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Despite having the best record in the American League, the Yankees failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs and came two large strides short of their annual goal of winning the World Series.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely what happened.
Yes, opportunities were there for the taking for the Yanks throughout the series, especially in the decisive fifth game. We know where blame can be placed. But from my understanding, pointing fingers at who didn’t pull their weight – is what losers do. Playing the ‘what-if’ and the ‘blame game’ is commonplace for any fan in denial. But it’s an arrogant way to look at it. It’s also ignorant if you ask me. The Tigers deserve a lot of credit. Jim Leyland, Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski did a great job putting together a championship-caliber team for the city of Detroit. They are a very talented ball-club and are deserving to be in the ALCS.
Don’t get me wrong, as a Yankee fan, I am by no means satisfied with this bitter outcome. I’m not even the type to point out how perhaps maybe the Yankees exceeded expectations when you take into consideration the unexpected (ex: A-Rod’s injuries and production fall-off, Teixeira’s sub .250 batting average, Hughes’ regression, Burnett’s continued ineffectiveness, having a rookie as a number 2 starter, using thought to be washed-up aging veterans to start 25 games a piece and uncharacteristically opting not to acquire mid-season pieces to bolster the roster). I don’t for a minute believe this Yankees team wasn’t capable of going all the way. But as we found out, in a best-of-five series, the Tigers proved to be a little bit more capable themselves.
“I wouldn’t say [we] overachieved,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “I would say there were certain areas that surprised us, and obviously we embraced those surprises very well…the bar is set high, and it is set high for a reason. It’s the model that The Boss had built here, and trying to maintain it, an annual successful franchise. That’s what it has to be, and that’s what it always will be.”
As we know, the Yankees have more championships than any other franchise in all of professional sports. Every year the goals and expectations continue to be championship or bust – understandably so. Cashman, Girardi, the Steinbrenner family and the rest of the Yankees brain-trust do everything in their power to put this team in position to win the division, get to the World Series and ultimately win it all.
I plead to remind Yankee fans of how fortunate we are to be fans of a team that always has a chance to win a World Series every single year. We need to recognize losing as being exactly what it is – a part of the game. I’m not saying we have to ever accept it, heck, Geroge Steinbrenner certainly never did. But even the most prestigious athletes we recognize as paramount champions just so happen to lose from time to time. In fact, if you consider anything short of winning a championship every year to be a failure, you might as well believe Yogi Berra was almost as big of a loser for having not won a ring nine times during his illustrious 19-year career. Yogi has a ring on every one of his fingers (albeit they are permanently crippled and crooked from his catching days), more than any other person in baseball history.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan – that’s a game too – it’s called life. Falling short of a goal is a common for us mortals. And as the old adage goes, the only thing you can do when life knocks you down, is to get back up.
“You’ve just got to remember this feeling, and we’ll be determined next year,” Girardi said.
What distinguishes the Yankees to an unprecedented level of success is their endless supply of light at the end of the tunnel and their ability to rebound. Because even when given a bad hand, such as an abrupt and early post-season exit, it is common knowledge to believe that come Spring Training, Yankees will be right back in the thick of things as World Series contenders.
Throughout my Yankee fanhood, I have learned that a true champion displays a dedicated excellence and passion towards winning. But also, and perhaps maybe even more importantly, I learned that a true champion is able to admit defeat when beaten. A true champion respects the game to the fullest by winning and losing with class. That precept is most commonly known as being a part of ‘The Yankee Way,’ dating back to the years of the very first Yankees dynasty. As the greatest fans in the world, we should unite in our efforts to be mindful of that precept – and abide by it ourselves.
Here’s to number 28 in 2012. Let’s go Yankees.