Don’t Dance on the Yankees’ Grave, Red Sox Fans

The Yanks have been a whole lot more successful than the Sox in recent years.

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, far left, Dellin Betances, second from left, Brett Gardner, second from right, and Chris Young, right, watch from the dugout against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning of the American League wild card baseball game, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, in New York. The Astros won 3-0 to advance to the American League Division Series. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Photo via AP

Red Sox fans who are relishing in the Yankees’ playoff loss today should take a look at the standings over the last five years. The Yankees have averaged 90.5 victories per season since 2010 and made the playoffs four times. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have averaged 82 wins per year and qualified for the postseason once.

It stinks when facts get in the way of a good narrative, huh?

Granted, the Red Sox’s lone playoff appearance in this stretch culminated in a World Series win. But the Yankees last captured a championship in 2009 and have played in the American League Championship Series twice since then. In other words, they’ve been competitive a lot more often than the Red Sox as of late.

A postseason run won’t be in the cards for the Yanks this season, as they fell to the Houston Astros 3-0 in the one-game wild card playoff Tuesday. It was an anemic effort from the Bronx Bombers, who only collected three hits in the shutout loss.

The Yankees’ lackluster performance wasn’t all that surprising, considering how their decrepit roster limped to the finish line this year. New York dropped six of its last seven games prior to the playoffs, including three losses to the Red Sox. They seemingly ran out of steam, and their prospects for next year are uncertain.

The Yankees were carried by a number of aging bats this season, from Alex Rodriguez to Carlos Beltran. A-Rod seemed to rediscover the fountain of youth after serving a one-year suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, and led the team with 33 home runs. Even more astonishingly, he played in 151 games, his highest total since 2007.

On the pitching side of things, Masahiro Tanaka was somehow able to stay on the mound, even though he bypassed Tommy John surgery after tearing up his elbow last July. CC Sabathia, the Yankees’ highest-paid hurler, checked himself into alcohol rehab on Monday.

The Yankees’ future seems uncertain at best, and doomed at worst. But then again, we’ve been predicting the Yankees’ decline around these parts for seemingly the last decade. They always find a way to prove us wrong. (The last time the Yankees finished in last-place in consecutive seasons, by the way, was 1988 and 1989.)

As the Red Sox have shown recently, an oversized payroll no longer guarantees success in baseball. In fact, six of the 10 highest-spending teams failed to qualify for the playoffs this season.

The Yankees’ nearly 20-year period of prolonged success can be attributed to more than just shelling out a lot of money. Recently, general manager Brian Cashman has shrewdly filled out his roster with productive role players to complement his stars. He’s also managed to keep all of the club’s top prospects, and the once barren Yankees’ minor league system is now regarded as “dramatically improved.”

New York will probably have to count on its young players next year, as it has a couple of albatross contracts on the books. Perhaps the worst deal belongs to old friend Jacoby Ellsbury, who was benched Tuesday night and is owed $101 million through 2020.

The Ellsbury era in New York is off to a rough start to be sure, but it isn’t going any worse than Carl Crawford’s first 11 months in Boston. Fortunately for the Red Sox, the Dodgers took Crawford’s entire $142 million contract off their hands in August 2012 for reasons still unknown to this day. This winter, the Red Sox will likely be looking for two more suckers to swallow Hanley Ramirez’s and Pablo Sandoval’s deals. Good luck.

Almost every big market team becomes saddled with burdensome contracts at one point or another. It’s an inevitable byproduct of chasing a championship every season—or as Theo Epstein once called it, “feeding the monster.” (A best-selling book about the Red Sox’s 2005 season by Vanity Fair contributor Seth Mnookin bears that title.)

Despite outgoing president and CEO Larry Lucchino’s insistence that the Red Sox conduct their business differently, they don’t. The Yankees spent more money than 28 other teams this season; the Red Sox spent more than 27. Pot, meet kettle.

It’s true that the Red Sox seem better positioned for the future than the Yanks, with a dazzling core of young players who played nearly .600 baseball over the final two months of the season. But the Yankees haven’t suffered a losing campaign in two decades. Chances are, they’ll be pretty good next year, too.