The Yankees aren’t the Yankees anymore, except in name.
This isn’t about the team failing to win, let alone reach a World Series since 2009. It isn’t even about owner Hal Steinbrenner’s years-long indifference to general manager Brian Cashman’s growing incompetence.
No, it is about that for a team that makes such a show and fuss of pomp and circumstance every offseason about how powerful the Yankees are; how this is a team built to win a World Series; how this is a great and excitable Yankees team, everything falls short to the point where the system has become automatic.
At or about 90 wins through a streaky season, a decent enough lineup with an equally decent pitching staff, and a functional bullpen. Enter the postseason, and the bats that carried the team to those 90 or so wins suddenly go cold. Lather, rinse, repeat.
If this sounds familiar to Yankees fans, it should for a couple of reasons. First, save for 2009, this has been New York’s MO in the playoffs ever since the 2004 collapse. Come hell or high water, the team has a sudden inability to score runs. Cut to the end, the Yankees are once again the bridesmaid and not the bride.
That’s right, fans. We’re going to tell the truth and it’s going to hurt. Badly. The Astros are the new Yankees, while the Bronx Bombers have become the old Red Sox.
Think of what was once baseball’s tale as old as time. The Red Sox got oh so close, even reaching a few World Series, but came up short. Thus was the Curse of the Bambino. The curse is now broken and the roles might as well be reversed.
The pre-2004 Red Sox had Nomar Garciaparra, the Yankees had Aaron Judge. Pedro Martinez was a shutdown ace with Gerrit Cole intensity, only less imposing on the mound. The Red Sox also had their own hitting machine but instead of DJ LeMahieu, his name was John Valentin.
These cult heroes played strong baseball in Boston for years and settled for the AL Wild Card while just a few hours down I-95, the Yankees regularly took the AL East. New York’s whole culture then and going all the way back to Babe Ruth was not a matter of if the Yankees would win a World Series, but when and how many more after that.
The same winning-obsessed baseball philosophy still exists today, but just not in the Big Apple. Do you know where it does? In Houston, courtesy of the Astros continually putting out a winning team at Minute Maid Park.
Two teams, two billionaire owners, neither of whom has spared any expense in investing in analytics, the machine that makes baseball go. Every team utilizes them, building teams and developing players based on a specific set of numbers. Brian Cashman is obsessed with them and so is Astros GM James Click. A key difference exists between the two and is why one team will always outdo the other.
The Yankees look at the numbers, put a team together, and then win enough games to make the playoffs and get a shot at the World Series.
The Astros look at the very same numbers, build a team, and then plow through the competition to clear the field and practically march to the World Series. Six straight trips to the ALCS confirms that and so does an obviously successful player development system. Sound familiar?
Shout it from the top of the Empire State Building. The Houston Astros are the new juggernaut franchise and unstoppable force that once was the New York Yankees.
The Bronx Bombers might as well be the Bronx BoSox, forever the also-ran and always chasing the pennant instead of latching on. Maybe it’s because New York favors random numbers over baseball instinct, maybe it’s because Cashman’s eye for talent isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps both. What is clear is that whatever the Yankees have been doing for the past five years isn’t working.
Considering the Red Sox have been to more ALCS and World Series this century than New York, even the Yankees have to realize the roles are reversed now. How times have changed indeed.
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