Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Yankees manager Aaron Boone never envisioned sitting in the bowels of Yankee Stadium to do a press conference on the team’s postmortem on Thursday. They thought their team would be participating in the World Series instead.
The Yankees lost in six games to the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series because they couldn’t hit. Seeing the Astros down by two in the World Series against the Washington Nationals, there’s no doubt anyone on the Yankees roster wonder what could have been. It’s only human nature. It could have been the same thing if the Astros were up by two.
Maybe the Nationals would still have beaten the Yankees with their clutch hitting and their superior starting pitching, but wouldn’t it be nice if we found out what the Yankees can do against that team especially with the first two games at Yankee Stadium? Just like wouldn’t it be nice to find out if the 1994 strike never happened just to see the Yankees and then-Montreal Expos now the Nationals actually play in the World Series?
Yes, this season represented a blown opportunity. Call it a failure. No one can say this season is a success when the goal was to win get that elusive championship No. 28. Even the front office and players admit it’s hard to say it’s a success. Such is life as a Yankee. It doesn’t mean a thing without a ring. It’s the first time since the 1910s they haven’t won a championship a decade. 10-year drought makes it a true drought. As much as the Los Angeles Dodgers not winning a World Series championship for 31 years and counting.
The Yankees thought they had enough offense to slow down the Astros. They believe their starting rotation and bullpen helped them match up well against the AL champions. It never happened.
The Astros have now become a thorn on the Pinstripes’’ side. They beat the Yankees in the wild-card game in 2015. They followed it up by beating them in the ALCS two years ago and now.
Cashman and Boone now have to figure out what the Bronx Bombers can do to beat their nemesis. It’s easier said than done. It could be their core players are not ready to play in a big stage just yet. It could be they need time to grow up until they are ready. Maybe it just could be these guys are not just not the guys who stepped up during the last Yankee championship dynasty.
Scott Brosius, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter found a knack to hit in the postseason. Their legacy gets enhanced even more as the years and decades past by because of the inability of the new core players to get it done. It might be the Yankees fans and even the Yankees have been spoiled after all these success.
In the postseason, everything becomes crapshoot unless the Yankees play the Minnesota Twins.
Luck matters more often than not. When the Yankees won championships, they received luck such as Jeffrey Maier (whatever happened to him) snatching the ball from Tony Tarasco that turned out to be a home run in the 1996 ALCS or Derek Jeter making the flip play as the cutoff guy to get Jeremy Giambi (would it hurt for him to slide) in the ALDS that changed the momentum of the 2001 American League Division Series or the umpire Phil Cuzzi denying Joe Mauer’s double by calling it foul in the 2009 ALDS.
They haven’t received much of it in this decade. I can come up with one luck and that came in Game 5 of the ALCS last week when Aaron Hicks’ three-run home run in the first inning that hit the pole that seemed like it was going foul which instead turned fair. It helped the Yankees survived for another day as they went to Houston to play Game 6 and lost in extra innings when Jose Altuve hit the game-winning home run of Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman that ended the series.
The Yankees can spend so much money to get better next year by convincing Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg to sign with them as free agents. They can make newsworthy trades. But it won’t matter if their core players can’t get the hit when it matters in the postseason.
Regrets entered the players’ mind the minute Game 6 series was over. They knew they did not give it their all. They understood chances like that don’t come often. They get it as the years go by, opportunities dwindle. The Yankees still have time to get a championship, but they had their shot to get it done this year, and they didn’t.
Had they came back to beat the Astros in the series, they would have all the momentum to go out there and beat the Nationals.
They didn’t get the hit when it mattered.
That’s why the what-if festers all the way to the offseason and maybe beyond.
Whether the Nationals or Astros hoist the World Series trophy soon, the Yankees can only say to themselves it could have been and should have been them.