NEW YORK -- Over the years, as the Yankees built their dynasties, World Series wins became their only true measure of success, in the organization and among its fans. On Friday at Yankee Stadium -- three days after New York was eliminated from the postseason by the Red Sox in the American League Division Series -- general manager Brian Cashman looked back on his team's 2018 season, and ahead to 2019, and reiterated that sentiment.
"No one cares about windows. They just care about championships," Cashman said. "There's a door there we want to pound open. We've done it before. We've been a part of it before. There's a lot of people that have been along for that ride. And we want to taste that success again.
"There are levels of success, but the Yankees are about championships."
The Yankees haven't won the World Series since 2009, their record 27th title. They've made the playoffs the last two years, but fell in the AL Championship Series to the Astros in 2017 and a round earlier this year. It's a step, Cashman said, but not enough.
"Anybody that has a chance to suit up for the postseason while everybody else is sitting home, you've separated yourself from the pack to some degree, but not to the degree we want," Cashman said. "Only one team gets to call themselves champs. And that's not us. We're not even gonna be able to say we're American League champs; we're not even American League East champs. We were a playoff team that won 100 games. But people forget that over time.
"We want teams that are not forgotten. And the only way to do that is to be the last team standing and raising a championship flag."
The Yankees look like surefire contenders next season. It starts with their lineup, one of baseball's deepest and most powerful. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres -- the Bronx Bombers are dangerous, and young. They're not going anywhere.
"I know many of [our fans] are heartbroken, like a lot of us are, because we understand the potential of this club," Boone said. "My message is, as my message was to our players, I think we all understand that we're capable of big things. I think we're on the short list of teams that legitimately think we can win a world championship. But we've got to get better."
Some of those areas for improvement are glaring. Stanton had growing pains and strikeout problems (211 of them) in his first season in New York, and he often looked overmatched against the Red Sox in the playoffs. But he also hit 38 home runs, and is still only a year removed from his National League MVP season.
"He's one of the better players in the game, period," Cashman said. "Regardless of how he played during the Division Series. … We didn't shy away from the opportunity of acquiring him, and I have no regrets about that."
Sanchez struggled badly at the plate during the regular season, and even worse defensively, leading the Majors in passed balls for a second straight year. But he showed flashes in the playoffs of why he's such a dangerous player to have at the catcher position, with a pair of big home runs in Boston.
"I think Gary is going to absolutely realize his potential," Boone said. "As tough as this year was at times for him, there's no doubt in my mind he will benefit from all that he went through this year. I believe we're seeing the strides. This offseason, the work continues for him. He knows that. I think the end result is we're going to be talking about a very polished, elite-level player."
The Yankees will need to find a way to replace Gregorius' value at shortstop for at least a good chunk of 2019 -- he needs Tommy John surgery and will likely be out until the summer. But Torres is a capable internal fill-in, and should the Yankees choose to pursue options outside the organization, this is the offseason to do it. Not only is there a superstar shortstop available in free agency -- Manny Machado -- the Yankees have the means to go after him, especially after working their way under the luxury tax threshold.
"I don't think [owner Hal Steinbrenner is] going to limit anything from his standpoint for consideration as long as he feels good about what he's doing next," Cashman said. "He'll set the dance tune, and we'll dance to it.
"His last name is Steinbrenner. And they've acted accordingly always."
The Yankees do certainly have questions with the pitching staff. Their starting rotation might lose J.A. Happ and Carsten Sabathia to free agency, although New York could re-sign one or both. Sonny Gray lost his starting job, and the Yankees will now look to trade him this winter. Luis Severino, the nominal ace, was up-and-down -- dominant in the first half of the regular season, rocky in the second half; sharp in AL Wild Card Game against the A's.
"As far as under the surface, no [we didn't find any issues]," Boone said. "And trust me, we dug and tried to find as much as we could. We just feel like he had some bumps along the way. I feel like physically, he was sound and is sound. And I look forward to him coming out even better next year and being that ace-type pitcher we know he can be."
Boone himself will need to continue to grow, too, as he enters his second season as a manager. The rookie skipper was criticized in particular for his pitcher management in losing Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS at home to the Red Sox, when he left Severino and Sabathia in the game at times he could have gone to a dominant bullpen, and both starters allowed key runs.
Boone admitted Friday that he "probably got greedy" leaving Severino in Game 3 in particular, but that he "never felt like anything sped up" on him in the two games. And Cashman supported Boone's managing process.
"He took a shot," Cashman said. "And that's what managers do."
Beyond tactical decisions, though, Boone knows he has plenty of work to do.
"Are there some things that I want to change a little bit in how we get information to the players, how we shape our gameplans, how my communication happens with my coaches and my players? Those are all things that frankly start now," Boone said. "Hopefully the offseason provides a time where I can refine those things, sharpen those things, get even better at those things, because they're so important."
And he's ready to get the Yankees' 2019 World Series push started.
"I would say I can't wait, but I feel like I'm in the midst of it -- I can't wait to continue to chase this thing," Boone said. "It's been, overall, amazing. I've loved it. It's tough, it's fun, it's rewarding, it's gutwrenching, it's painful when it comes to an abrupt end. But I wouldn't want to be doing anything else right now.
"Especially with our guys, what I know we're capable of, and knowing we're one of those teams that walks in with a chance to gain the ultimate prize, which is another world championship. To have that opportunity with this group, I don't take lightly."