Friday, September 27, 2013

The Increasingly Less Special Yankee Elimination Day

Buh Bye
Normally, YED is my second favorite day of the baseball season (beyond only Red Sox Elimination Day), and the source of a fun list of insults. But this year, I have to confess, has been different. It's a rare thing to feel anything close to sympathy for the most spoiled fan base in sports, but there it is, really... the three-fold aging with speed for landmark players Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Derek Jeter, and the certainty that even this franchise isn't getting that lucky again, to have the farm system belch up guys that give them a half-century of uninterrupted production. And of the three, only Rivera is getting the big walk off this year, because he's the only one of the three who is (a) still really good, (b) healthy, and (c) not regarded as a PED pariah.

There's also this: it's not new to see Tampa run them out, and the Rays aren't quite so cute, adorable and penniless any more. Sure, it's still one of the better franchises to root for in the East, what with Boston and New York being two reprehensible options, but the meh people of Tampa has shown over many years to care more about the venue than the product. It's hard to care too much if they win or lose when no one in town seems to, either. And you have to be borderline heartless to root on the advance of age, which is really the only way to look at the end of these guys.

But then... you remember that the franchise got to play relevant baseball games for over 150+ games this year, and the biggest reason why is because they got incredibly lucky for several months with retreads playing about their levels, then danced with the A-Rod devil for the stretch run to finally get some competent work at third base. They might not have made the playoffs, but they certainly didn't get the Waste Year of absolute pointlessness that you saw out of Philadelphia, Anaheim, Chicago and so much more.

The plain and simple fact of Yankee Fandom is that for decades, you have not had to put up with the same experience as anyone else in MLB. If you had a waste contract, along the lines of a Kei Igawa, you just ate it; it did not really restrict the team from making another run or six at the next shiny thing. But that's not the case any more. Last spring, the team was actually outbid for catcher Russell Martin by Pittsburgh, of all teams; not a complete coincidence that the Pirates made the playoffs this year, and the Yankees did not. When the team needed a third baseman this year, they went the discount route with Kevin Youkilis, and when he went down, there was nothing but minor league flotsam to fill the position. The old Yankees would have dealt for someone along the lines of a Hanley Ramirez; the new Yankees kept the contract cap down.

Not, of course, without cost. Attendance was off dramatically this year, and would have been a lot worse without things like bobblehead giveaways (telling, no, that 18K+ people chose to stop watching an elimination game to make sure they got their toy to resell on eBay) and StubHubby discounts. You can't fill the most expensive yard in the majors without a championship contender, and the Yankees aren't just about wins any more.

You know, like every other team in the majors.

But every other team isn't the Yankees. Every other team doesn't have proximity to the most expensive real estate in the country, and the most expensive seats. No other team has a fan base that regards any season without a trophy as not just a failure, but a rip-off. No other fan base is not content to see the best thing in sports (a cadre of young players on the ascent, pushing each other to get better, and overcoming the status quo to achieve immortality), so long as they can buy another trophy with some other franchise's products. From Babe Ruth to Reggie Jackson, from Carl Mays and Red Ruffing to David Cone and Roger Clemens, the Yankees have won with the talent of other teams, cost be damned. Developing young players is for chumps, other than your absolute studs.

So YED is, finally, going to come earlier and earlier. There isn't going to be another Jeter, or Rivera, or Pettite, and the A-Rod / Jason Giambi levels of talent grabs from other franchises are going to stop, too. They have for a while now. They'll spend like a dozen other teams, and contend more years than not... but without any margin for error.

With the exit of Rivera, they are just another team.

And it couldn't happen to a nicer fan base.

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