The 2018 regular season is over with. Our beloved New York Yankees finished with a record of 100-62. That’s good. It’s really good, actually. They were pretty much expected to win at least 100 games, if not more. They did. The Yankees finished the season with the 3rd best record in all of baseball. They will still need to play a Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, because baseball is weird and fun like that.
The outcome of the Wild Card game will likely determine whether or not Yankee fans consider this season successful. I mean, the outcome of the ALDS, ALCS, and World Series will probably also determine that for a lot of fans, but one hurdle at a time please. I won’t tell fans not to be upset if the Yankees lose Wednesday’s game, because I’ve never been one to tell Yankee fans how to feel and nothing you post from my illustrious Pinstripe Alley resume can prove otherwise.
What I will tell fans is that the 2018 New York Yankees are exactly the team you’ve wanted for a long time.
Since the days of signing Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract - and yes, that did happen whether you want to remember it or not - the fanbase has been calling for the Yankees to get younger. They wanted to see “the kids” and were willing to put up with some bad years in order for the promise of being good later. Of course, being that Yankee fans are the most impatient, entitled, spoiled fanbase alive, I had a hard time believing that they would. This year has not help alleviate that belief.
Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on the fanbase though. After all, expectations were through the roof after the 2017 “rebuild” season saw the Yankees get to Game Seven of the ALCS. Fans were prepared for the bad years of a rebuild and they got the instant gratification most other fanbases never ever get to experience. So yeah, screw managing expectations. The 2018 Yankees were going to be better, gosh darn it!
Yet here they are, headed back to baseball’s Thunderdome on Wednesday. This was not supposed to happen to the 2018 Yankees. They were going to retake the division and be better than they 2017 Yankees, despite the fact that they finished with a better record than the 2017 Yankees. Make no mistake, if the Yankees do not win the World Series, many fans will call this team the most frustrating 100-win team of all time, which will be another great post-it note on the “Why everyone thinks the Yankee fanbase is the worst” bulletin board.
The problem is that Yankee fans do not really know how to handle growing pains. They expect dynasties over just one World Series championship. They expect prospects to be amazing out of the gate and remain amazing during said dynasty. Fans forget that there were really no substantial, season-altering injuries during that incredible era. Fans don’t understand that being great does not have to equal being dominant.
Michael Kay put things pretty well into perspective:
Consider this: Judge misses a third of the year, Didi essentially misses two months (one injury, one couldn't hit). Montgomery out for year. Chapman DL, zero production out of Bird, Gray Ineffective, under .200 by Sanchez, projected 3B doesn't play. = 100 wins. Remarkable.— Michael Kay (@RealMichaelKay) September 29, 2018
This doesn’t even factor in Gleyber Torres being injured or Luis Severino having a meh/concerning second half. The point is that this team is still young and growing, just like they were in 2017. And even though it doesn’t seem like it, they had a better regular season than last year. It’s just more frustrating because it felt like it should have been more, which I get.
There were way more errors and baserunning mistakes than we would have liked to see. Gary Sanchez still needs to work on his passed balls. Greg Bird still hasn’t delivered what Brian Cashman and the Yankees see in him. This is still a young team though and that is what young teams do. They make mistakes and they grow from them. Fans said they’d be okay with letting this happen during the Reid Brignac years. Well, here you are.
Perhaps if the Yankees didn’t lose series to sub-par teams, they’d have made up that eight game difference with Boston. Perhaps if Sonny Gray pitched remotely competently, they match Boston’s 2018 record or surpass it. Perhaps if injuries didn’t plague the team all year, they wouldn’t have to play another one-and-done Wild Card game. However, as a wise man is fond of saying, “that’s baseball, Suzyn!”
The unexpected is why eras like the 90’s Dynasty are so downright impossible to recreate for any team, not just the mighty Bronx Bombers. It’s a long season, filled with wild pitches, passed balls, errors, dingers, doubles, and dives. You can blame coaches or managers or GMs or players all the live long day. In the end, especially in the playoffs, it ultimately comes down to an amalgam of skill and luck.
The 2018 Yankees won 100 games this year. They did it while dealing with a first-year manager, a swath of injuries, unexpected regression, and way too many rainouts and make-up doubleheaders. Imagine what this team could be capable of next year, if everything hopefully falls into place. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been this excited about a Yankees team for almost a decade.
Perhaps that is what makes this season feel so frustrating for a lot of fans. Not just because the expectations were high, or losses to the Orioles, but just because the fanbase really cares again. As the headline says, the 2018 Yankees were exactly what they’ve been waiting for. They still just finished with the third best record though. What a drag.
As I stated earlier, the Yankees fanbase is not a patient fanbase. Yes, they might have to wait another year before they regain the overwhelming dominance of the league that many expect from them. Or, after all this is said and done, they might have the audacity to just win one World Series championship, instead of four in five years. You know, just like the 2009 Yankees did via hefty contracts and lucrative free-agent signings. If that happens, at least they did it in a more frugal way, right?
Either way, we’ll worry about all that next year. For now, let’s just try and get beyond Thunderdome.