Parting Thoughts on the 2012 Postseason

These guys had it easy.

Before we get to the offseason, we still have a few more posts looking back on the 2012 performance. We’ll be grading the performance compared to expectations entering the regular season. Prior to that in the coming days, I just want to get this off my chest:

As I’ve grown older, my outlook on the game of baseball has changed quite a bit. I was spoiled as a kid – I was a little too young to remember 1996, but I can recall everything from the beginning of the three-peat (1998-200). Most people will never live to enjoy more than maybe one or two championships in a lifetime, meanwhile I’ve already lived through five. Over time, I’ve learned a lot of the intricacies of the sport and how the league operates. Now, I appreciate those five World Series wins a whole lot more. It’s a whole lot harder to win it all, let alone make the World Series than ever before. Yes, even for the Yankees and their $200 million payroll.

People will always cry foul about the Yankees payroll and winning too much. They have a point, to an extent. That advantage the Yankees have financially is not nearly as much of an advantage as it once was. Major League Baseball has been passing new rules over the past few decades in order to add some parity to the game. These rules have been put in place to prevent super teams, like the Yankees.

Simply put, these rules have made it a lot more difficult for the Yankees to round up top talent. Prior the the institution of the amateur draft in 1965, the Yankees had won 20 World Series. Since, they’ve won 7 in 47 years. It’s still a lot, but it’s drastically less than historically. Just imagine if the draft was in place well before that: guys like Mickey Mantle and Joe Dimaggio may never have been Yankees.

Additionally, prior to 1969, there was no such thing as the Division Series or Championship Series. In fact, there was no Division Series until 1995 when the Wild Card was instituted. There was no chance for the Yankees to be bounced in a short series prior to 1969 – all they had to do was finish with the American League’s best record. And with the unimpeded ability to sign any amateur players they liked until 1965, their talent pool was vast. Not to mention, the pinstripes themselves were far more attractive than any other team out there.

Revenue sharing was put into place in 1996, and now there’s a luxury tax which the Yankees are eager to avoid by 2014. There’s a spending cap on international free agents. Signing certain free agents cause a draft pick to be sacrificed. These are more rules to attempt to level the playing field, and in turn make it harder for big market teams like the Yankees to win.

So why am I bringing all this stuff up? Because maybe as Yankees fans, we should feel like some seasons are a success even without a World Series win. Simply put, it’s an unrealistic expectation given the rules that have come about over the years. The idea of acquiring “clutch” players is nonsense – general managers build teams to win in the regular season. Once the postseason is reached, anything can happen.

Do the Yankees still have the power to get the top talent? Yes, we’ve seen the organization flex their muscles to get A-Rod, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and many others. Those guys were big parts of their 2009 championship. But now with the luxury tax, the Yankees going forward are going to be much more careful in the free agent market. The Yankees have made some bad roster moves financially (1980s), but they’d also spent without worry of a tax on top of everything until recently.

What they’ve struggled to do, however, is develop talent internally on a consistent basis. Yes, the 90s were fruitful internally (which is why they had a dynasty run – something that will be extremely rare going forward), but since, the Yankees have really only developed one star: Robinson Cano. Meanwhile, the draft hasn’t yielded any stars for the Yankees since the 90s. They can’t just go out and sign the Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts of the world and avoid the draft.

Basically, the Yankees are going to have to be a lot smarter when building their team down the road. We’ve already seen them be more careful in the free agent market since they won in 2009, relying on short term deals. Their drafting and international signings haven’t quite panned out of late, which is something that needs to be remedied.

Everything I just discussed is why we have to learn to accept and appreciate seasons without championships. Was this year’s playoff exit ugly and disappointing? Yes. But how many other teams wish they would have made an Championship Series exit? Just about every other team. I understand the Yankees still have a leg up on the rest of the league, despite all the rules added over time. Still, it is a lot harder to bring home the trophy year in, year out than ever before.

In short, all Yankees fans have been spoiled. I can’t deny that this year’s playoff exit left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I do realize how difficult of a task it is to win in the postseason. Short series can cause sample sizes to wreak havoc. Your best pitcher can have a bad day. Teams around the league are more able than ever to compete with the Yankees in developing and acquiring talent. As a fan base, let’s come to accept that the Yankees can’t win it all every year. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be disappointed in lousy performances, but it’s time for us to be more appreciative of what every playoff team has to go through in order to seal the deal.

Photo By llahbocaj [CC-BY-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

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