The Yankees of the nineties spoiled fans and set unrealistic expectations for the team year in and year out. For the longest time, it seemed like it was World Series or bust. People took a team for granted that was perennially good and competing. Making the playoffs was an afterthought, and it was what they did in the playoffs that measured their success. Now? Things are different.
In 2013 and 2014, Yankees fans had to deal with watching a bad team for the first time in a long time. The Yankees missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in two decades. And outside of PSA’s Matt Ferenchick, no one enjoyed watching these teams be bad. 2015 came around and the Yankees were good again. Yet, some fans still considered 2015 to be a disappointing season. “I don’t count the Wild Card Game as the playoffs” is a sentence I’ve heard/read too many times, but that’s not the point.
In 2016, the Yankees had—to put it lightly—a sluggish start to the season. They were so bad that they did the most un-Yankeelike thing. They sold off assets and looked to the future instead of “buying” and trying to win now. That gave the Yankees an opportunity to play some of their young talent from their farm system and see what they have.
So now, the Yankees are essentially in the middle of a rebuild. Even though ownership and management will forever claim that they’re going to try and field a championship-caliber team, the truth is that is not the expectation for this year. And for the first time, that’s actually okay. I want the Yankees to make the playoffs and win the World Series, but that’s not a reasonable goal for this year. If we’re not looking to the World Series, or even necessarily the playoffs, what needs to happen for the season to be considered a success?
The worst part of watching the Yankees in the first half of last season was just how downright dreadful their play was. The team became unwatchable. Often, I found myself giving up by the third inning or just watching until The Flash was on, never flipping the channel back to the game. In the second half though, the script flipped. Losses were just as exciting to watch as wins, and why was that? The youth movement giving the team some much-needed life.
That needs to continue this year. Sure I’ll miss Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, and even Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to an extent. However, I’m excited to see Gary Sanchez over the course of a full season. While Teixeira and Beltran are gone, the Yankees have yet to make the same commitment to Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. Personally, I don’t care if they perform well in spring. I want to see Bird and Judge be the everyday first baseman and right fielder for the 2017 Yankees.
The Yankees have sold us on a bright future with their prospect haul over the last year. It’s time to start laying the foundation of that future. If they end up failing, that’s a problem for another day. I want to see them given a fair chance to either show they are the future or not. If they are at least given the proper chance, this season can be a success.
As a team though, the Yankees are almost assured to be better than they were last year. It genuinely might be impossible for the Yankees to get as bad production out of first base and designated hitter as they did last year. They were truly abysmal, and the combination of Bird and Matt Holliday is sure to represent an overall improvement at those two positions.
If those two can improve those two spots and the rest of the team repeats their performances from last year, the Yankees should improve overall. They can legitimately compete for a playoff position. They may still not make it, but at least they’ll be in the race throughout the year. Seeing them compete and play well will have me flipping the channel back to the Yankee game even after The Flash is over. I’d be happy knowing the Yankees don’t need one of the greatest rookie campaigns in history to make themselves watchable.
Then there’s management. Last year was not a pretty one for the Yankees’ front office. In their fight with StubHub and eliminating print-at-home tickets, the Yankees made going to a game more frustrating. Then COO Lonn Trost implied that poorer fans should not get to sit in “premium locations” because they did not pay as much as someone who could afford a full-price ticket at that location. And yes, the topic you saw coming as soon as this paragraph started: Aroldis Chapman.
This isn’t to start a debate about whether he’s guilty or not. I will just say one thing that I’ve said all along—the Yankees used a domestic violence situation to gain a baseball advantage and that feels wrong. No matter how you feel about Chapman, happy he’s on the team or not, that fact can’t be denied because it’s just something that happened. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But I can’t change that, so I’d just like the Yankees front office to go unnoticed this season.
All I want is a quiet season that doesn’t involve John Oliver hosting a campaign to let people in shark costumes sit in the front row to patronize you. Nobody talks about the umpires who call good games; it’s the ones with the bad calls that get remembered. Look to those umps calling good games for motivation.
Just give me some good baseball where I can get excited about the future and not be embarrassed by my favorite team, and I’ll call it a success. The bar is pretty low in a rebuilding year, and I don’t think I’m asking for much. What do you think? What needs to happen in order for the 2017 season to be considered a success?