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.