Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Back Pages

We say this every morning in the form of the typical greeting, but today truly is a good morning, Fackers. The Yankees clinched their first playoff berth under Joe Girardi. Sure it had been a virtual inevitability for a good month or so, but it feels a lot different now that it's locked up. It didn't hurt that they won a back and forth game against a potential postseason opponent to do their part of it, either.

The Yankees did it the right way, and didn't go for the over-the-top champagne celebration, or really any celebration at all, actually. Joe Girardi gathered the team and simply said "Congratulations, and let's keep it going". He acted like he had been there before, even though he hadn't as a manager. You've gotta respect that.

Make no mistake, the reason that this is even remotely satisfying as fans is because of last year. Had the Yankees just clinched their 15 consecutive postseason berth, no one would have batted an eyelash. In '08, I remember watching the odds of the Yankees qualifying the playoffs dwindle down to 10 and then 5 percent and trying to talk myself into believing that a miraculous late surge, coupled with a Rays' collapse was in store. Needless to say, it was not.

A lot of the post season magic and luster was lost in 2004, but it wasn't until last year that the Yanks truly hit rock bottom. Simply playing out the string last September and watching the Old Stadium close down was humbling in ways that I didn't expect.

I think before that, most Yankee fans, especially my age, thought of a playoff bid as something of a birthright. The last time they actually missed the playoffs before '08 was 1993 (they were the best team in the AL in 1994 before the strike hit). I was 9 years old at that point and obviously wasn't yet a Saturday Package holder and a daily reader of Yankee blogs.

This year, it seems like a new experience. The twenty four months that have passed since the Yanks lost the Bug Game and were unceremoniously bounced three nights later by the Indians is an eternity in baseball years. The Yanks might not want to stop to enjoy this moment, but we will, at least momentarily. There are bigger and better things in store for this team, but the significance of this moment is not lost around these parts.


  1. Well said.

    I remember being in high school in the early nineties and being excited when the Yankees actually finished a season above .500 for a change. When they first returned to the playoffs in 1995, there was a freaking buzz in the air. Everyone was on cloud nine and we lived and died with every pitch that October.

    To this day I still curse the name of Joey Cora and swear that he was outside the baseline...

    But anyway, as the years passed, the act of simply making the playoffs became less and less exciting. We belonged there and our expectations became more and more lofty.

    I think we needed 2008. We needed a clean break from the great dynasty and a clean start for a new run. It's tough - hell, count how many times Fox mentions the 'Old Guard' while showing Jeter, Mo, Andy, and Posada - but we need to embrace this as a new team going forward and not the old team trying to reclaim glory. We need to be excited just being in October again. The stadium and the team need that energy again.

    I'm very interested in seeing how Girardi handles the team in the final games of the regular season. Under Torre, the Yankees almost always limped across the finish line in September when they had relatively large leads (even in 1998!). I can forgive this year's stumbling, just as long as the team is ready to go again against Verlander and company.

  2. I'm not trying to nitpick, Smitty. But while the 1998 Yanks "only" went 16-11 in September ("only" used because the team was rolling so much during the season), it won the last seven games heading into the playoffs. They struggled a bit that month from injuries, and resting some players, but had a good head of steam right before the playoffs to reinforce all they had done during the season.

    I am very excited about what the team is doing right now, and for their prospects in October. If the Yanks get good pitching, they will go far. It all revolves around that, and this year's team, while having some struggles in the rotation, also has an established ace in C.C., and good strikeout pitchers, to improve their chances from recent years.