Posted by Chip Stevenson
While they aren't officially eliminated from the postseason just yet, it is almost as certain as the Lions winning tomorrow that the New York Yankees will miss the playoffs this year. You'd have to go all the way back to 1994 to remember a time when Derek Jeter and his boys sat at home in October.
A lot of things have changed since 1994. The top song that year was the immortal "The Sign" by Ace of Base, Bill Clinton was President and Monica Lewinsky and her stained dress hadn't come into the picture yet, and Forrest Gump won Best Picture in a huge upset over The Lion King, which also was released that year.
Ever since that year though, the Yankees have been a mainstay in October baseball. Their tremendous success (4 World Series Championships since 1994 and 6 World Series Appearances), huge payroll ($207 million) and almost joyless attitude often rubbed people the wrong way as the team quickly cemented its status as the evil empire. Visions of Scott Brosius jumping up and down in jubilation, Paul O'Neill screaming at himself after a strikeout, and Derek Jeter doing his patented jump throw across the diamond often gave baseball fans around the country nightmares, and I'm sure many people are happy that 2008 will finally be the year when the Yankees sit at home and watch other teams enjoy success. However, I am certainly not one of them.
For as long as I can remember, the Yankees have been the epitome of success. I wasn't quite old enough to appreciate baseball before 1994 so every single year of my baseball fandom has included a Yankees playoff appearance. While I definitely do not consider myself a Yankee fan, their aura of success was always something to envy and something that every team strove to overcome. Like Iceland in D2: The Mighty Ducks, which fittingly also came out in 1994, the Yankees were the team that everyone tried to beat.
Ultimately, having a playoffs without the Yankees is like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the jelly. Yea, the peanut butter still makes for some tasty bites but is it really satisfying if there is no jelly along with it? The Yankees have always lent a sense of legitimacy to October baseball, and now that they'll be sitting at home in October, the playoffs just wont be the same.
Golf is going through this same problem right now- Tiger Woods is hurt and hasn't played for most of the PGA season. Other, less popular golfers are finally getting their shot at some of the most prestigious golf championships in the world but there is this sense of illegitimacy that surrounds each and every tournament: would they really be winning these things if Tiger was playing? I'm afraid that the same feeling will be all over the playoffs this year without the Yankees there.
Look, I'm definitely happy for the Tampa Bay Rays and all of the rest of the playoff teams. It has been a fun year filled with a lot of great games and great stories, but good luck to whoever wins the World Series at trying to impress me when the Yankees are not involved. Someone wake me up when next season starts.