Winning Mentality of the Yankees

During the Yankees-Indians game July 5, something occurred to me. Now, the previous day, the Yanks had been bombed 19-1 by the Indians, on owner George Steinbrenner’s birthday, no less. I was curious to see how they’d react. Well, they reacted with a fury. They beat Cleveland 11-3 in a game that wasn’t even that close. But it wasn’t so much that they beat them by 8; it was HOW. They were aggressively angry, constantly attacking every possible moment. They even called for an Alex Rodriguez/Derek Jeter double steal while up 7-1. They were not just trying to win; they wanted to send a message. The message? You are not us. You need to be reminded of just who you are and where you belong. After seeing the Indians dugout, you could say message delivered.

Which brings me to my point. Everyone always talks about the Yankees payroll as the one big thing that separates them from everyone else. And its true that their huge war chest does allow them certain liberties other organizations can only dream of. But, I think that a bigger factor is their mentality. They, as an organization, have a complete inability to swallow failure in any way, shape or form. That attitude comes down from the Owner’s Box and permeates through the manager down to the players, which helps cause games like this. The Yankees were embarrassed, but from shame came focused anger. They used it as a fuel injector to take their game up a notch.

Now, compare that to the Philadelphia Phillies. As an organization, one could honestly say they are almost the polar opposite of the Yankees. The Yanks have 26 World Series titles; the Phillies have just one. The Phillies are actually the worst team in the history of professional sports, losing more games than any team in any sport, ever. That’s right, Ever. However, that’s just the historical context; this is today. Today’s Phillies are infected with complacent players who, if blown away 19-1, would not react with righteously competitive fury, but would instead simply say “Que sera, sera,” and probably go have a latte.

Now, there are some exceptions to that generalization, like all-stars Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Tom Gordon and new Centerfielder Aaron Rowand (he of the infamous broken nose-catch). You can even toss shortstop Jimmy Rollins in that mix. However, unfortunately, only Rollins has asserted himself as a leader thus far. Instead, due to seniority, the team is largely led, or misled, by players like Mike Lieberthal, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell. None of whom can be described as either “fiery” or “fierce competitors.” The same can be said for the Phillies ownership group. For a long time, they’ve operated the team under the premise that its okay just to try, as really hard as you really can, and that way, even if you lose, you can at least sleep well at night.

Would that be good enough for Steinbrenner and the Yanks, $200 million payroll besides? You tell me.

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