Try, Yankee fans. I know it is hard. You see the payroll. You know the history. You set the expectations.
But try — at least before the first pitch Monday of a Division Series against the Rays — to appreciate being in even an expanded playoffs. Cherish winning a round. Really, none of this is guaranteed. Look around at the rest of your New York sports teams. Take note of who isn’t in the playoffs — and even who is.
It should inform that navigating into October should not be taken for granted. Advancing should be prized. How many fan bases — including in New York for most of its other teams — would love even a playoff loss at this point.
I know it is championship or bust with this organization, and 2009 is forever in Yankee years since the last title. But among MLB’s final eight, it is the second-most recent. And the Astros’ 2017 title comes with as big an asterisk as anything that will emerge from a 60-game season.
The Padres and Rays have never won a title. The Dodgers have spent billions, but still don’t have a ring since Kirk Gibson gimped around the bases in 1988. The A’s haven’t won since they were Sandy Alderson’s A’s in 1990. The Braves since 1995. The Marlins not since beating the Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
Consider that before this year, the Marlins had not even been to the playoffs since that 2003 campaign. The Padres since 2006. The White Sox since 2008. The Reds since 2013.
But wasn’t this the season in which every team made the expanded playoffs?
The Mets, Angels, Phillies, Rangers and Rockies all thought they could and should make a 16-team field. None did. The Angels and Phillies already have fired their GMs because of it. The Angels have had Mike Trout for a decade yet have made the postseason once and haven’t advanced since 2009, the year Trout was drafted out of Millville Senior High School.
The Phillies have guaranteed $705 million in free-agent contracts the past three offseasons (think Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Zack Wheeler, etc.) and traded for J.T. Realmuto. However, the two key players dealt for Realmuto — Jorge Alfaro and Sixto Sanchez — have now both played in the playoffs with the Marlins and Realmuto, about to become a free agent, hasn’t. Instead, the Phillies have MLB’s second-longest postseason drought, dating to 2011.
Unlike the Angels and Phillies, the Mets have not dismissed their general manager — yet. Brodie Van Wagenen expended plenty of money and prospects the past two years, and nevertheless the Mets have not made the playoffs since 2016. Their 2015 trip to the World Series represents the only time they have won playoff rounds since 2006.
By comparison, that is generally good locally. The Knicks have won one playoff series in the 2000s (the 2012-13 season) and are working out with yet another new coach, Tom Thibodeau — for that is what NBA losers are allowed to do as a team right now. The Giants haven’t advanced in a playoff round since the winter of 2012, en route to winning the Super Bowl. The Jets not since January 2010. Those teams are currently more a comedy duo than anything close to NFL competence.
Don’t pooh-pooh winning rounds. The Twins have lost eight straight postseason series. They have lost 18 straight playoff games — a record for the four major North American team sports, including twice this season to the Astros. That allowed Dusty Baker to end a six-series losing streak as a manager, in which he lost 10 straight games with a chance to clinch.
Before advancing this year, the A’s had lost 12 of 13 series since their 1990 title — the only win against the Twins in 2006. The A’s eliminated the White Sox, who still have not advanced since winning it all in 2005. The other teams that were eliminated in the first round of the AL playoffs were the Indians, who have not won a championship since 1948, the Twins since 1991 and the Blue Jays since 1993.
In the NL, the Padres won a series for the first time since capturing the NL pennant in 1998. The Braves won their first postseason series since 2001 after a record nine straight losing series. They beat the Reds, who have not won a series since 1995 and are 2-13 postseason games since.
Really, it is hard to get in. Hard to win once there. So what the Yankees have done is impressive in its consistency of excellence, if nothing else. For they have made the playoffs in 22 of the last 26 seasons. They have won 27 playoff rounds in that time and five titles. They have won seven rounds since last winning the World Series in 2009, including the first-rounder this year against the Indians.
Try to enjoy that, if you are a Yankee fan. The standard with this organization is championships. But look around. Playing in big games is no team’s birthright. Spending big money can’t even get the Angels or Phillies into the playoffs, or the Dodgers a title.
It should be fun to see your team play big games, since no one is guaranteed them. And for more than a quarter of a century, no organization has given their fans more big games to care about than the Yankees.
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