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The Yankees continue to ensure that their fans will be unhappy most years

Oct 7, 2011, 4:30 PM EDT

George Steinbrenner AP

George Steinbrenner started and perpetuated the notion that a New York Yankees season is a failure if it doesn’t end with a World Series title.  Not that winning a championship is the goal — it’s obviously every team’s goal — but that in addition to it being the goal, it is the only acceptable outcome. That a baseball season is a binary proposition: triumph or disgrace.

I get it. It’s motivational and, as the Yankees won a lot of World Series titles between 1996 and 2001, it served as a nice little way for Yankees fans to take pride in their team, its rich history and, of course, for the Yankees to build a unique brand identity.

But it’s also unrealistic. Even with all of their advantages over other teams, baseball is still tough enough and random enough to where nothing makes a World Series title even a close-to-good bet.  I mean, they’ve been among the best teams in baseball for the past decade and they have one title in that time. That’s awesome — better than most — but it’s evidence that no matter what you do, there is luck and chance and stuff that enters into the deal.

But in addition to “World Series or bust” being somewhat unrealistic, it also creates a sense of entitlement in some fans and a built-in disappointment-creation device for others. Think about it: if your old man tells you that nothing but the best will do, you’re likely to become either some hyper-competitive kind of person or an often-depressed one. While I’m fortunate to know several grounded Yankees fans, it’s not a stretch to say that there are many who are either really angry or really morose today.

And even though Steinbrenner is dead, the expectations remain the same. Just ask team president Randy Levine, who summed up the season thusly today:

“We are the Yankees,” Levine told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday as he and the franchise coped with being eliminated at home in Game 5 of the ALDS by the Tigers. “That is the way The Boss set it up. When you don’t win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year.”

Let me ask you, Yankees fans: did you feel like you just wasted the last six or seven months of your life?  While, sure, the ALDS was a disappointing, are you bitter? Is it a dark time and do you face a brutal winter, or did you actually, you know, have a lot of fun following a damn good baseball team this year?

Don’t worry: if you’re not bitterly disappointed — if you actually can settle for less-than-a-championship most years — I won’t tell anyone.

  1. sacharisma - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    The seasons Granderson, Sabathia, and especially Colon had provided the same amount of fun that I had in championship seasons like 2009.

    Other than May, the whole season was wildly entertaining.

    • pjmarn6 - Oct 8, 2011 at 4:45 AM

      Actually it was embarrassing watching the yankee’s last 30 games of the season. I know with a lead this is the time to look at trade prospects and bring the kids up from the farm for a look see under pressure but also it is a time to fine tune for the playoffs and to me it looked like crap time. Putting in Proctor so many times to get his ass whipped. And I couldn’t figure out Girardi’s strategy. I would have used that last month to fire up the team for a hard fight. It looked like they were sleepwalking and I am very sure that CC was pissed at missing being a 20 game winner. I bet that took the edge off his mental game. So much was made of multimillion dollar contracts and extensions and op outs and what not, the focus was off the game. And by the way, Rodriguez last out, he was paid $90,000 to strike out. That’s right! His salary this year was $33,000,000 and he had 376 at bats and that makes it $90,000 an at bat. Hell pay me $90,000 to stand at the plate and I will make sure I get hit!
      I will put my arms and shoulders over the middle of the plate, scrunch down low and put my legs so close, the pitcher would have to throw balls to avoid hitting me.

  2. Old Gator - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    I like that photo of George looking down from Hell, wearing lead lenses to hide his melted eyeballs.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:43 PM

      I don’t think a Marlins fan is allowed to make fun of any team’s owner. It’s in the unwritten rule book.

      • Old Gator - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:37 PM

        It is precisely because we are not allowed to do it that I do it. There is nothing like the frisson of transgression. Just ask Sarah Palin and Glen Rice.

