The New York Yankees begin their postseason Tuesday night against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. It’s a do-or-die playoff play-in, with the winner headed to Kansas City to play the Royals in the divisional round.
And as a Yankees fan, I have to admit: I don’t want it to happen. Not this year. Because The New York Yankees don’t deserve it. Because the “quest” -- or really, the hope and prayer -- for a 28th World Series championship rests on the shoulders of one man more than any other.
Ladies and gentlemen, 40-year-old Alex Rodriguez is the player the Yankees are counting on to inspire a World Series victory. With lefty power bopper Mark Teixeira out with a mysterious leg fracture and the rest of the Yankees’ heavily left-handed lineup slumping, the team is, by sheer necessity, arguably more dependent on Rodriguez’s bat now than at any other point during his Yankees career. And that is super, super crappy.
Imagine this nightmare scenario: In the Yankees’ first year without retired captain Derek Jeter, the team is lifted by Rodriguez to a World Series. It would be the ultimate vindication for Rodriguez on many different levels. On a personal level, he’d win his second World Series title, but this one would happen without Jeter, his longtime frenemy, hanging over his shoulder. The pair won a World Series together in 2009, which was also the Yankees’ last title.
On a more egotistical, individual legacy-related trip, Rodriguez capping off his 2015 resurgence with a championship would absolutely stick it to Major League Baseball and the Yankees, who’ve tried in recent years to rid themselves of what’s remaining of his $252 million contract albatross.
Remember, this is a league that saw former commissioner Bug Selig nearly ban Rodriguez for life in 2013 before deciding to suspend him for the entire 2014 season over yet another PED-related scandal. He’s been wrapped up in a few of those too, swapping out denials for confessions of use from 2001 to 2003 and again from 2010 to 2012 when caught at every turn. Whether it’s regarding PEDs, his failed marriage full of his own infidelity, or his 2013 injury rehabilitation, Rodriguez has been a compulsive liar. Let’s not support this man.
His Yankees contract runs through 2017, but just this year, let’s not give Rodriguez the satisfaction of overcoming so much in championship fashion. Not when he’s played such a pivotal role in the team.
Granted, it’s remarkable that after spending 588 days between MLB games, he was able to mash 30 home runs and lead the Yankees’ home-run dependent offense to a playoff spot. On a team with an opening day payroll of over $219,000,000, their most expensive player was expected to produce very little, but he ended up saving the Yankees’ season. Let’s end that season early. This team is full of themselves.
Even outside of Rodriguez, and however he's viewed, the Yankees don’t make for a compelling World Series contender. Performance-wise, they’re slumping into the postseason, having lost six of their last seven to end the season 29-31 since the start of August. CC Sabathia, who rebounded from a poor first half of the season to pitch strong and stable innings in August and September, will miss the entire postseason after checking into an alcohol rehab center. The Yankees appear to have arrived at the playoffs’ door dead in the water, and that’s just fine -- there are plenty more exciting, deserving teams in the playoffs.
For what feels like the first time this century, the Yankees don’t matter so much in MLB. In the mid-2000s, the baseball world seemed to revolve around Red Sox-Yankees matchups, with their bench-clearing brawls, glove-slapping scandals and bloody foul ball catches inflaming the rivalry and its drama to new heights.
The Yankees and Red Sox don’t rule MLB anymore, much less the American League or the AL East. And that’s a good thing! MLB is one of the few major sports leagues that doesn’t have a salary cap, volumizing concerns about league parity when teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers wield seemingly blank checkbooks.
This year, however, upstart teams that have been so bad for so long -- like the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays -- are serious pennant contenders, and are far more deserving. The Blue Jays languished behind the Yankees and Red Sox for nearly two decades before capturing the AL East this season behind MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. League-wide, the gap between perennial cellar-dwellers and the championship-level teams is shrinking.
More than ever, MLB has many, many good teams to celebrate, like the Yankees’ Tuesday opponent, the Astros, who actually lost 92 games last year. And before that, they endured three-straight 100 loss seasons.
After switching into the American League from the National League, they’re back in the postseason with their first winning record since 2008. In some ways, they’re this year’s anti-Yankees, boasting the second-lowest payroll in the game and winning through a long-term strategy that’s paying dividends earlier than anyone expected. Isn’t that exciting? Let’s. Go. Astros!
This postseason, the Yankees are decidedly the No. 2 baseball interest in New York. The Mets, playing the lovable loser who’s somehow found a winning way, have captivated New Yorkers more than the Yankees’ prescription of pitching, power and A-Rod. When the Yankees are losing out to the Mets in their own city, perhaps it’s an environmental sign that this year shouldn’t be the year for No. 28. In the playoffs, the will of the city can matter just as much as the players themselves. After all, playoff baseball is, as Oakland A’s VP Billy Beane once surmised, a complete crapshoot.
Here’s hoping that the Yankees roll off the table.
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