The New York Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday night, despite coming oh so close about Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel in a 9th inning comeback attempt. Losing in the playoffs is different for the Yankees than other teams though. Last year their manager Joe Girardi got fired – and that was AFTER making the playoffs in a year they weren’t even supposed to.
First year manager Aaron Boone had this to say after his 100 win team was knocked out 3-1 in the Division Series:
“You’re always chasing utopia, we’re chasing greatness here. . . . Obviously, we have some decisions, a lot of things that are going to happen between now and next year. But I think we’re right there knocking on the door to be that. I mean, we’re very close to being a championship club right now. We’ve just got to improve on the margins in every facet.” (emphasis added)
Every facet? Give me a break. This team alone was 10 feet away from a Gary Sanchez out being a home run from at least forcing a Game 5. Did I mention they won 100 games this season?
At work here is the behavioral heuristic of anchoring. This is the behavioral bias where a psychological benchmark carries a disproportionately high weight in a decision making process. The Yankees only care about winning the World Series. So winning 100 games but losing in the first (okay – second since they won the Wild Card) round is absolutely not okay for the Yankees and their fans. They’ve put their notion of success so high that seeing anything else as success is not possible.
Brett Gardner said this about the loss: “It’s just tough right now, I didn’t expect for things to end this way. I didn’t expect for things to end on this night.”
Meanwhile, over in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the same expectation that they must win the World Series in 2018 for it to not be an extreme disappointment. They got to Game 7 last year of course, and are searching(and paying) for their World Series victory in 30 years. That was the year that Kirk Gibson…oh, you know that already if you’ve watched or attended any Dodgers game in the last 30 years.
The Dodgers opponent in the Division Series was the young Atlanta Braves. The Braves lost over 90 games each of the last 3 years and last finished above .500 in 2013 – when they also matched up against the Dodgers and lost in the Division Series.
Braves team leader Freddie Freeman said this, “I like our guys…are about to take the next step and we’ll be winning titles here.” Staff ace Mike Foltenewicz stated “Every single person in the clubhouse got better this year and this is only the start of something special.”
A bit of a different viewpoint, don’t you think? The Braves were expected to maybe, if things go right, get to .500. Except for those who predicted them to make the wild card, cough cough.
The great irony of all sports is that for all the great things that can happen in the regular season – only one team can win it all every year. Baseball can be particularly tough in this regard as you follow along for 162 games a season. The Chicago Cubs were a playoff team this year- but they probably didn’t at all feel like one. They squandered away the NL Central in September as the Brewers forced a Game 163 to see who would win the division and have home field advantage in the playoffs. They lost that game – then proceeded to win a dramatic extra inning wild card against the Rockies. Both games were played in Wrigley and they had to watch other teams celebrate on their own field on consecutive nights in Chicago.
The Oakland A’s were the absolute top surprise team of the American League, as they started the season with the lowest payroll and made the wild card team after failing to overtake the Houston Astros…those dreamcrushers. We here at DDDT took note of their success in early July and ended up losing the one game playoff as Yankees fans chanted “We Want Boston!”. Did you really? Because the worst playoff loss in Yankees post-season history might make you think twice about that one.
The field is down to four now, and for each team left except for maybe the Brewers their expectations are nothing short of winning at all. I don’t expect baseball to move to a 3 team champion system anytime soon, which leaves little room for the teams remaining.
New York Yankees 1B Luke Voit summed it all up best: “It’s what makes baseball so great. You can get so close, but it stabs you in the heart at the end of the day.”