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Randy Levine disappointed in Yankees' season but excited for future

New York Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner and New

New York Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner and New York Yankees rightfielder Chris Young lean on the dugout fence as the final out is recorded by New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann at Yankee Stadium during the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Randy Levine describes himself as a "disciple" of George Steinbrenner, brought up in the Yankees organization to think of every season with a World Series-or-bust mentality.

"I'm disappointed when we don't win a championship," the club president said by phone Wednesday morning, some 12 hours after the Yankees' loss to the Astros in the AL wild-card game.

But Levine also took a longer view.

"A lot of teams have the luxury of losing for several years in an effort to rebuild and we just don't have that ability, it's not in our DNA, it's not in our game plan," Levine said, pointing out since 2000 the Yankees still have the most playoff appearances and their two championships in that time are tied with the Cardinals for second most behind the three won by the Red Sox and Giants. "So while it's disappointing, we saw a lot of good stuff that is really going to bode well in transitioning into the future."

Indeed, whether fans want to admit it or not, this was a transition season for the Yankees, one that began with mostly low expectations, with few, inside of baseball or outside of it, predicting a postseason bid, division title or wild card.

Concerns permeated the roster, starting with questions surrounding every starting pitcher, the ability of veterans like Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran to stay healthy -- and be productive if they could stay on the field -- and an expected lack of depth because of a farm system that had not produced much in the way of big-league talent.

An 87-75 record and second-place finish in the AL East to the Blue Jays, who took off after the trade deadline, isn't cause for confetti but also it's difficult to call it a failure, considering the years Beltran and Teixeira had and help that consistently arrived from the minors.

Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said in recent years developing a stronger farm system was a priority as the Yankees segue into a different way of doing business, meaning fewer long-term, big-money contracts.

"I think you have the emergence, for the first time in a long time, of several really, really good young players who can form a new core for the long run," Levine said. "Greg Bird has done an incredible job, Luis Severino has shown he's going to be an ace. We have relatively young starting pitching . . . [Justin] Wilson, [Dellin] Betances and [Andrew] Miller form the core of an incredible bullpen."

Levine continued, mentioning rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder, who posted a .379/.438/.586 slash line the last nine games (eight starts) of the season, and prospects such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo.

"We have guys in the minor leagues that scouts say are the real thing," Levine said. "You're seeing for the first time in a while potential impact players that are on the horizon. We're back and I think we have the core of a good team."

Which is not to say the 2016 roster is set, of course.

"We need to improve," Levine said. "We always do."

He said it was too early in the offseason to speculate on how that will manifest itself or about any other changes that could come.

As for the Yankees' fade down the stretch, which included the offense all but collapsing in the final month and losses in seven of the last eight games, including the 3-0 loss to the Astros in the wild-card game, Levine echoed the thoughts of more than a few opposing team scouts and talent evaluators.

"They just ran out of gas the last month," he said.

So, overall, was the season a success?

"I look at it two ways," Levine said. "I'm a disciple of George Steinbrenner so I'm disappointed when we don't win a championship. But a season we made the playoffs after two years [out] and were able to be competitive while transitioning to young players is a success."


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