The New York Yankees are the most successful MLB franchise in the history of the game. They may also be the most hated team in baseball, but no one can dispute the facts, or the records the team holds: 27 World Series wins, 40 Al Pennants, 18 AL East Titles and 44 players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, including 11 managers. Those records and accomplishments are almost better than the rest of the league combined.
In any sport, the biggest problem with being the most successful team is how far the bar is raised. Fans are not just happy with playoff berths or good records, neither are the players; a World Series championship is the only acceptable finish to a Yankees season. So if the bar is set at winning the World Series, the Yankees have been below those expectations since 2009. So do fans expect too much from the best franchise in all of sports, or are the expectations warranted for a team with the highest payroll in the league?
The Yankees have gone through tough stretches, ones that most fans do not remember because they either weren’t born yet or they jump on and off the Yankees bandwagon, but the team went through a 13-year stretch a lot worse than the one they are in now. From 1982-1995, otherwise known as the “Mattingly Years”, the Yankees failed to win a World Series. During that time, the Yankees did have good seasons, great players and some bad luck. The team had the best record in MLB two-times, the second being the strike-shortened 1995 season, but failed to win a championship. Those years were so bad the Yankees lost an Andy Hawkins no-hitter 4-0 to the Chicago White Sox. The reason these facts are as relevant as the 27 World Series championships is to remind fans the team has been down before and they will come back.
During those years, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would spend money like it grew on trees to get the biggest names to the Bronx. Steinbrenner had a unique reputation from the second he bought the team. He thought since he had the most money he could just overpower the league and buy every good player and bring them to New York, which would lead to World Series Championships; that obviously didn’t work out the way he thought it would. Steinbrenner did many bizarre things and made many bad decisions, one would eventually lead to him being suspended from running the team. That mistake and what happened next changed the Yankees forever.
The suspension gave General Manager Gene Michael an opportunity to run the team as he had always wanted to; by building a championship team from within instead of just throwing the biggest names out on the diamond each year. That suspension and Michaels’ way of running the team led to a lot of the success the Yankees have had since 1996.
With Michaels’ running the show, he drafted and developed talent that led to the “core-four”; Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, as well as the fifth member of what should really be called the “core-five”, Bernie Williams. This group went to eight World Series, winning five, won 13 AL East Titles and made the playoffs three additional times via the Wild Card.
The point isn’t to walk down memory lane, but instead to remind fans that even though it may be tough the next few years, the Yankees dynasties run in cycles and the team will come back; sometimes to get back to the top you have to fall to the bottom.