The last time the New York Yankees failed to qualify for the playoffs, I was 9 years old. I didn’t own a cell phone, check an e-mail address or listen to an iPod. (I taped radio hits on my cassette player.) Chris Webber was preparing for his rookie season in the NBA, the Raiders were playing in L.A., and I had only played one version of John Madden football—Madden 93 for Sega Genesis, which my friend Zach had.
The point is, it’s been a LONG time since the Yankees missed the postseason. It’s a remarkable feat, especially when you consider baseball’s relatively low ratio of teams to postseason berths. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 make the playoffs (53.3 percent). In the NFL, it’s a bit more selective at 12 of 32 (37.5 percent). Still, nothing compares to Major League Baseball where just 8 of 30 (26.6 percent) make the playoffs.
Every year, October is a chance fans and non-fans alike to rally in their hatred for the Bronx Bombers. Anti-Yankees-sentiment runs deep and, without it, I’m left wondering what this postseason will bring. Sure, there’s Yankees-Lite up in Boston where the Red Sox have gone from the lovable loser to a mirror image of their rivals in a span of just four years. But it’s just not the same.
The 2008 Yankees’ failure is significant for the same reason their success has been downplayed: their unbelievable payroll. Teams like my Oakland Athletics simply do not have the resources to compete on the same financial playing field. That makes it all the more embarrassing for the pinstripes, who couldn’t compete on the actual playing field with the likes of the Tampa Bay Rays this season.
October without the Yankees won’t be the same, it’s true. And, there may even be a piece of me that misses the opportunity to hate them throughout the postseason run, misses the chance to watch them come up short as they have every year since 2000.
But the absence of the Yankees won’t spoil October for me. Oh no, not at all. This is the one time of year that I cannot help but fall in love with America’s pastime, even if it’s clearly past it’s time as the nation’s premier sport.
Yes, even in the midst of the NFL and college football seasons, even as NBA training camps get underway and Midnight Madness approaches, October belongs to baseball when every pitch means a little more and every inning builds the suspense. The World Series is not far away, and this season, I’m already guaranteed a happy ending because the Yankees won’t be playing in it.
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