- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- Abiding by George Steinbrenner's credo of "championship or failure," Yankees team president Randy Levine labeled the 2011 season as unsuccessful.
"We are the Yankees," Levine told ESPNNewYork.com Friday as he and the franchise coped with being eliminated at home in Game 5 of the ALDS by the Detroit Tigers. "That is the way The Boss set it up. When you don't win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year."
Levine said the Yankees are using Friday to reflect on the team's disappointment. When they return to go full throttle toward 2012, the first order of business will be to re-sign Yankees general Brian Cashman, something both Cashman and the team want.
"Hopefully, as I've said to you many times, we can get Cash done," Levine said. "And then he can start putting the team together."
If Cashman re-signs, then his first big decision is how to handle the opt-out clause in CC Sabathia's contract. Sabathia can forgo the final year of his seven-year, $161 million contract and become a free agent. Sabathia, 31, has four years and $92 million left on his current contract.
He said he has not made a decision yet, but it is hard to imagine he won't at least use the clause to either receive more money and/or years from the Yankees.
The Yankees have to figure how much more they want to invest in the portly left-hander, who has continually been among the league leaders in innings pitched. Levine declined to speculate on what the Yankees could offer Sabathia.
This past season, Jeter picked up hit No. 3,000 in dramatic fashion, and Rivera set the all-time saves record, but those feats did not ease the pain Levine feels from being eliminated.
"We had the best record in (the American League)," Levine said. "We had a lot of great moments between Jeter and Mariano. We had a very strong (97-win) regular season."
Levine said the late Steinbrenner drove the Yankees' win-or-else mentality, and while the franchise still has that as its mission statement, it may take a more measured approach to improving.
George Steinbrenner's son, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, also expressed disappointment over the end of the season and vowed to improve the team.
"I personally share in our fans' disappointment that this season has ended without a championship," Hal Steinbrenner said in a news release. "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 twenty-eighth championship to the Bronx. That work starts now."
One of the aspects Cashman has been most proud of since he gained more control of personnel decisions is the Yankees' patience.
The Yankees likely will look into the top free-agent pitcher, C.J. Wilson of the Rangers. They also could deal for a starter, but Cashman has been hesitant to give up his top prospects -- catcher/DH Jesus Montero, who figures to start next year in the majors, and minor league starters Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.
"It's way too early to even speculate, do anything or talk about anything," Levine said. "Nobody is talking about that today. Everybody is just reflecting on what took place. There is absolutely nothing today. The wound is too fresh."
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.