That was the thinking under the Florida sun this spring, at least. It worked out nothing like that in the American League Division Series, the Tigers' wild October celebration accompanied by a cruel reminder that 97 wins can quickly be flushed down the drain in a five-game playoff series.
"It's really tough," Mark Teixeira said. "Over a long season, that happens and you say, 'Hey, we'll get them tomorrow.' In a short series, sometimes that's the difference. One at-bat, one pitch, one play."
"I think there were a lot of questions as we exited Spring Training," general manager Brian Cashman said. "And I think, over time, those questions got answered with real legitimate contributors. This team got stronger and mentally tougher along the way and showed themselves as a formidable opponent for a world championship."
But the air was sucked out of Yankee Stadium in the eighth inning of Thursday's Game 5 when Derek Jeter's deep drive fell short of the seats, but the moments the Yankees will really rue over the winter had come earlier in the game, a game in which they went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
They will replay leaving the bases loaded against Doug Fister in the fourth inning, when Russell Martin and Brett Gardner popped out, and Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher will regret striking out with the bases loaded against Joaquin Benoit in the seventh.
"I personally share in our fans' disappointment that this season has ended without a championship," Yankees general managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "That is, and always will be, our singular goal every season. I assure you that this disappointment will strengthen our resolve to field a team in 2012 that can bring a 28th championship to the Bronx. That work starts now."
"The feeling I have right now definitely makes those offseason workouts a lot easier," said Swisher, who went 4-for-19 in the series. "This is a feeling I don't ever want to have again."
Teixeira's bases-loaded walk brought in a run, but he finished 3-for-18 in the ALDS and never produced the big hit the Yankees would have loved after his 39-homer, 111-RBI regular season.
"Everyone's been saying, 'Why do you pull the ball so much?'" Teixeira said. "I hit the ball straight to dead center [in the sixth inning] and hit the ball 406 feet for an out. It stinks. Sometimes baseball is cruel."
Jeter got too much air under his drive, which died in Don Kelly's glove just shy of where the '11 version of Jeffrey Maier would have sent the umpires to take a second look at a video replay.
As he did last season, when he stared at strike three from the Rangers' Neftali Feliz, Rodriguez accounted for the final out. This time it was Jose Valverde gassing a 94-mph fastball past A-Rod's bat, setting off the first celebration by a visiting team at the new Yankee Stadium.
"You saw what I did out there, and it wasn't good enough. That's on me," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said his 2-for-18 performance would sting. He, Teixeira and Swisher combined for one home run and five RBIs in the five-game series.
The Yankees' most productive bat was that of the 40-year-old Jorge Posada, who rolled back the clock and had a sendoff ALDS that was reminiscent of Don Mattingly's 1995 farewell tour.
"They were better than us, that's the bottom line," Jeter said. "That's why they're moving on."
After heavy rains spoiled plans of giving CC Sabathia two full starts in the series, rookie Ivan Nova picked up seamlessly for Sabathia in the continuation of Game 1. The soft-tossing Freddy Garcia gave the Yankees an effective start in Game 2, albeit one in which he was outpitched by a very sharp Max Scherzer, who held New York hitless until the sixth.
In Game 3, Sabathia couldn't keep pace with Justin Verlander's eye-popping effort before Gardner's seventh-inning hit took him off the hook. But big free-agent import Rafael Soriano served up a go-ahead homer to Delmon Young, summing up the right-hander's up-and-down year after leading the AL in saves last season.
"Those guys have nothing to be ashamed of," manager Joe Girardi said of his pitching staff. "There's nothing you can really say that's going to make them feel any better. But they played their hearts out all year long."
Embattled hurler A.J. Burnett saved the season with a solid effort in Game 4, helped by the first of two tremendous catches by Curtis Granderson in center field, and the game was much tighter before the Yankees enjoyed their biggest inning of the series, pouring it on against four Tigers pitchers in a six-run eighth.
The Yanks loved prolonging their season for another two days, but Jeter was among those who wasn't sold on a carryover effect for Game 5. His skepticism rang even louder in the moments after the Tigers' first bottle of bubbly was popped.
"I told you -- every time you go to the playoffs, it's about pitching," Jeter said. "You're not going to sit back and hit home runs and score 10 runs. We scored a lot of runs [in Game 4], but it was really one inning. You don't just come out here and take BP in the playoffs."
Game 5 starter Nova served up two solo homers before leaving with tightness in his right forearm, and though Girardi's carousel of relievers limited Detroit to one run -- allowed by Sabathia -- over the next seven innings, there just wasn't enough offense to back the effort.
"I didn't necessarily think it was a hard game to manage," Girardi said. "It's a hard game to swallow."