One of the most exhausted and overused tropes in sports analysis is the idea that some teams and players are built to win in the playoffs and others aren’t. And at this point, it’s almost as common to assert the contrary: that research has proven that “clutch” isn’t a real thing, and if you’re good in the regular season, you’re likely to be good in the playoffs as well. But there are always those outlying cases. Jordan’s Bulls never lost a Finals (though they lost in the playoffs plenty earlier in MJ’s career). Try telling a Dodgers fan that there’s no difference between the regular season and postseason success.
The Yankees broke back into baseball relevance with a surprising run to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017. It’s pretty shocking that three full seasons later, that’s still the closest this core has gotten to the World Series. Four difficult playoff eliminations in a row will inevitably set the take artists aflame, and that’s exactly what has happened, particularly this season. The Yankees “can’t win the big game.” The Yankees are “home run or nothing, and that approach doesn’t work in October.” The Yankees “fade in the spotlight.” The Yankees (insert any stock phrase you might hear on WFAN here).
Of course, this is all nonsense – to a point. While the collection of absurdities above is just that, there is undeniably an element of truth to the accusation that the Yankees aren’t built to win in the postseason. It’s not because this team doesn’t have the “clutch gene.” It’s not because of the delusion that hitting a lot of home runs is somehow undesirable. It’s because they simply don’t have the pitching depth to get it done.