The Yankees season has been very good so far. They are in first place in the AL Beast—second in the AL—and lead in almost ever offensive category per at bat, while their team ERA is fourth best. But more important is their never give up, never surrender attitude. The Yankees team character is forming, and character is destiny.
New York Yankees teams, each season, must build a new character–it’s own confidence and aura–forged from their play throughout that year. It’s a process that starts as soon as the season does. How a team does in April and May, how the players handle those early season challenges, will affect them the rest of the season.
Because by mid-August the baseball games get a lot more intense. That intensity builds through the end of the season until it becomes a part of the air you breathe.
In the playoffs, you can choke on it.
But not if you have already conquered it as a team. Not when you have breathed it in on a regular basis, in the regular season, and not been found wanting. A talented team with that attitude usually has quite a few wins by late season. And more importantly, a team confidence that is more important than OBP.
Winning helps a team build confidence. But it’s the team that has the most determination and belief that has the real advantage. It’s the difference between having the best record entering the playoffs and having the most confidence in yourself and the players around you.
And it’s why the team with the best record entering the playoffs has won only three of the last eight World Series.
Down but Never Out
Based on nothing more than that, the Yankees have to like what they see when they look at the team photo. They have shown a resiliency and focus that has served them well and will serve them well. It’s a team that has already come back from 9-1 down in the late innings. A team that has gotten scores of uncounted hits with two outs and no one on. That won a game 3-2 with only two hits.
YES shared a stat that helps us understand the players drive and belief. It showed the Yankees had brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning 10 out of the 17 times they were behind. That’s not just playing every game; it’s playing every inning of every game. A Yankees team like that can only be outscored, but never beaten, never defeated.
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This is Monday morning and I am still thinking about Friday night’s loss to the Athletics. The Yankees were down 4-0 in the bottom of the ninth. No one was panicked. Everyone let his AB come to him. In the end, the Athletics were better on that day and deserved the win.
But the Yankees never stopped playing; they never gave in to the feeling they could not win. They could not get enough hits and ran out of talent, but they never ran out of trust in each other. The players held together instead of trying to do too much. And they brought the tying run to the plate, again.
It’s a sight we’re getting used to.
So are their opponents. By mid-August, some of those opponents will already be worn out by that attitude. And when the Yankees play them, they will have won before the games started, imposing their will before scoring a run.
They are Unruly and Cannot be Ruled
When they meet in that late season three-game set, after all the bumps and bruises and fighting every game for the last six weeks, it’s the team with the most belief and players with the most faith in himself and his teammates that will come out on top.
Right now it looks like the Yankees are becoming that type of team.
You cannot defeat a team like that. You cannot make that team stop playing and accept they are destined to lose this game, to succomb to ennui and let an at-bat go by or make a thoughtless error at a critical moment.
That means that if you want to beat the Yankees, you are going to have to match their focus and drive every inning of every game. Can you do that better than they can for 162 games? Or over a seven-game playoff series?
Time to Settle the First Half
The Yankees have the next two weeks to show what they are made of. They play the next 13 games against Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto, all teams that think they should be where the Yankees are. It’s their chance to show themselves and their opponents what it will take to conquer the Yanks.
I think we are going to see more of what we have seen. A Yankees team that keeps its composure at all times. A team that comes at and at and at you, until you give away an AB or throw the ball down the line trying to keep a runner on. You fall apart while the Yankees pull together.
You cannot beat a team like that, a team that keeps going, never pausing to consider it might lose. That doesn’t mean that the Yankees will not lose any games; they certainly will. But it does mean that they will never give up or give in to the score; never stop believing in each other or hoping they can win.
Yes, the Yankees have turned both the Bronx and the road stadiums into shooting galleries. And the fans have been left to wonder what it all means.
That is a team that cannot be defeated, only outscored. And it’s what the Yankees are starting to look like.