We won four out of the first five World Series. We got in six World
Series. Then all of a sudden the expectations became more than I could
deal with. What do I mean by that? I had a tough time telling my players
when we won a division title and got to the postseason that it wasn’t
good enough, that I was disappointed in them. I couldn’t do that because
I know how hard they worked. That’s where the contradiction was. We
know that expectations are always higher when you play for the Yankees,
but I couldn’t deliver the message if we didn’t win the World Series
that it was a disappointing year.
— Joe Torre, talking about his Yankees days with MLB.com.
I think that “we’re the Yankees and only championships are acceptable” stuff you hear all the time is largely P.R. these days. George Steinbrenner believed it when he ran the team, but — and I mean this in the most respectful way possible — George Steinbrenner is kind of a nut.
All professionals want to win, and the Yankees are no different than anyone else in this regard. But I seriously doubt that Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner believe that not winning the World Series is as mortal a sin as the Yankees’ hype-machine makes it out to be. They want to win, of course, they’re not happy when they lose, but like Joe Torre, they’re not going to tell their people that they were disappointed in them if they don’t win it all.
I think that whole “only championships are enough” business is something that the team found useful to perpetuate as the team was returning to glory in the 90s, and remains somewhat useful in that, no matter what happens with the Yankees, no one ever, ever questions the team’s motivations like so many other teams’ motivations are questioned.
But I bet, in an unguarded moment, Cashman and those guys would tell you that as an ethos, it’s kind of a pain to live up to for the very reasons Torre points out.