  3. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Do any fans feel good the day after their team is eliminated? Given a little time I’m sure most Yankee fans will appreciate that this was an awesome season, but give us a day to mourn our dreams of a parade. I think all fans feel some disappointment immediately after any playoff run that ends with an ‘L’.

    • xmatt0926x - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:49 PM

      Absolutely agree. It’s easy for fans of teams that have already been eliminated or didn’t make the playoffs in the 1st place to say relax, it was a good season. They are correct, don’t get me wrong, but when you spend 6 months, 6 days a week closely following a team with massive expectations, you will have a small period of “the sky is falling” when the season ends in a span of a week. Expectations really do change things. It is different for Yankees fans than it is for Diamondback fans. That’s just the way it is. In the early to mid 90′s I guarantee you Braves fans felt miserable when those great teams were eliminated because the expectations were always through the roof with those legendary pitchers. It’s human nature.

  4. protectthishouse54 - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Ultimately the season was a disappointment and a failure. And yes, the chances of that happening are far greater than the chances of a “successful” season. But I would never say the last 6 months were a waste. We saw a lot of wins, milestones, and development of players. I am certainly very upset with the loss but up until that very last whiff by ARod, this season was just as fun to watch as ’09 or any of the others. The ending just wasn’t the same. There’s always next year.

  5. cdeangelus - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    I’m a huge Yankee fan, and there’s no way this season is a total failure to me. Did it suck to watch them lose? You betcha. But we got Ivan Nova this year; we saw what Montero could potentially bring to the table; Jeter’s 3,000 hit; Mo’s 602nd save; etc. I never liked the World Series or Bust mentality.

    Besides, it’s not like it was The Greatest Collapse of All Time. If this were the Greatest Collapse of All Time perhaps I’d be a little more bitter, but it’s not The Greatest Collapse of All Time so I’m actually ok with this postseason early bow.

    Greatest Collapse of All Time.

    • daisycutter1 - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:09 PM

      It may seem like weak beer to harp on The Greatest Collapse of All Time following a division series loss, but I know things could have gone worse. Like, for example, my team having The Greatest Collapse of All Time and missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.

      I’m enjoying this.

      • heynerdlinger - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:23 PM

        That’s fine to keep harping on the Red Sox; It’s only been two weeks, after all. Boston fans all still fondly remember the 2004 ALCS meltdown by the Yankees, so Yankees’ fans are entitled to wax poetic about the Sox collapse for a little bit longer.

        As a Red Sox fan myself, and perhaps too optimistic to boot, that last week of the season was a roller coaster not unlike a great playoff series. In retrospect, it sucks that your team lost in the end, but man… it was exciting nonetheless.

      • bigharold - Oct 7, 2011 at 6:01 PM

        “In retrospect, it sucks that your team lost in the end, but man… it was exciting nonetheless.”

        Yes it was. Like they say, .. “The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing”.

    • protectthishouse54 - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:22 PM

      Every year someone wins the championship. It’s not every year someone has The Greatest Collapse Of All Time.

  6. woodenulykteneau - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    By the way, when you’re born on third… that doesn’t mean you hit a triple

    • addictedzone - Oct 8, 2011 at 11:08 AM

      True.

      What it means is your mother was a 3rd baseman.

  7. somekat - Oct 7, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    What if I do feel like I wasted my time with the Yanks, but am not angry? Would that make me a fake fan?

    I’m not a yanks fan, or do I think they choked (they ran in to a hot team in a short series. It happens), I was just curious. Seems like he lumped everyone in to just the 2 groups

  8. bananalaundry - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    What did Braves ownership do to make their fans so condescending?

  9. yankeesfanlen - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Well we had 6+ months of hope and some glory. Kind of amazing that we at least make the playoffs every year. We do have an emergence of some young stars to be the Posada, Jeter, and dare I say it-ARod of the future to let hope spring eternal.
    If this is our “rebuilding” I’ll take it. Until next season WHEN I WANT RESULTS!!!

    • proudlycanadian - Oct 7, 2011 at 6:17 PM

      You can’t always get what you want, especially if others want the same thing.

