pennies, lose 100 games a year, and altogether should be easy pickings for the Bronx Bombers. This was Derek Jeter’s last opening day, and we could not put out a team that could win so that we could honor the greatest human being to grace the baseball diamond in our lifetime.

But why is this happening? I don’t believe the recent front office effort to reduce payment is the reason, because it immediately was brushed to the side. What became clear was the allure around the Yankees has decreased. Stars like Alex Rodriguez used to want to play for the Yankees, but now players aren’t as drawn to the bright lights of New York. But just this offseason, Robinson Cano gave up being the best player in New York because he was offered a longer contract in Seattle. That’s shocking. Now Cano isn’t the only Yankees player to ever leave. Obviously one can reference the time Clemens and Pettite left to go play in Houston. What’s key here is that he has no connections to Seattle, nor is it a superior team.

So why’d he leave? And honestly, why weren’t more people surprised? I think that it’s the symptom of a few things. One is that because of massive TV deals, more teams can spend like the Yankees—that’s why we see not only teams like the Dodgers and the Angels heavily spending, but also teams like the Reds are willing to spend to win. This change means that the Yankees no longer are just competing with a few teams for free agents. They’re competing with the league.

This results in a grim reality for Yankees fans to consider. Was the whole allure—the bright lights, the winning culture, everything—just a symptom of having the most money? Are the Yankee Way and the history of the team meaningless without the most money?

Now I for one am going to be a homer for the rest of my life, and always imagine that the Yankees are going to win the World Series every year. But realistically, we may be in an era where teams like the Yankees and Red Sox no longer dominate every single October.

 Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr

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