Yankees of old would blow doors off MLB after Astros World Series; not so much under Hal Steinbrenner

Yankees Hal Steinbrenner
Hal Steinbrenner
AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File

Usually, this would be the origins of the villain’s story for the New York Yankees. 

The team that beat them in the 2017 and 2019 ALCS — the Houston Astros — had become their most significant rival and the true antagonist of Major League Baseball under the shroud of the illegal sign-stealing scandal that cast doubt on the legitimacy of their title five years ago and their success in the following years. 

It had the Yankees looking as much like the darlings of baseball as they ever had been — which is almost unfathomable to conceptualize considering just how universally hated they were over the last three decades. 

But with a chance to win one for the “good guys,” the Yankees got walked over and swept by the Astros, again, in a non-competitive ALCS sweep last month, paving the way for a second-ever Houston World Series championship crown earned Saturday night against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

The Houston Astros celebrate their 4-1 World Series win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Imagine this happening when George Steinbrenner was still around: Embarrassed by a rival in the postseason to extend a championship-less drought to 13 years.

Heads would be rolling, manager Aaron Boone would be out of a job, and the Yankees would be in on every single big-name free agent and potential upgrade that indicated an inkling of being available.

It would be ruthless, it would be tactical, and it would be mired in vengeance. The rest of the baseball world would look on in horror as Yankees fans from the shadows of a winter slumber would snicker with delight.

That was always the game the Yankees played. If an opportunity was there to get better, no matter the cost, it would be pursued and oftentimes attained. They played the game better than anyone else in Major League Baseball, regardless of that created notion of “buying championships.”

A title is a title nonetheless. And the Yankees haven’t experienced that — or even an American League pennant — in over a decade. It’s only the third time since 1920 that they haven’t appeared in a World Series for 10 consecutive seasons or more (1965-1975, 1982-1995).

So the focus continues to intensify on Hal Steinbrenner, the son of George with only the last name providing any semblance of resemblance between the two in terms of running the Yankees. 

Yankees Aaron Boone
Aaron BooneAP Photo/John Minchillo

Boone has already been guaranteed his spot in 2023 despite failing to take the organization to the next level once again. 

General manager Brian Cashman, who has failed to bring on the upgrades so sorely needed — whether it be in the rotation or on the left side of the infield — doesn’t have a contract for next season yet, but he’s still running the team’s offseason.

It’s a pivotal one, too. Aaron Judge will be hitting the free-agent market after hitting an American League record 62 home runs with the disappointment of a low-ball contract offer made public before Opening Day and Yankees fans booing him off the field in the ALCS fresh in his mind. 

While it’s likely he’ll be back in the Bronx, it isn’t a given that the face of the franchise will return — another unfathomable thought for a talent that should be a Yankee lifer. Such is life under Hal Steinbrenner; an owner more concerned about the luxury tax threshold than putting together the best possible team.

Under the old regime, Judge would already have his contract extension in hand or there at least would have been confirmation of some kind that negotiations began after the Yankees’ season ended. 

Under the old regime, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson’s days in the Bronx would be numbered and the team would have immediately been linked to the plethora of major free-agent infielders ranging from Carlos Correa to Trea Turner, to Xander Bogaerts, to Dansby Swanson.

Under the old regime, there would be little hesitation to keep adding onto the payroll despite already having the bloated contracts of Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, and potentially Judge — all potentially over $300 million — on the books. 

But this is the 2022-23 Yankees — and this simply hasn’t been the way they’ve operated in years. 

And that simply isn’t good enough for the most successful, recognizable sports franchise in North America. 

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