TAMPA — The Yankees made it back to the postseason last fall after a two-year absence, but manager Joe Girardi thinks his team has the talent to stick around a little longer in 2016 after losing in the wild-card game to the Astros.
"I think on paper we are better, but paper doesn't really mean anything until you compete," Girardi said, addressing the media at the start of spring training at Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees added talent via trades, acquiring second baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs and closer Aroldis Chapman from the Reds, bolstering what was already one of the toughest bullpens in baseball.
But the team's offensive nucleus is far from young, with a resurgent Alex Rodriguez, now 40, as the designated hitter, with first baseman Mark Teixeira, 36, and starter C.C. Sabathia, 35, as the last remnants of New York's last World Series team in 2009.
Making it back to the playoffs was an important step last season, Girardi said, but leading a franchise that missed the playoffs once in 18 years from 1995-2012, he understands that his fans measure success with championships.
"Our goal is to win the World Series, bottom line," he said. "I appreciate how hard our guys played all year, how they never gave up, but you know what? We didn't get to where we wanted to be. We lost in the first round of the playoffs. We got beat by a very good pitcher that we didn't seem to solve last year."
That would be Houston's Dallas Keuchel, who shut down the Yankees in a 3-0 wild-card win at Yankee Stadium, holding New York to three hits. New York won't have to wait long to see him again, as he'll likely take the mound on opening day as Houston starts the season back at Yankee Stadium.
New York went 87-75 last year despite injuries and losing six of their last seven games, and Girardi said any postseason exit is difficult for him, especially one as abrupt as last year's one-game cameo.
"There's an emptiness inside, the feeling that you should be there," Girardi said. "You try to avoid that one-game playoff. You try to be a division winner so you don't have to do that. But we weren't able to do that, so our first goal is to win the division."
All-Star reliever Dellin Betances, headed to the seventh inning in a loaded bullpen, said the team's focus is set appropriately high on winning "No. 28" for another World Series title.
"That's the ultimate goal," he said.