It's difficult to write about the Yankees now. When I was growing up as a Yankees fan, they blew leads all the time, albeit generally earlier in the season than this. The 1985 Yankees were never in first place, but got as close as 1.5 games out and had a chance to go into first in the season's last series. In 1986 they spent almost a month in first place. In 1987, they were last in first place in early August, and in 1988 they stayed there through late July. You got your hopes up and then you had them dashed.
In the post-Steinbrenner-suspension era, the Yankees have been far more predictable, far more likely to grab a postseason share and hold onto it. The coin keeps coming up heads, providing the comforting illusion that it will always keep coming up heads. Yet, we know that can't be true. Even the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees spent years out of the postseason. They went home in 1924 and 1925, 1929 through 1931, and 1933 to 1934. Joe McCarthy saw his bid for a fifth straight pennant derailed in 1940. Casey Stengel had his 1959. A great Yankees team went to the postseason every year from 1976 through 1981-except for 1979.
The problem is, just as some political types like to equate dissent with disloyalty, some Yankees partisans will reflexively treat doubt as equivalent to panic. I don't think it's panicking to point out that a team that has the oldest collection of position players in franchise history and has had trouble maintaining momentum all season long might just be in trouble this time, but you try it and they will act like you're a Sandman in "Logan's Run," trying to off Michael York because he's reached his Last-Day, when all you really want to do is acknowledge a fact, that the team really is old, and sometimes, often, that can have consequences, and then go home and cuddle with Jenny Agutter '76.
I really think this divide in perspective is a matter of age. If you are young enough that the Yankees 1996-present are your formative baseball experience, you have no concept of a world in which they could miss or, as they were at the beginning of the 1990s, just be outright bad. If you happened to be born when I was, you had little but that for most of your life. Beyond that, though, skepticism is just common sense. I don't know if the Yankees are going to hang on and win this thing or not, but even if they do, do you truly believe
- (A) This is really one of the better Yankees teams of recent vintage?
- (B) That they can get through another season with this group, especially when they're all a year older and a year slower?
- (C) That the Yankees were sufficiently proactive in avoiding getting to this point?
Injuries happen. Players have off years. I get that. You can't blame the manager or the general manager for those things. However, I also think that in this particular case, those issues are not wholly removed from the issue of age as a quality of the team in aggregate, nor can they be completely separated from the quality of the farm system. For example, Brett Gardner missing the season was a huge loss on a lot of levels, but why was no one standing behind him? Why is the world's richest baseball team so incapable of building depth? Whether they Yankees win or not, it's useful to discuss issues like these. It's not panic, it's asking necessary questions about team building.
It's really wonderful to see some early George Perez art, isn't it? For more like this, see the Grand Comics Database.