The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. First up, the New York Yankees.
Last night, the Yankees finally won a game in Anaheim but it was a Texas Rangers' loss earlier in the night that clinched at least a Wild Card entry. It's a nice reward for the team that suffered through a painful, year-long absence from the postseason. Derek Jeter likens the disappointing 2008 season to being a naughty boy:
"It's almost like you're a kid and your parents don't let you go out to play," Jeter said. "You're watching everyone outside the window because you're in trouble. That's what it felt like. Now we're off punishment and you can go back out there.
But despite the gold-embossed invitation to the playoffs, Derek and his pals aren't ready to relax and enjoy it:
"Our goal is always to win the division. You've got to clinch a spot, but our goal coming into the season was always to win the East. If we continue to play well, we've got a chance to do that. We've acknowledged the fact that we're in the postseason, but you don't celebrate yet."
The Yankees' magic number to clinch the AL East is six; with the Red Sox coming to Yankee Stadium this weekend, the race could be over as early as Sunday. But remember, these are the Yankees; even a division title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs will still prove to be disappointing to the jamooks without a World Series title.
Expectations in the postseason are always artificially high for super-successful teams in the regular season, not just the Yankees. Remember the 116-win Mariners from 2001? Remember the 111-win Indians of 1954? Remember the 104-win Braves back in 1993? Their fans expected a title and didn't get it because the short form of the playoffs are a crapshoot. But take the combined disappointment from those three teams and you still can't expect to impress a spoiled Yankee fan when their team falls short.
It's unfair and it's the reason people hate Yankees fans. Heck, it's the reason I hate Yankees fans too and I'm part of the problem. But maybe this year, Yankees fans will temper their expectations and appreciate the gift of postseason play.