On realistic expectations

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, that George Steinbrenner would have been furiously scrutinizing the Yankees organization had they been eliminated from the postseason in the ALDS round. His wrath would have probably begun by challenging the players’ performance (not to mention, their resolve), and ultimately wound its way through each level of management. After a few tension filled weeks of wondering who the latest casualty of the proverbial chopping block would be, decisions would be made and life in Yankeeland would continue.

After all, winning championships was second only to breathing in Steinbrenner’s book. Consequently, ever since Steinbrenner took charge, New York has experienced a culture shift like no other franchise had before (in my opinion). Winning became valued above all else; so much so, that anything short of a championship was deemed a failure — a failure deserving of immediate recourse. Of course, this model appealed to a large population of fans who sought immediate compensation every time they experienced “disappointment” (despite the fact that the Yankees enjoyed far more overall success than many other organizations).  Obviously, it frustrated many fans as well as organizational moves weren’t always well thought out.

Unfortunately, this mentality revolves around extremely lofty expectations that are nearly impossible to fulfill (which makes the Yankee dynasty years all the more incredible). It has also led to a lot of very shortsighted, reactionary decisions over the years. My generally-very-level-headed-colleagues were petitioning, on Friday, for the immediate removal of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher (because that’s simple!) since they “sucked and weren’t clutch.” Despite the fact that the pitching staff did a largely brilliant job, Girardi received more than his fair share of criticism as well.  How dare he pull Ivan Nova?  How dare Nova not show more grit and deal with a little arm discomfort?  It wasn’t just the knuckleheads at work though; a not-so-rational Twitterland was in full freak out mode the day after the Bombers stranded eleven on base and lost the game.

While Hal Steinbrenner’s recent comments weren’t quite as provocative as his father’s undoubtedly would have been back in the day, they still managed to reinforce the “win all or bust” mantra. Steinbrenner remarked, “I personally share in our fans’ disappointment that this season has ended without a championship. That is, and always will be, our singular goal every season. I assure you that this disappointment will strengthen our resolve to field a team in 2012 that can bring a twenty-eighth championship to the Bronx. That work starts now.”

Personally, I see this type of passion as something of a double-edged sword. Sure, as fans, we invest ourselves whole-heartedly. We love our team. We bleed pinstripes. When they win, we win. When they lose, we lose. Or, at least, that’s how it feels to us. It’s also great that the team constantly strives for success and is willing to improve each offseason; I think that’s what all successful organizations should do.  Perhaps, though, we may want to consider another shift in culture though. Maybe if we can shift our expectations slightly, we can once again appreciate how much effort it takes to simply have the opportunity to win a championship year in and year out. World Series are the ultimate thrill, but making the playoffs and witnessing a representative effort is still pretty exciting too.

Segedin starts at another position in the AzFL

Gus Molina has elected free agency, so say goodbye to this year’s Opening Day backup catcher.

AzFL Phoenix Desert Dogs (10-4 win over Peoria) this is actually yesterday’s game … they played the night game, so considering the time difference and all that, the game ended really late … they’re playing the night game again tonight, so I’ll update that game tomorrow
Corban Joseph, 2B: 0 for 5, 2 K – ouch
Rob Segedin, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB, K – first game was in LF, second game at the hot corner

David Phelps will make his first start for Phoenix tomorrow, in case you’re wondering. Link goes to a pdf, by the way.

Open Thread: Max Ashton

We’ve been focusing on the Yankees and their ALDS matchup against the Tigers over the last week, but there’s some other really cool stuff going on elsewhere around the league. Take Arizona for example, they invited a kid named Max Ashton to throw out the first pitch before Game Four of NLDS on behalf of The Foundation for Blind Children. Max is completely blind, so how do you think he did? Just watch.

Once you’re done looking at that awesomeness, use this as your open thread. The Brewers and Diamondbacks are still wrapping up Game Five of their NLDS matchup on TBS, then the Cardinals and Phillies will play their Game Five a little later on (8:37pm ET on TBS). The NHL season started yesterday, so there’s probably a free preview of the NHL package or whatever it is on your local cable network. Talk about whatever you want here, go nuts.

(h/t Amazin’ Avenue)

Eric Chavez “leaning heavily” towards retirement

Via Joel Sherman, Eric Chavez is “leaning heavily” towards retirement. Nothing is official though, Sherman is just passing along what he heard, and his sources are usually rock solid.

Chavez, 34 in December, played surprisingly well as the Yankees backup corner infielder/sometimes DH this season (1.3 fWAR), though he did miss more than two months with a foot injury. That’s the story of the guy’s career, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. We have no idea if the Yankees had (or have, really) any interest in bringing him back next year, but either way I wish him luck and thank him for his work in 2011.

NLDS Game Thread: Diamondbacks @ Brewers

Now that the Yankees have been eliminated, I’m adopting the Brewers as my team for the remainder of the playoffs. Nothing serious, this is just a fall fling. Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke … it’s fun to watch those guys play. Anyway, it’s Game Five between these two teams. Former Yankee Ian Kennedy is on the bump against Gallardo. Game starts at 5:07pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Nova has Grade I flexor strain in right forearm

Via Marc Carig and Bryan Hoch, Ivan Nova has a Grade I flexor strain in his right forearm. The right-hander left last night’s game with soreness and went for an MRI today. The injury is expected to heal on its own without complications this winter and allow him to be ready for Spring Training, but obviously this is something that would have kept Nova off the mound had the Yankees advanced to the ALDS.

If you want to freak out, remember that Joba Chamberlain was diagnosed with a strained flexor before needing Tommy John surgery.

Montero ranks fifth among top International League prospects

Baseball America posted their final Yankees-relevant minor league top 20 today, placing Jesus Montero fifth among all Triple-A International League prospects. Matt Moore, Julio Teheran, Devin Mesoraco, and Desmond Jennings were the four players ahead of Montero. No other Yankees farmhands made the list.

In the subscriber-only scouting report, James Bailey says Montero “doesn’t have the prettiest swing but compensates with exceptional strength and hand-eye coordination,” and he “crushes balls to all fields and projects as a .300 hitter with 30 homers per year.” As always, the question is his defense behind the plate. “He has arm strength but has a slow release and lacks accuracy on his throws,” said Bailey. “He lacks athleticism and still has a ways to go with his receiving and game-calling, and he loses focus too often.” Montero’s bat is big league ready, we saw that in September, but the Yankees will have to come up with a way to get him in the lineup for 600+ at-bats next year.