Yankees' postseason absence 'weird'
Seeing Cathedral dark will be new experience for many
Vanessa Acevedo is a 17-year-old high school senior in Brooklyn who calls it "insanely weird."
Never in her entire lifetime has she been aware of a Major League Baseball postseason without her Yankees participating.
"Because of my age, I can't remember when the Yankees and the postseason haven't been synonymous. Right now it feels unfathomable," she said. "All Yankee fans are undoubtedly spoiled to have a team that has been able to play for it all for 13 seasons in a row, so not being there is insanely weird to a degree that I don't think can be explained."
The Yankees have just been mathematically eliminated with the Red Sox's 5-4 victory on Tuesday, and this is going to be a bit like explaining to any teenager today what life was like in 1993 -- the last time MLB staged a postseason without its most famous franchise.
Life was so different back then, practically antediluvian. In '93, a page on the so-called "World Wide Web" now could be viewed (slowly) with the newly introduced Mosaic Web browser, allowing a graphical interface, and maybe you were among the sparse few who had access to the technology and an appreciation for its possibility. There was no such thing as the Internet yet for the average person.
Consider this: The last time a postseason was played without the Yankees, it was the year a Democrat took over the White House for a Bush. The next time a postseason is played without the Yankees, it could be in the year a Democrat could take over the White House for a Bush. In '93, a governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton succeeded George H.W. Bush as president, and to this day Clinton remains the only Democrat in that office since Jimmy Carter lost the '80 race to Ronald Reagan.
In '93, the Yankees finished second in the American League East, seven games behind the Blue Jays, who proceeded to eliminate the White Sox and then beat the Phillies for Canada's second consecutive World Series championship. The next year was the strike, so there was no October in the national pastime, and then in '95, the Yankees became the first AL Wild Card entry after the postseason field was expanded. They never missed the playoffs after that, winning three Fall Classics in a row at one point.
A lot can change from 1993 to 2008
|Gallon of unleaded gas in U.S.||$1.05||$4.03|
|U.S. health care spending||$950 billion||$2 trillion|
|Overall MLB attendance||70.25 million||80 million (est.)|
|Median sales price of new homes sold in U.S||$125,000 (Oct.)||$230,700 (July)|
|Average MLB player salary||$1.3 million||$3.15 million|
|Average annual salary in U.S.||$23,132||$40,988|
|Colorado Rockies||Joined MLB||Reigning NL champs|
|First-class U.S. postage stamp||29 cents||42 cents|
The Yankees in the postseason was truly a fact of life, the only reality that you've ever known if you are in high school -- or for many even into their early 20s. The average baseball fan develops a real awareness of Major League Baseball and its meaning at some point during elementary school, often depending on region and accessibility to ballparks. There are so many fans out there now, like Acevedo, who are going to have to just experience what this is like, because really it is life. Stuff like this happens.
They just never expected it to happen to their team.
If you're 18, then you're about to be old enough to vote for the first time in your life. You're also about to be aware of postseason ball without The Pinstripes for the first time in your life. Insanely weird. No Derek Jeter to watch after the regular season. The thing about the Yankees is, they are extremely loved and extremely hated, never an in-between, a team that always has inspired intense emotions, and a team that Yankees fans expected to see when trees went through the changing of colors.
In '93, you didn't think of OJ Simpson as anything other than a former football hero and movie star. Someone bombed the North Tower of the World Trade Center that year, yet the landmarks remained seemingly invincible. Windows NT 3.1, the first version of Microsoft's line of Windows NT operating systems, was released to manufacturing -- well before the company's software turned Bill Gates into America's richest person.
Whitney Houston set the all-time record in March '93 when "I Will Always Love You" stayed at No. 1 on the singles chart for a 14th straight week. In '08, those words reverberate through time. Can you look at your favorite team and say the title of that song? Most fans probably can. It is just so much easier when your favorite team is in the playoffs for as long as you can possibly remember. The true test is when your team is one of 22 that go home after game No. 162. For many, it will be time to learn what that feels like, perhaps to more fully appreciate what it was like to be there.
Major League slice of life
|A snapshot of the top five leaders in various individual and team categories in baseball from 1995-2007.|
In '93, a movie called "Jurassic Park" made you look at dinosaurs differently and would gross nearly $1 billion worldwide. Steven Spielberg directed that one, and the same year brought his "Schindler's List" picture that would win him his first Oscar for Best Director. Bon Jovi was singing about a "Bed of Roses," the sound of grunge music rose up out of Seattle, and Prince changed his name to a symbol.
On Oct. 23 of that year, Joe Carter hit a Mitch Williams pitch over the left-field wall in the ninth inning at Toronto's SkyDome. Suddenly, Game 6 of the World Series was over. Suddenly, the whole baseball season was over. No one had hit a walkoff homer to win a Fall Classic since Bill Mazeroski did it in '60. It would be the last time that baseball held a postseason tournament and did not invite the Yankees.
So much is changing in the world of Yankees fans right now. Yankee Stadium, home to 26 world champions, is in its final hours. Sunday is the end of the homestand. Because there will be no Yankees postseason, that means The Stadium will go dark while the team plays out the regular season on the road, and then it will be left alone. The new Yankee Stadium will greet fans with the tentative home opener against Cleveland on April 16, 2009, and perhaps it will be the dawn of a new day of postseason baseball for those fans like Acevedo, who will somehow cope with reality soon.
She has a popular Yankee MLBlog called Flair for the Dramatic, a way to share her around-the-clock baseball passion like so many other fans today. It is hard to know what to write about these days. It will harder in October.
"Throughout the final weeks of the season I've joked about the Yankees' horrible failure this season on my blog, but I don't think the fact that the Yanks will not appear in October baseball this year has sunk in yet," Acevedo said. "Watching your team fail miserably is hard under any circumstances, but I think it's especially hard when you've been able to count on them time and time again without even thinking about the possibility that they won't succeed.
"I think the only way I, and other Yankee fans, can deal with it is by giving credit where credit is due and tipping our caps to the Rays for stepping up the competition. They gave the Yankee fans a real wakeup call this season that the postseason is not a lock, and the Yanks will have to do better in '09."
Having to wait till next year before a postseason pitch is thrown is just so different. This is what it was like in '93, when a Yankee fan rooted for guys like Don Mattingly and Jimmy Key and then stood by in the playoffs, unsure whom to support. Do you root for Joe Torre to have a big October as the Dodgers' new manager? Do you get behind a Mets team that you rooted so hard against in the Subway Series? Do you root for the Rays at this point, just because you hate the Red Sox so much?
What you really want to think about is when and where the Yankees will be opening their upcoming AL Division Series. But it's not going to happen.
In '93, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas was about $1.05. Today, it is almost four times that.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.