Win or lose in October (during the precious MLB Postseason), enjoy the ride the New York Yankees have put us on in 2018.
To the “long-suffering” Yankee fan of the 21st century:
On the night of Sunday, Nov. 4, 2001, the New York Yankees managed one of the most monumental losses of my young sports-following career to that point, with the vaunted Mariano Rivera coughing up a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, capped off by a Luis Gonzalez bloop single with the infield drawn in, giving Arizona, behind the monumental efforts of co-MVPs Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, its first ever title with a 3-2 victory.
Despite President Bush’s iconic ceremonial first pitch, Derek Jeter’s ushering baseball into its first ever playoff November with a walk-off win, several key blown saves by Byung-Hyun Kim in Games 4 and 5 of the Series, or the city of New York rallying around the pinstripes after the events of 9/11, the Yankees could not muster a victory, which would have been their fifth title in six years. ESPN’s Buster Olney, then a Yankees beat writer with the New York Times, coined that Game 7 “the last night of the Yankee dynasty,” which Olney chronicled in a book by the same title.
Given the magnitude of that Series loss, fresh off the devastation of 9/11, I, at nineteen years old, was completely, utterly, and irrevocably devastated. I honestly believed I would never recover.
How foolish was I?
As was custom between us after every single Yankees’ postseason game when I attended Kutztown University, especially in triumph, likely with Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blaring from my computer, my mother called me immediately after the loss. She could tell I was distraught.
I could further discern my father was listening in because he throttled the receiver from my mom and administered some great, sagely advice in just the timely, opportune way he always has:
“How many World Series did the Yanks just recently win? Four? And you’re acting like this!?!? You do realize that Red Sox and Cubs fans were born, lived a full life, and died as great-grandparents, never having seen their team win. You saw the Yanks win four of five. GET OVER IT!”
The counsel served as a Calogero moment for me: I knew then never to take a loss so seriously, given what I had already experienced as a diehard Yankees fan (thanks, Mom!) and would yet experience to this day, especially with two Aaron Judge-loving sons such as my own to coerce into fandom.
The despairing reality of every season roots itself in the notion that only one team is crowned champion at season’s end. That leaves the fanbases of 29 other franchises feeling empty and listless, pining over those “what if” moments of the season before, right up until pitchers and catchers report the following spring, likely to be crestfallen again only eight months later, just as most Yankee fans have been doing since 2010.
From having engaged in Yankees Twitter rather prominently the last three years, I have encountered a rabid band of fans who live and die with this team, attributing moods both sour and jubilant to the Yankees’ performance, an exercise in attrition given the length and breadth of a 162-game season. I love interacting with these fans, especially in the more euphoric times. But the passionate, reactionary quagmire that spawns from a Yankee loss can often times be too much to endure.
My advice to those fans is similar to what my father spoke into my life seventeen years ago:
Get over it.
Savor the ride.
In 2018, the Yankees won a 100 games without their best player (Judge) for over forty contests.
A hundred wins with injuries to Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez for long spells.
A hundred wins with Giancarlo Stanton and Greg Bird slumping and Luis Severino disengaging from his Ron Guidry-like efforts before the All-Star break.
A hundred wins with the bullpen in a state of disarray and constant shuffling.
A hundred wins despite having no clue until Tuesday who the Wild Card starter was going to be from a rotation of several question marks.
A hundred wins in Aaron Boone’s inaugural, up-and-down campaign as Yankee manager.
With Luke Voit’s final regular season blast, the Yankees ended the season with 267 home runs, the most in major league history, with the Yankees having taken four of their last six against Boston to close out the season.
Speaking of Voit, he is evidence that Brian Cashman is a bonafide dynamo as general manager, landing the former Cardinals’ prospect for the price of Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Not to mention how he landed Game 1’s starter in Fenway (J.A. Happ, undefeated in pinstripes with stellar numbers against Boston in his career) for damaged goods (Brandon Drury) and a middling prospect (Billy McKinney) blocked at the major league level. Voit, on many occasions, has been the team’s Roy Hobbs-like savior, echoed by the work of Neil Walker, whom Yankee Twitter wanted to banish in May and June, a mainstay in the lineup amidst Bird’s slumps and Torres’s injury.
Speaking of Torres, he, along with Miguel Andujar, is one of two American League Rookie of the Year candidates in pinstripes, a remarkable prospect, considering his return from Tommy John surgery last season and Andujar’s being blocked by Drury at third base to start the season.
Because of Torres, the Yankees became the only team ever to field a lineup in which 20 home runs were produced in all slots, one through nine.
Because of Andujar, the Yankees enjoyed an extra-base hit slugger who eclipsed a Yankee rookie record with 47 doubles on the season, one short of the major league rookie mark held by Fred Lynn.
In what is likely their last seasons in pinstripes, Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia illustrated grit beyond measure, the latter depriving himself of a $500,000 bonus in defense of Austin Romine, spawning the “That’s for you, bitch,” mantra equivalent to Todd Frazier’s thumbs-down salute last year that started in a rescheduled game at Citi Field (ironically, both of those moments came against the Tampa Bay Rays).
But above all else, consider:
The last time New York played Boston in the playoffs, they were manhandled in four games after taking a 3-0 series lead in the 2004 ALCS, a comeback that exorcised 86 years of futility when the Red Sox won four more in a row to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Since 2004, the Sox have won three titles to the Yankees’ one, and despite their world-beater offense in 2018, they enter Game 1 of the ALDS with ace Chris Sale, who has pitched only 17 innings in the past two months, not having lasted longer than 7 innings in a start since July 11 (don’t forget his ghastly postseason ERA). They follow Sale with David Price (0-8 with a 5.74 postseason ERA in 9 starts) and Rick Porcello (0-2 with a 5.85 ERA) to compete against a Yankee lineup that enters October on a relative hot streak.
And if the spirit of revenge is not enough for them, the Yankees should be hungry after their crushing loss in last year’s ALCS against the Houston Astros, their likely opponent in the championship series should they advance past Boston.
After 14 years of licking their wounds, the Yankees reignite an October rivalry in which momentum is prime for the taking.
Win or lose, the Yankees are vastly ahead of schedule from the prognosis of 2019 being the year that they were to have ultimately competed for a title. These past two seasons have provided thrilling theater to supplement our memory banks that are already teeming with lore and mystique, crafting an “echo of glory” even despite defeat, as Tottenham legend Bill Nicholson firmly believed of his Spurs (see the 1995 ALDS and the 2001 World Series of as proof of some of the greatest playoff series ever played in Yankee history, even on the losing end).
In short, the Yankees will provide us thrills to perpetuate the good vibes of last season’s October run. They already started the postseason off with a bang against Oakland.
Now, Boston awaits.
Best wishes, a fellow “long-suffering” Yankee fan.