These aren't the best of times in the Yankee universe. A season that saw our beloved team decimated by a merciless rash of DL stints ended with insult added to those injuries as our foes to the northeast cascaded to their third world title in the past decade, all without even facing an elimination game. The Boston Red Sox are now the most winning team in baseball, championship-wise, in the 21st century. The Mayans and Nostradamus both had some nasty predictions for the early years of the third millennium, A.D., but I don't think either saw that one coming.
Like most of you, I've been through the Kubler-Ross model's five stages of grief since the Yankee season ended and as the Red Sox parade of darkness marched unhindered through October. Here's how it went for me:
1. Denial - "It's alright...Tampa's only down 2-0 in this series. They can come back!"
2. Anger - "What the !@#$!, Detroit? You can't hold a four-run lead?!?"
3. Bargaining - "Please, St. Louis, find a way to win this. I'll be nice to birds."
4. Depression - "It's over. Boston can't be stopped. I hate baseball."
5. Acceptance - "Oh well. It's always darkest before the dawn. On to the off-season!"
It's from that fifth stage that I'm writing this. Yes, it's a kick to the gut that Boston won - that their fans got to celebrate by turning over cars and breaking windows around the city they say they love. It hurts that ESPN gets to wax poetic about grittiness and fortitude for weeks or months and that I'll have to avoid national sports programming for a while. It's unfortunate that the Red Sox will be introduced next April as World Champs and that John Farrell will have the right to snub Yankees from All-Star berths. Still, things could be - and have been - a whole lot worse.
This isn't 2004. Now that one was rough. Those Red Sox danced on our home field, exposed our weaknesses and stomped on everything we thought we knew to be true. The 2013 Red Sox didn't break any curses or exorcise any demons. They can't go around calling themselves scrappy underdogs or lovable idiots or whatever other ridiculous self-congratulatory pseudonyms they've come up with over the years. Let me correct that - they can, but most people see right through it these days. According to Harris Poll's annual survey of the most hated clubs in baseball, Boston was second this year. Care to guess who was first?
The Red Sox aren't renegades. They're not the opposition. They're just another team that won a championship - a team that spent a ton of money in doing so. They're the thing their fans always claimed to despise. They're another evil empire.
In the clash between the two empires, Boston may have gained the upper hand temporarily, but they have a long way to go before they can stand on the Yankees' pedestal. Unless you're 15 or younger, you've seen the Yankees win more than the Red Sox have. If you're 25, you're up five to three. If you're 40, it's seven to three and if you're in your sixties or seventies it's not even close. If you're 112, the same age as the American League - congrats on that, by the way - you've got a comfortable cushion of 27 to eight. Beyond the titles, the Yankees have had more hall-of-fame inductees, more MVP's and more Rookies of the Year.
Probably the only thing considered particularly distinctive about the 2013 Red Sox was that most of their players grew obnoxious facial hair. It wasn't even original. Brian Wilson patented the "fear the beard" nonsense back in 2010 and it wasn't any more intriguing then than it is now, contrary to what certain all-sports networks would like you to believe. For the record, some famous people in history known for their beards include terrorist and mass murderer Osama Bin Laden, cult-leading serial killer Charles Manson, Atila the Hun, known to his friends as "the scourge of God," slave profiteer Leopold II of Belgium and Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible, whose name pretty much speaks for itself.
If something positive came from the Red Sox championship run it's that David Ortiz's 2003 failed steroid test received more attention than it ever has before. Yes, Ortiz has pretty much gotten off scot free in the public eye after his name was revealed. He demanded an investigation then never spoke of the subject again and a sports nation survey from this week showed that more than 50 percent of Americans believe he's a Hall of Famer. We even had to hear a typically uninformed Tim McCarver call him the best designated hitter of all-time on one of FOX's broadcasts. At the same time, though talkies like WFAN's Joe Benigno and ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd have raised on-air questions about Ortiz posting one of his better seasons ever at age 37. A couple of years ago I felt as though most casual observers didn't even realize Boston's big cuddly hero has flunked the same exact number of screenings as international super villain and all-around ne'er-do-well Alex Rodriguez. That's slowly beginning to change.
We can hang our Yankee hats on the fact that the current Red Sox don't look primed to go off on some dynastic run. While their off-season might not be as much a riddle as ours, they certainly have their own questions to answer. Ortiz is 37. John Lackey is 35. Shane Victorino, and Jake Peavy are nearing their mid-thirties, too. Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are all free agents that must be either re-signed or replaced. Clay Buchholz, now 29, has never made 30 starts in a season or pitched 200 innings. Ben Cherington's done an excellent job since the departure of Theo Epstein in 2011, but he'll need to whip out the spooky hypnotic timepiece he used on Ned Coletti and the Dodgers once again if he hopes to stick at the top of the sport.
Keep your heads up, Yankee fans. Boston may be ruling the century so far, but things didn't look so great for the Yankees at this point in the 1900's, either. We're down three to two in World Series rings this time around but a hundred years ago it was two-zip Boston and we all know how that turned out. Maybe six years from now John Henry will sell the Red Sox best player for the money needed to finance a Broadway show, just like then-owner Harry Frazee did in 1920 when the Yankees swiped Babe Ruth. "Fever Pitch, the Musical," anyone?