If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. Despite winning last night, the Yankees have been eliminated from playoff contention. Despite having one of the eight best records in the majors, the Yankees have been eliminated from the playoffs. Despite having the second best road record in the AL, the Yankees have been eliminated from the playoffs. And despite being written off by every hackjob of a baseball writer every single month this year, the Yankees kindly waited until there were five days left in the season to give up the ghost.
Was 2008 a disappointment and a huge letdown to Yankees fans? No doubt, we're used to something a little bit more. Do the Yankees players feel like they underperformed? Probably, but they need not blame themselves on an individual basis. Regardless of what anyone tells you, the Yankees did not fall short because Robinson Cano waited until September to start hitting. The Yankees didn't fall short because Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy pitched like Langston Hughes and Ethel Kennedy. And no, the Yankees didn't fall short because Alex Rodriguez played like a human MVP instead of a supernatural MVP as we are used to.
Nope, the Yankees fell on their collective face as a team. They played well against the Bostons and the Tampa Bays of the world, but always seemed to play down to competition against the Baltimores and Cincinnatis. They never collected that big August winning streak that pushed them towards the postseason over the past 14 years. Worst of all, this guy showed up in 2008 which never seems to coincide with Yankee success.
Make no mistake, I'm not eulogizing the Yankee dynasty. I'll leave that to the blowhard bloggers and lunatic Lupicas of the world. They still might win 91 games this year, more than they won in their 2000 championship season and one shy of the 1996 team. They've got one of the best bullpens in baseball coming back next year and they'll hopefully collect a couple choice free agents. Besides, with the ability to spend $200 million a year on salaries in the last American major sport that retains a whiff of free-spending ownership, they'll continue to field contenders, like it or not.
New York will play out the regular season with pride. Getting Mike Mussina to that magical round number of wins and letting Alex Rodriguez swing away for a home run crown is nice, but we Yankee fans will still clutch our pillows imagining what could have been, had a few July games turned out differently. I'll actually wish good luck to the Red Sox and Rays, members of the winningest division in the Wild Card era. They outshone my favorite team.
Still: My heart is in the coffin there with my team, and I must pause till it come back to me.