Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Say it ain't so, Bombers...

Apparently 200 million dollars doesn't buy a good sense of timing.

Of all the years that the New York Yankees could have failed to reach the post-season (which they have not failed to do since 1993 - not counting the strike in '94), they have abruptly tanked in 2008...

The final year at Yankee Stadium.

There will be no October at the House That Ruth Built this year, unlike the last 13 years - no fitting sendoff to arguably (read = indisputably) the most fabled sports venue since Rome's Colosseum.

It doesn't take much for me to imagine the Babe's ghost drowning his sorrows with DiMaggio's while Mickey Mantle's tends bar and Bobby Murcer's just shakes his head.

Yesterday, Derek Jeter surpassed Lou Gehrig's record of hits at Yankee Stadium, a record that will now stand for all-time (for Yankee Stadium purists, at least). The Yankees still lost the game, however... which is the bigger point. That they won today is now irrelevant (except for a 9-year old I know that was actually there... his teacher is severely jealous, and wants to remind him to finish his homework while on the subway).

Which leads us to the Blame Game - who is responsible for this disastrous finale to the season?

Joe Girardi? Not so much. The brothers Steinbrenner will be holding on to him - despite no October, he played no small part in keeping his team in the hunt in what has become a very tough division (thank you very much, Tampa Bay).

All the injuries? That's the Yankees' own excuse, and to be sure, it was a factor this season. Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain... and that's just in pitching. Hideki Matsui was sorely missed at the plate, not to mention Johnny Damon (briefly) and Jorge Posada.

Then there's Alex Rodriguez... he may as well have been injured, considering that he and his big bat didn't show up when the Bombers (whose nickname now seems ironic) needed him the most. Break the Mick's and Ruth's records all you like, A-Rod, but you damn well better get the clutch plays if you're going to don the pinstripes. Going 0-5 and making $158 K while doing so is inexcusable. The litany of boos you've heard at Yankee Stadium is just a foretaste of what is to come next season if you play like Dan Uggla at the All-Star Game.

But I digress - as easy (and satisfying) as it is to make A-Rod the fall guy, it doesn't paint a complete picture... even if Billy Crystal could have done a better job, for cheaper.

The Yankees are a team - the greatest team in the history of sports, I daresay. They succeed as a team, and they fail as a team. In 2008, they failed as a team. I'm tempted to name the entire roster for effect, but I'd just be doing it out of extreme (and reactionary) bitterness - bitterness over the fact that Yankee Stadium shuts its doors this Sunday, September 21, and not sometime in October. The issue is not fair-weatheredness on my part - the issue is the final legacy of Baseball's Cathedral. It should not end like this.

There are just 4 home games left, against the AL Central leaders the Chicago White Sox (tomorrow) and the very-much-done Baltimore Orioles. Will Dave Trembley graciously throw the game out of respect? Should I even have to question the Yankees' ability to win the last game at Yankee Stadium? (Will there be mass suicide across the five boroughs - nay, the entire country - if the Orioles win?)

September 21 (a day that shall live in infamy...) is followed by another meaningless series on the road in Toronto, and a never-ever-ever-meaningless road series against the Boston Red Sox... in which New York has been ingloriously reduced to the role of spoiler.


Come October, the only for-sures, other than no Yankee Stadium, are the L.A. Angels in the AL, and (99.9% sure) the Chicago Cubs in the NL. New York's other team is on pace for a 2nd-straight September collapse (it's also the final year at Shea Stadium, but - honestly - no one cares), and Tampa and Boston will fight it out to be the AL East champ, while the other will most likely have to "settle" for the wild card. Too bad the Angels are going to smoke the wild card, because seeing the Rays and the Sox duke it out in October like they do the rest of the year would be something to munch popcorn to... assuming the Rays win, of course.

Prediction - Angels vs. Cubs in the World Series. Chicago vs. Chicago would be fun = either the end of the Curse of the Goat, or Ken Griffey, Jr. finally gets his ring. Of course, I'm all for Ken Griffey on that one - there's always next year, Cubbies.

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