The Yankees ultimately are measured by championships won and, more recently, championships not won.
But in addressing yet another season that didn’t end with World Series title No. 28 – the franchise has been stuck on No. 27 since 2009, the lone title since 2000 – Aaron Boone, though expressing disappointment in the mission not quite being accomplished, also took pains several times Wednesday to make this point: the Yankees aren’t that far away.
"We all share in the frustrations, and I understand the frustrations of the fan base," Boone said during his season-ending news conference at the Stadium via Zoom. "But I think if you really look at where we are, it’s razor thin the difference between us and, say, the team that's going to win the World Series this year. I do believe that we are going to get there."
Just not this year, the case each of the last four postseasons that have ended, from the Yankees’ perspective, prematurely. And the reasons for this year’s exit basically mirrored those of past Octobers: not enough big hits combining with allowing a few too many.
Though much was made of the Yankees’ righty-heavy lineup and the offense’s failure to push much across in Friday night’s 2-1 loss in the deciding Game 5 to the Rays – who entering Wednesday night held a 3-0 lead over the Astros in the ALCS – lost a bit in the series setback was the fact the Yankees actually outscored the Rays, 24-21, in the series.
"You're not going to bludgeon teams every night (in the postseason), I don't care how good your offense was," said Boone, whose team option for 2021 will be picked up, according to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "I don't necessarily look at it as offense being the (reason for) our demise this year."
But, and Boone didn’t run away from it, no one would argue the offense performed consistently this season. It was decidedly inconsistent, something Steinbrenner criticized during an appearance on "The Michael Kay Show" Tuesday, as well as the club’s inconsistency overall much of the season in which it finished second to Tampa Bay in the AL East at 33-27.
"I take a lot of pride in creating an environment that, no matter what's going on with the rigors of a season, injuries, people dealing with different things . . . obviously, this year dealing with the COVID environment, that was a challenge, but creating an environment that we're able to take advantage of that," Boone said. "I felt like I should have been better. That part is certainly a little bit frustrating and I feel like we're better than our overall record."
The Yankees, after losing six of eight to end the regular season, swept Cleveland in two games in the wild-card round, then hammered the Rays in Game 1 of the best-of-five ALDS. But a loss in Game 2 followed, and all of the ensuing fallout from the controversial decision to use Deivi Garcia as an opener – a topic that again got a thorough workout Wednesday in questions to Boone and GM Brian Cashman – and the Yankees went on to lose the series.
Cashman, who followed Boone to the interview room at the Stadium and answered questions for over an hour, expressed the same disappointment his manager did in not finishing the job. But Cashman also said he would much prefer to sit in the seat he sat in Wednesday – another postseason explaining an October without a World Series – than "the alternative. That, of course, is not qualifying for the postseason to even have a chance at a title.
"I know that we're proud of the fact that we have a shot, that we've been in position to take a shot," said Cashman, who has not yet received his budget (it’s not expected to be very high) from Steinbrenner and who, therefore, couldn’t address much in terms of the offseason approach to free agents, including two of the Yankees’ own they would like back, DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka. "I’m proud to be in the arena fighting to be that last team standing. Now the job is to get back there again next year and take another shot."