  10. steveflack - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    Nope.

    I was born just before the Yankees lost the 1981 World Series. I grew up a Yankee fan, as they had the most disappointing decade since the beginning of the century. When they finally got good, Bud Selig cancelled the entire season.

    Every year where they don’t win because they actually lost, not because every decided to not play baseball is fine with me.

    And besides, it’s nice to know the ownership is just as committed to winning as they are to making money.

  11. lukeslice - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    Of course there’s disappointment, but the fans that claim this season was a failure like the Boss always did are kidding themselves. It’s the Boss’ money so I get why he started that whole thought process, but that idea didn’t start until the mid 90s when we actually DID start winning almost every year, which was unprecedented in this time of parity. And there was a LOT of Yankees baseball preceding that 1996 (like when we sucked in the 80s). “Those fans”…we practical fans realize you’re the ones that give us this whole “entitled” air about us, and it’s annoying…get over yourself. Winning is the most important thing…minus breathing……but not if you’re not signing A-Rod and co.’s paycheck.

    Plus we still beat the Red Sox. And Grandy might be MVP. Mariano solidified his place as the best closer ever. Dumpy even had a nice little swan song in this series, which is how we were all hoping how he’d go out. And Jeter’s 300th hit was straight out of f’ing Narnia. We technically went home empty handed…but not really.

    I’m wearing my #23 Donnie Baseball jersey today with pride. The Yankees did me proud this season, just came up short in a short series against another very quality team. It’s baseball…no amount of money or all stars guarantees a god damn thing.

    • daisycutter1 - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:28 PM

      Well said.

  12. yournuts - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    This article is written by a writer who loves a team, the Braves, that has a long history of September and October failure. As a Yankee fan I am disappointed in the early exit but the season was not as good as I expected. The last 8 or 9 games was played with to much resting good players and lackadaisical play. We lost our edge. Sorry Joe Girardi, I love you Joe but we lost our edge that we had the whole year.
    If your not a Yankee fan then you don’t understand. I don’t expect Craig Calcaterra to understand. He has look at failure time after time with the Braves and needs to find something to grab onto. In football there is the Buffalo Bills, a great team that NEVER won the super bowl. But if your the Pittsburgh Steelers then you EXPECT to win. If your the Yankees, you EXPECT to win. You don’t always win but you EXPECT to win.
    That’s what being a Yankee fan is about. We love our team come hell or high water. But we expect to win!

    • yankeesfanlen - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:46 PM

      I completely agree about winding down at the end of the season. C’mon Joe, you KNOW who is going on the roster, this ain’t no beauty contest. If they don’t need the rest because of injuries, put the vets in and keep them sharp.

  13. vintage1496 - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    I don’t think anyone is anything other than disappointed the day after your team’s season ends, but you’re right-on in saying that I had a fun time following a very good team these last few months.

    Everything, and really EVERYTHING, has to go right for a team to win a championship. In 2009, the Yankees had 397 walk-off wins, and you could just tell the magic was there (forgive the cliche). This season, they got to Verlander early in Game 1 only to have it postponed, outscored the Tigers by 11 runs in five games but lost three of them, hit about a dozen balls to the warning track – them’s the breaks. One inch or foot or mph more or less in some spots and maybe things would be different, but that’s the beauty of the game.

  14. yankeesgameday - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Bitter? No, I am not bitter.
    Do I feel like I wasted the last seven months? Yes, I do.

    To qualify that last statement is hard because perhaps I tied too much to this particular baseball season. I started a Yankee oriented blog that took off pretty well (and had recently been hacked and gutted of content) and I was then asked to contribute to the Newark Star Ledger’s fan blog and through several life issues had to abandon the work on both. And yet I watched every game, hyperanalyzed, and invested my pride and passion into these games and their outcomes.

