Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

The end of the world as we know it...maybe even the universe

I am a proud, lifelong New York Yankees fan (since 1959, the year I discovered baseball; I was 4). For my entire life, it has been article of faith that the Boston Red Sox had not won the World Series since 1918 and would never win it again. They still have not, but this year has to be considered their best chance since Bob Stanley threw the wild pitch that permitted Kevin Mitchell to score the tying run in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series with the Red Sox up 3 games to 2 and leading in that game with 2 outs and 2 strikes on Mookie Wilson (people usually forget that the game was tied when Bill Buckner let Wilson's little dribbler of a ground ball get through his legs at first to permit Ray Knight to score the winning run).

In any case, last night the Red Sox defeated my Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to cap off the greatest comeback (and greatest collapse) in American sports history. They have to be considered the favorites to win the World Series this year, ending the so-called "Curse." As of this writing, it has not yet been determined who they will face, the Cards or the Astros (Game 7 of their series is tonight).

I congratulate the Red Sox and their fans, but I won't be rooting for them. There's still slight hope for Yankees fans.

In any case, all over the Internet today, fans of every other team but the Yankees are celebrating. I understand this. The Yankees have won so many times, and are so rich and seemingly arrogant, that there is a natural tendency to crow when they are finally overcome. As a Yankee fan, I'm distraught at their collapse; after they pounded the Red Sox 19-8 Saturday night, who could have foreseen this? But, what the hell, it wasn't me out there on the field losing 4 straight - just as it wasn't Red Sox out there winning 4 straight. I never crow when the Yankees win - I celebrate, but without any indecent triumphalism (even in 2000, when they beat the Mets) - so I won't be hanging my head now that they have been taken down. In fact, I'll hold my head higher than ever.

What the Yankees have accomplished since 1995 is quite simply amazing (sorry, Mets fans, that word now belongs to us). Ten straight appearances in the playoffs (okay, the Braves have 13). Seven straight division crowns. Six American League pennants, four World Championships, including 3 straight from 1998 to 2000. The best run in my memory.

It's probably over now. This team was not built for the long run, the pitching is very suspect, and there's nothing in the farm system. George can go out and buy some help, run the payroll to $200 million or $225 million or even $250 million (and, in the process, generating tens of millions of dollars in luxury tax payments to the other teams, something their fans never remember or thank us for). But it's not going to work much anymore. At some point, he and Yankee fans are just going to have to accept a few down years while we rebuild. It can be done. This past run was mostly fueled by homegrown Yankees such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, and Jorge Posada. Even the imports came mostly in trades for Yankee prospects (Tino Martinez, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez). The past few years have seen a number of high-priced free agent signings, but they have not, for the most part, been as impressive as hoped for.

It's time to start over. We can't complain. We've had it the best of any team, and now an era is about to end. Bernie Williams is mostly done. I don't think we can expect the kind of year out of Gary Sheffield next season that we got in 2004. A-Rod will probably do better. It's anyone's guess if Giambi will ever be the kind of player in New York he was in Oakland. Derek Jeter will be Derek Jeter. Mariano Rivera will be Mariano Rivera (although, Game 4 up in Boston...damn!)

The pitching is a nightmare. We have no reliable starters, no real aces. Mike Mussina is very good but not great. Jon Lieber and Javier Vasquez are inconsistent. Kevin Brown is 40. Other than Mo, the pen is shaky. There's nothing in the farm system.

It's time for Yankee fans to swallow hard and accept a few down years. It happens, eventually, to every great team. We've been through it before, if you're old enough to remember 1965-75 and 1982-93. We'll survive. The attendance may drop (it almost has to), but true Yankee fans will still come out. It's not like I expect the team to sink to the bottom of the AL East, but we may have to struggle for a wild card slot.

I'm not happy today, but this is not as bad as 1995 or 1997. I've been so ecstatic since 1996, I can put up with the disappointment. The Yankees are still the greatest sports franchise in the history of the country. I will wear my dark blue cap with the interlocking N and Y with as much pride as I ever have. As a guy on the Yankee mailing list says after every Yankee win, life is good!

Even if the universe is about to end.
Comments:
Well said. If we Yankee loyals want to see the team prosper for years to come, we will just have to accept that some team building is necessary. You just put it more eloquantly than anyone else could have, I think! Bravo, and Yankee Fan who is also a Mac fan. Wahoo!
 
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Comments: "
Well said. If we Yankee loyals want to see the team prosper for years to come, we will just have to accept that some team building is necessary. You just put it more eloquantly than anyone else could have, I think! Bravo, and Yankee Fan who is also a Mac fan. Wahoo!
 
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