Don't count out the pinstripes

When George Steinbrenner says of his current employees, "They are not playing like true Yankees," it's not perfectly clear what he means.

Does he mean that "true Yankees" hustle, and these Yankees aren't hustling? I doubt it. Not with Cap'n Derek leading the way.

Does he mean that "true Yankees" win, and these Yankees aren't winning? Perhaps that's what he means. While it's true that no Yankees team finished in first place from 1982 through 1993 – yes, it's still hard to believe even though I was there – those teams did win, mostly. Eight of those 12 squads did win at least half their games. Only in 1990 and 1991 were the Yankees truly awful, and so maybe they weren't "true Yankees."

What might surprise Mr. Steinbrenner is that even "true Yankees" don't always win. As Steinbrenner noted, these Yankees constitute the highest-paid team in baseball. But the Yankees have been the highest-paid team in baseball during many, many seasons since 1920 (not coincidentally, they won their first American League pennant in 1921). And as you probably know, the Yankees haven't always won. Not even when everybody thought they really did have the best team. A few notable examples:

  • In 1933, the Yankees' starting lineup featured six future Hall of Famers, and the rotation included two. Nevertheless, the Yankees somehow finished seven games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.