    I wasnt mad they lost because i expected it from a flawed team too reliant on the home run for rbi’s to score to be successful in the post season when pitching is at its best. I wrote about that often throughout the year…
    But my wife could tell something was wrong last night and she asked what at first i thought was a dumb question:

    “did I have fun watching the game?”

    Fun? What the hell was she trying to get at?

    “No, I haven’t had FUN watching a Yankee game for years,” I replied
    “why do you do it if it isnt fun?” She asked.

    And that will be what i think about this winter. Not free agents or arod’s health, not cc or mark buerhle… I am going to try and figure out if all this thought, passion, feeling and effort on the part of a fan is at all worth it.

    • silverdeer - Oct 7, 2011 at 6:05 PM

      Not to be condescending or insulting, but if you have to ask yourself if watching a professional sports team is worth the elation and frustration over the course of a season, then you need to step away. To commit yourself (at that emotional level) to something that you have no influence over and at the end question its value to you personally probably is not worth it. My suggestion would be to find something that you can invest that emotional energy into, where the results of which you have influence over. I.e, If you like baseball, volunteer to coach at whatever level you are comfortable in. I did it for softball and I found it most rewarding. Didn’t hurt that my daughter plays either.

    • addictedzone - Oct 8, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      The most telling part of that entire speech is that your wife has amazing insight. You may not want to spend the entire off-season thinking too much, and instead just listen to her on this one and enjoy your next game.

  15. yankeemom27 - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    I am not disappointed in how the season ended considering the Yankees were not even expected to make the playoffs this year. The media laughed at our starting rotation that included two so-called “wash-ups” in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, while proclaiming the Red Sox “the best team ever” (The Boston Herald) basically handing them the World Series Championship. Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the pennant race this year and even though the Yankees will not continue on in the post-season, I am still happy with their performance this season

  16. bucsraysboltsfan - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Dear Yankees,
    Thanks for helping us out last week. See you on the golf course tomorrow.
    Your friend,
    The Rays

  17. bigharold - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    “Yankees fans: did you feel like you just wasted the last six or seven months of your life? ”

    No more than if they’d won the WS last night. I have no problem with the notion that it’s either the WS or bust. If the Yankees don’t win the WS I am deeply disappointed. That being said, I’m not suicidal or homicidal about it. Because the overwhelming majority of Yankee fans are “..grounded Yankees fans..”. If the Yankees had won the WS last night I would have been up until the wee hours watching and reading every scrap about it. Three seconds after the game ended last night my TV was off. Usually, I read the previous games accounts on line and read the blogs first chance I get in the morning. Today, .. no such interest, .. I saw what happened I don’t need or want to be reminded.

    Yankee fans, by and large, carry the notion of “entitlement” like a shield. You know every time there is a debate about the relative merits of the Yankees versus any other team it’s merely a matter of seconds before Yankee fans are getting beat over the head with payroll. It’s as if George Steinbrenner set up the current dynamics of baseball economics solely by himself so as to ensure that the Yankees would forever have an unfair advantage. Now do they have an advantage? Absolutely! But, the fact is it was something that evolved that the Yankees have used wisely, for the most part, and prospered from it. Teams that use their resources wisely proper those that don’t fail, i.e. MY Met’s. Entitlement, 27 Championships, rich history and taking crap over payroll comes with the territory as a Yankee fan. So does the WS or bust mind set. And, those are notions that need not be rationalized nor apologized in fact we in the Universe embrace them.

    I know that WS or bust mentality goes hand in hand with the Yankees doing every possible thing they can to ensure that they assemble the best team they can. I’d wager that they; resign CC after he opts out, take a run at CJ Wilson since he appears to be the best FA pitcher not named CC, and I’d wager that after last night’s elimination that if Pujols gets as far as free agency the Yankees will be serious bidders for him. And, .. he’ll look good in pinstripes too. Most baseball fans will scream that isn’t fair. Well fair has nothing to do with it. It is what it is and complaining about it is like complaining that water is wet. That too go comes along with the WS or bust mentality.

