BRONX, NY - The Yankees are a team that preaches a win-or-bust mentality, that championships mean everything, but does that mean their season, in which they won 103 games but lost the ALCS to Houston was a failure?
"We failed in our ultimate goal and dream of a world championship, but I wouldn't dismiss all the tremendous things that occurred during the journey," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Thursday at his season-ending press conference. "Real proud about a lot of the things our operation has accomplished with the crew we accomplished it with. That's with our manager, our coaches, our players having to plug and play and obviously become American League East Champions, knock out a tremendous foe in the Minnesota Twins that were just as capable of moving forward as we were, and unfortunately, ran into Houston in the ALCS.
"We failed in our final goal, but we didn't have a failed season, in my opinion."
The Yankees won the American League East walking away despite having 30 players spend time on the injured list and instilling a "next man up" philosophy where they got major contributions from guys like outfielder Mike Tauchman and third baseman Gio Urshela.
The Yankees lost the ALCS to Houston in six games, with the Astros clinching the pennant on a two-run walk-off home run from Jose Altuve last Saturday night.
"It's hard to ever get over the sting of losing, especially when you feel like you're with a special group of guys that's certainly of championship-caliber and knowing that you're really close," Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. "I think, in just reflecting on it, it's just trying to get over it and move past it as best you can knowing it's something you're going to drag with you for the rest of your life. You know, when you get close and you have a special group like that, the ending hurts a lot, but it also is - not that you need a lot of fuel moving forward - but it is something that you desperately want to move on and try to get back to that point and push through. That's where the work almost immediately starts and that's where the focus is."
When asked if the season was a success or failure, Boone said, "I always find that an interesting question. I know from my point of view, and from an organization's point of view, and from our players' mindset point of view, we are desperately chasing a championship and we are relentlessly in pursuit of that. That's our goal, and we feel like we have a corps of players, and a team that's probably on a very short list truly capable of going out and doing that. That's the focus, we fell short of that this year because we certainly felt we had a team capable of possibly doing that. Failure, success, that's for people to define. We did a lot of amazing things this year. Some guys came of age this year, but ultimately, we wanted to be holding that trophy up here in the next week or so, and we didn't get there. That's something you take with you and you've got to live with, but I think there's a lot of really special things that happened with our group this year."
This was the Yankees' 10th straight season without a World Series appearance or a championship, the first decade this has happened since the 1910s. They only have one World Series appearance in the last 16 years, and one championship in 19 years.
In the past decade, they have made the playoffs seven times, including four appearances in the ALCS, which they have lost twice in the past three years to Houston.
"First and foremost, did we have a championship team? This was a championship-caliber team," Cashman said of the pressure building as their title drought goes on. "As we walk through what's going on here, you have to reflect honestly and objectively on what this roster looked like and what its capabilities were, and what it really had accomplished, and on the verge of watching a team that was a Wild Card entry in the World Series have a 2-0 lead currently; it shows you the difficulty of navigating October. Every single one of these teams that enters, in one form or another, had a chance to take that final bow.
"Just because we lost doesn't diminish the fact that this was a championship-caliber roster that was capable of winning the whole thing. We just obviously struggled in certain categories with Houston during that series, and that denied us that ultimate prize. It's our job to be objective and truly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, and add it up, was this roster championship-caliber and had a legitimate opportunity to represent the final team standing? The answer to that is yes; I'm not going to lose sight of that in my discussions with ownership, and my recommendations of where we need to continue to go."
Cashman was then asked if he expects Yankees Principal Owner Hal Steinbrenner to continue to spend money, possibly even add to their payroll of $208 million.
"I don't want to speak for Hal Steinbrenner, the proof's in the pudding," Cashman said. "I think he's been blowing through a lot a long the way. He and his family put big coin on the table to invest in this club, and even in the scenarios where sometimes, it may be from the outside, people scratch their heads on whether it was (DJ) LeMahieu, where it looked like 'why would they invest that type of money for a player that there's no obvious fit,' even though we felt that there was, or Edwin Encarnacion, who we brought in from Seattle, that turned out to be our biggest in-season acquisition, you know, so all of that costs money, and because of that, those are just examples and reinforcements of how he's willing to step up and entertain anything."