October classic

Somewhere in the midst of a seemingly endless rotation of either Pearl Jam’s “Vs.” or Phish’s “Rift” on a college campus in the fall of 1993, the following also occurred:

  • The world was introduced to Conan O’Brien. And Ricki Lake.
  • China broke a nuclear test moratorium
  • Michael Jordan retired. The first time.
  • “The X-Files,” “Frasier,” and “Saved by the Bell: The College Years,” all made their television debuts.
  • David Gordon became the most famous kicker in New England history. Until that Vinatieri guy.
  • Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera joined the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club.
  • The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs.

It’s been 15 years since the last time we could say that – 14 to be fair seeing as nobody made the playoffs in 1994, but since when was this about being fair? For the first time since Buck Showalter was at the helm, Red Sox Hall of Famer Wade Boggs manned third, and Andy Stankiewicz’s name summed up all there was to say about the Yankees, New York’s premier baseball team won’t be playing past September.
Derek Jeter was in Single-A Greensboro, his future position kept warm by Spike Owen. Alex Rodriguez had just been drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Mariners. And the 88-74 Yankees, with the third-best record in the American League, failed to make the postseason, though they would have under today’s divisional structure.
This is how long it has been. The last time the Yankees didn’t make the postseason, baseball didn’t even employ the wild card. Danny Tartabull was their highest-paid player, making just over $5 million. Today, A-Rod makes more than five times that amount.
The names on that ’93 squad only further illustrate the long run the Yankees have enjoyed. Frank Tanana. Jim Abbott. Lee Smith. Hensley Meulens. Bernie Williams was a 24-year-old in his third professional season. Paul O’Neil was in his first season with the club, acquired from the Reds the previous offseason.
Fifteen years, thirteen straight playoff appearances, 10 division titles, six AL pennants, and four World Series titles. Quite a run.
But in 2008, the Yankees are done. Fin. – 30 -.
The 1993 Yankees finished seven games behind the Blue Jays, who would go on to win the World Series behind Joe Carter’s home run off Mitch Williams. It’s still TBD for this year’s edition, but a seven-game deficit wouldn’t look so bad right about now. Last night’s humbling loss to the Red Sox dropped the Yankees 10 ½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. They are seven games behind Boston in the hunt for the wild card, with 30 games remaining. Sayanora.
But while we take a second but to shed yet another pointless tear for the end of Yankee Stadium (really, now), and moan about the injustice that is this year’s Yankee team in saying goodbye to a concrete building, we have to wonder if this isn’t more apropos.
That’s not a shot, mind you, but a respect for legacy. After all, with nothing to play for the next four weeks, Yankee fans will be able to celebrate the past without worrying about the current state of affairs and the prospects of yet another first-round loss. They can’t all go out like Foxboro Stadium, a building that contained a millimeter of the history that the one in the Bronx possesses.
For everyone else, of course, the joy is a bit tempered. While the Yankees won’t sniff October, it gives them nothing better to do but to celebrate their past, a tradition that includes letting everybody else know about it. By the time they’re done, we might have a “Yankeeography: Scott Kamieniecki” to look forward to.
Meanwhile, as the defending champion Red Sox continue to hammer the finishing touches into their historic rivals, in their soon-to-be-demolished building, the always-awful Rays are still on top and the loveable loser Cubs have the best record in baseball.
And the Yankees, they’re out.
They are in the Rearviewmirror, Silent in the Morning.
In 2008, the Yankees are fighting for third place, with their eyes set on an uncertain future in a game where checkbook no longer primarily determines optimum outcome.
A lot has changed in the game over the past 15 years, but what we’ve seen just over the past few years and months has to suggest that runs like those of the Braves and the Yankees might be things of the past. Parity is growing, and the difference between the haves and the have nots is shrinking.
That won’t stop them from spending like crazy in the offseason. It also won’t help them in 2008, the year the Yankees’ modern run came to a halt. From grunge to the Jonas Bros. Clinton’s first term to Bush’s second. The birth of the World Wide Web to the death of newspapers.
See you in ’09.


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