Is it time for the Yankees to be impatient?

November 27th, 2020

The longest the Yankees have gone without winning a World Series -- since they really became the Yankees just over 100 years ago when Babe Ruth showed up in the Bronx -- was 17 seasons. That drought lasted from 1979-95, before Joe Torre’s Yanks finished the Yankee Century in baseball in style. Prior to that it had been 15 years, from '62-77.

Their third longest stretch without winning a World Series is happening now.

I asked arguably the best Yankees fan I know the other day if he thinks the Yanks -- who are supposed to be the home office for the World Series -- are getting impatient with their current situation, even though the last time they had a losing season was 1992.

“I don’t know if they are,” he said. “But I am.”

He is 50, which means the Yankees have played in eleven World Series in his lifetime, winning seven. But he also knows that the Yanks have appeared in (and won) just one World Series in this century -- if you use the analytics of the Gregorian calendar. You could compare them to the Braves of the 1990s, who contended year after year while winning only one Series, but even Atlanta made it to five Fall Classics in that decade.

So now Yankees fans like my friend wait to see what their team is going to do in this offseason, if they are going to make the kind of noise they did when they traded for the rest of Giancarlo Stanton’s $300 million contract or signed Gerrit Cole to a monster contract less than a year ago. The Yanks got Stanton after they’d lost a heartbreaking seven-game American League Championship Series to the Astros in 2017, after seeing their run production slow almost to a halt (scoring one run in the last two games). They got Cole after seeing how the Astros looked with him and Justin Verlander when Houston got the Yanks again in the ’19 ALCS.

Both Stanton and Cole were seen to be game-changers and difference-makers in the Bronx, Cole especially. But you saw what happened in a short season. Too many Yankees got hurt again, they ended up finishing second in the division to the Rays and at one point looked as if they might not make even the expanded postseason at all, before ultimately losing another heartbreaker -- this time in the AL Division Series -- to the Rays.

It was the Dodgers, who we thought might play the Yankees in the 2020 Fall Classic, who ended up winning it all in their third World Series appearance in four years. We all know the Dodgers ended a 32-year Series-winning drought in the process. To the Yankees and their fans, their drought feels even longer.

It is why the Yanks may be even more intriguing and compelling -- and impatient -- this year than they’ve ever been in the offseason, even in a year in which the Mets, with new owner Steve Cohen, are expected to make plenty of noise themselves.

By now even people in outer space know that the Yankees say they lost more money than any other organization in baseball last season, after spending more in the short season than any team in baseball, including the Dodgers. But they are the Yankees. And as much stability as they have shown, winning season after winning season, the Red Sox have won four World Series in this baseball century. They don’t have a streak of winning seasons back to 1992. Owner John Henry blows things up when he gets impatient.

“Our objective was to win a world championship. We failed in that endeavor,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said recently on Michael Kay’s radio show. “Does that mean the entire season was a failure? No.”

And it wasn't. The Yankees have plenty of reasons as to why they haven’t won, reasons that aren’t close to being excuses, starting with all the injuries they’ve had to both Stanton and Aaron Judge. Even when Stanton played a full season, Judge missed 60 games. This past season the two combined to play just 51. Luke Voit emerged as the team leader in home runs and DJ LeMahieu became the team’s best player.

LeMahieu is a free agent coming off a .364 batting championship, and he is going to have suitors, maybe even the Mets. If the Yankees lose LeMahieu, do they then try to swing a deal for star shortstop Francisco Lindor and move Gleyber Torres back to second base? Do they try to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka? It might seem unfathomable to think they would throw huge money at right-hander Trevor Bauer after doing the same with Cole just a year ago. But they’re the Yankees, and they always seem to find money under the bed when they need it.

Do they finally rely on their young starting pitchers? Do they bring back Didi Gregorius, who so admirably stepped in at shortstop after Derek Jeter retired? Do they trade Voit, then try to trade for Lindor and move LeMahieu to first base? Do they trade reliever Adam Ottavino, whom they made a big deal out of signing, but seemed to give up on last season? Would they consider making a deal with, yikes, the Rays for Blake Snell?

Are they going to trade Gary Sánchez, who was their home run kid before Judge was? And would they really move Aroldis Chapman, who has given up season-ending home runs in the past two seasons?

Every offseason is important to the Yankees after they fall short of the World Series, but this one feels more important than ever. There are a lot of impatient Yankee fans out there. A lot.