Even though they saw it coming, many in baseball were still taken aback by the reality when it finally hit. For the first time since Joe Carter took Mitch Williams deep, baseball will contest a postseason without the New York Yankees.
Elimination came on Tuesday night, two days after the Yanks bid their venerable ballpark farewell. New York had played in 13 consecutive Octobers, going back to 1995. With no playoffs in '94, the last time baseball's playoffs didn't include the Bronx Bombers was 1993.
In '93, Curt Schilling was a Phillie. Danny Tartabull led that Yankees team in home runs and RBIs, Bernie Williams was a full-time starter for the first time and Paul O'Neill had just been acquired from the Reds. Ever since, the Yanks have been a constant, so it's strange to see them sitting home.
"I was a part of it for eight years," said Don Zimmer, long a member of manager Joe Torre's Yankees staff and now an adviser with the Rays -- whose ascendance helped contribute to the Yanks' fall.
"You know, you always want to beat someone. I don't know how to say it. I don't feel happy that the Yankees are out of the playoffs. We're in it. That's the most important thing. And that's the way I feel. Unfortunately, [manager] Joe Girardi, who is a very dear friend of mine, goes over there and just happens to get there at the wrong time. I'm sure that you'll probably see the Yankees back in the race next year."
Zimmer's last contention was the one repeated again and again. Few people believe that pinstripes will be out of the picture for long.
Thirteen stellar summers
|The Yankees' year-by-year records and postseason results from their 13-season run as playoff participants:|
|2007||94-68||Lost to Indians in ALDS|
|2006||97-65||Lost to Tigers in ALDS|
|2005||95-67||Lost to Angels in ALDS|
|2004||101-61||Lost to Red Sox in ALCS|
|2003||101-61||Lost to Marlins in World Series|
|2002||103-58||Lost to Angels in ALDS|
|2001||95-65||Lost to D-backs in World Series|
|2000||87-74||Beat Mets in World Series|
|1999||98-64||Beat Braves in World Series|
|1998||114-48||Beat Padres in World Series|
|1997||96-66||Lost to Indians in ALDS|
|1996||92-70||Beat Braves in World Series|
|1995||79-65||Lost to Mariners in ALDS|
"It was an incredible run, no doubt about it, and I'm sure they'll be back real strong next year," said A's manager Bob Geren, who caught for the Yankees from 1988-91. "[General manager] Brian Cashman and his staff over there have done a great job."
In 13 seasons, the Yankees won 10 division titles and three times were the Wild Card winner in the American League. They took six pennants and won the World Series four times. Only the Braves, with 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, had a longer streak.
"I think their level of success is a testament to the organization," said Arizona's Tony Clark, who played for the Yankees in 2004. "It's a testament to the players, it's a testament to the management and the level of excellence that they've established for themselves. I think that's why it's a big discussion this year when the wins and losses have dictated that that run has come to a halt.
"I know the players that they have know the standard that the organization strives for every year will not change. I think this says a lot about the other teams in the American League -- specifically the Rays. That being said, I fully expect them to put on their hard hats and come back to work next year with the same expectations they've always had and that's to be the last team standing at the end."
The Yankees spent much of the season in third place, though they've been far from a bad team. It looked like something of a transitional year from the start, as New York tries to move to a more sustainable, internally-fueled system of roster management.
Still, this was one team that seemed like the equivalent of college football's great powers. The Yanks don't rebuild, they reload. Except that this year, they didn't have quite enough ammo.
"Going into the season, I think the team looked really good," said Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, dealt from the Yanks to Pittsburgh at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July. "The streak was almost certainly going to end at some point, but I'm sure everyone is disappointed that it ended this year, especially with this being the last year at the stadium. I know going into the year, we all had big hopes to go out on a high note along with the stadium."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.