    While I’m sorely disappointed today I know that the Yankees will win another WS. Not this year obviously or maybe even next but soon. A lot of fans can’t say that about their team. There are Cub fans that are 50, 60, 70 years old that have NEVER seen a winning WS Cub team and are likely wondering if they ever will in their life time. Up until 7 years ago there were a lot of RS fans that wondered the same thing. I’ve no such concern. Because the Yankees may not be able to deliver it every year I pretty sure they are going to give it their best shot.

    I can’t change the fact that the Yankees have more resources then any other team in baseball and are willing to use them. If other teams had the Yankee’s resources they’d likely use them too. Whether they do or don’t I’m going to hear it about payroll so I make no apologies nor do I worry about WS or bust. I embrace both notions. I’ll take a few weeks to put last season behind me then start getting real interested again right around the time FA starts. Before you know it pitchers and catchers will be reporting.

    • yournuts - Oct 8, 2011 at 2:27 AM

      Big Harold, as disappointed as I am in losing to the Tigers it was a good year. Nobody thought that the Yankees had a chance with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford going to the Red Sox and us not getting Cliff Lee. We saw Jeter’s 3000 hit and his great second half, we saw Mo’s 602 save counting. We also saw Curtis Granderson grow up as well as Ivan Nova and we saw the future in Jesus Montero. We now know that Brett Gardiner can play everyday and that Eduardo Nunez is going to be really good. Our expectation were not that high this year and we had a good year.

      I only wish that we would have played with the same intensity the last 10 games of the season after we had clinched home field. I think we lost our edge. That being said the disappointment is heavy. I feel for the Phillie fans they got Cliff Lee and thought that they were ordained World Series Champions. Like the old saying goes”wait till next year!”

  18. royalsfaninfargo - Oct 7, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    A baseball writer, Im not sure who it was?, said recently that the best thing for baseball is for the Yanks to make the playoffs and get close, but only win the WS every decade or so. While I envy the Yanks success and wish it for KC (2013 Baby!), too much of a good thing for one team drags the sport down. So relax NY fans now you are like all the rest of the teams that didnt make it, you’ll just have to wait ’till next year.

  19. offseasonblues - Oct 7, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    As a fan of the team that engineered The Greatest Collapse of All Time (and accordingly a fan of what the Tigers just accomplished), may I just say that we don’t do anything half baked. If you’re going to blow it, why not give baseball fans something to talk about.

    It was a killer, a major disappointment, a stunner. And I can’t wait for pitchers (in shape please) and catchers (including Lavarnway please) to report to the new facility in Ft Myers. The Yankees fans I know personally feel the same way about their team (well, not the Ft Myers part).

    And I’m very glad to see a KC believer – your time is near :)

    Meanwhile, has anyone counted the number of times “Yankees” appears in today’s HBT headlines? Good lord.

  20. ta192 - Oct 7, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    Boo Hoo…

  21. marsh78 - Oct 7, 2011 at 10:57 PM

    I’d rather watch an exciting team like the Tampa Bay Rays any day than a bunch of overpriced, over-the-hill divas.

  22. cackalackyank - Oct 8, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Do you want your team to win the world series? OF COURSE. But let’s remember the AL East Champion Yankees were totally outclassed by the Red Sox and Phillies in the off season…..weren’t they? And oh gosh they stood pat at the trade deadline…how silly! So which team went further and surpassed the expectations of the majority and the media? Hmmm. The Yankess weren’t even a lock for the post season back in April if you listened to pundits, Sux fans and Philly Phans. There is a reason you actually play the games. I may be a Yankee fan but I do not expect to win the world series every year, but I appreciate that it is the GOAL. It is nice to have ownership that remembers that, unlike other owners that take their share of the Yankees luxury tax money and spend it…..on a yacht!

    • marinersnate - Oct 8, 2011 at 3:32 PM

      The so-called “luxury tax” is not a part of revenue sharing. The other owners do not get a dime of it. Try to get your facts straight.

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