Jun 26, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) and left fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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Keidel: The Yankees' Yearly Mandate Has Never Changed

Jason Keidel
September 25, 2018 - 1:19 pm
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You've heard muted kudos around sports talk radio since the Yankees clinched the wild card game.  

Baseball fans know the Yankees dwell in a different orbit, don't flash banners for marginal playoff positioning, and they would never break out the bubbly for second place in their own division. They haven't even bagged home-field advantage for that one-game crucible on October 3, against the Oakland Athletics. 

But since the Yankees have lost their singular grip on payroll and poaching free agents from other clubs, you wonder if the yearly mandate has changed.

No way. 

Over the last century in general, and since 1973 in particular - when George Steinbrenner bought the club from CBS - the Yankees only officially salute the American flag and a World Series banner. The Yankees fired their manager, added two-star rookies to an already nuclear lineup, yet finished this exactly where they ended it last season - gawking up at the Red Sox.

There is an important distinction between 2017 and 2018. Last year, the Yankees were still considered a bit too young and still climbing the rungs of a rebuild to seriously joust for a World Series title. But after the Bombers bagged the wild card game, stunned the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, then came within nine innings of beating the Houston Astros in the ALCS, the historical script returned in full force.

Ask anyone around River Avenue, from the fans to the Steinbrenners, and you'd hear that not only is this year's club better but also that they expected to see the results on the diamond, resulting in a snowstorm of confetti falling on the Canyon of Heroes.

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This is why they fired Joe Girardi, to replace the G.I. Joe's inflexible binder with Aaron Boone's softhearted bonding. This is why they added Rookies of the Year Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, and even stole last year's NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, from the Miami Marlins. This is why the Yanks snatched J.A. Happ at the trade deadline. The Yankees are victims of their own history and the sweet and swift retooling by Brian Cashman. This is why they charge Ali-Frazier prices for April seats behind home plate. 

Maybe we didn't expect Boston to launch into a 106-win season, to win the most games since they built Fenway Park. But that doesn't mean the Big Apple expects less from the Bronx Bombers. And if you think finishing in second place in the division changes our demands, consider the Sox finished in second place in 2004, the very year they flipped the Bambino's hex on its head, bloody socks and all, and shocked the Yankees in the ALCS on the way to their first World Series title since they sold Babe Ruth.

Back then, MLB didn't make wild card teams play in that one-game death trap. But that doesn't provide a parachute for the Yankees if they lose to Oakland. And the best part, of course, is that if they Yankees sneak past the A's, they get one more crack at their tormentors from Fenway. No doubt the Red Sox would be favored in that epic ALDS, but the Yankees were expected to fit themselves for World Series ring No. 28. 

We can debate the merits of starting Masahiro Tanaka or Luis Severino against Oakland. We can moan over missing Didi Gregorius for the rest of the way. But the Yankees have ample high-end hitting, a conga line of flamethrowers in the bullpen, and enough starting pitching to march deep into October, Boston be damned. 

The Yankees may not own the Red Sox the way they did for those blessed 86 years, but the Yankees are only measured - and fitted - for rings, parades, and confetti, no matter who they beat to get there. Ask the fans who love the team, or the men who own the team.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.