I wish to place on proceedings the proceedings in heavenly Cooperstown, the Mt. Olympus of baseball, on this day, the last day of this 2023 season, which ends this inauspicious age.
Nihil nec offensae nec gratiae dabitur – nothing will be given of either offense or favor. How do I know it, you may ask? Bah, I don’t have to tell you – all I have to see is that the same day made me free of a great burden to cover: the 2023 Yankees. But if an authority must be produced, ask any ignoble team departing their stadiums on the final day without a playoff berth, and they will tell you the truth of my tale. They will direct you to William Wheaton, a founding member of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club, destined by the baseball gods to bring teams along the road to immortality – or cursed, some would say, for the baseball gods have also denied him a throne in the Hall of Fame. Ab hoc ego quae tum audivi, certa clara affero – what I heard from him, I bear plain and clear.
What was the hour, I cannot say – the philosophers, not the historians, can read the stars better than me – but I can say that it was October, and it was in Kansas City, when the final out was recorded and the 2023 Yankees breathed their last. What happened next on Earth is unnecessary to tell, because you can catch that on YES and on MLB.tv without difficulty; there is no fear that you will forget, because nobody forgets moments of pure happiness, and that the 2023 failures be removed from sight is a moment of pure happiness is something that cannot be denied. What happened in heavenly Cooperstown, though, in the throne room of the baseball gods, I shall presently bear; if proof you need, you may ask my aforementioned informant.
Word came to Doubleday, King of the Baseball Gods and General of the Union Army, that the 2023 baseball season had ended, and the postseason had begun. And as his custom, he summoned the the Twelve, so that they may sit in judgment upon the postseason-less teams.
Lords of baseball, answer my call.
Our annual purpose has returned this fall,
To judge the trials and tribulations we have seen
Of the hapless playoff-less eighteen.
Babe, The Babe, the Sultan of Swat,
And his partner in crime, The Luckiest Man, Lou Gehrig.
Alexander Cartwright, who ran the Knickerbocker spot,
And Duncan F. Curry, his fellow big-wig.
I call you forward too, the namesake Cy Young,
And Don Newcombe, the first to join his great studentenverbindung.
Jackie Robinson, of course, who broke the racial barrier,
And Roberto Clemente, who made everyone he met so much merrier.
Come hither, who invented free agency, Curt Flood.
And Walter Johnson, whose record 110 shutouts left hitters stunned.
Hammerin’ Hank, the great Henry Aaron, who some still call the Home Run King,
And our newest member, the great Brooks Robinson, whose glove is remembered
as much as his swing.
They sat in judgment, the legendary figures of baseball. Some, despite their failures, they welcomed into perpetual memory. The Padres were rewarded for their 90-win Pythagorean record, for their postseason miss is due not to talent, but the winds of fate. The retirement tours of Adam Wainwright and Miguel Cabrera brought redemption to their terrible teams. Even the Oakland Athletics received entrance into heaven, for having to play at the Coliseum and for that ownership group was considered punishment enough!
At long last, to the Yankees the debate came. The Luckiest Man himself did stand, and began to argue to lend his team a merciful hand. “This season was, by all accounts, a disaster, it is true. But even so, there’s so much positive to look back to. Aaron Judge, the new Captain, the latest in my glorious line, battered more home runs in fewer games than anyone in history. Gerrit Cole, so long as the voters have any sense, will finally receive his first career Cy Young Award. Michael King has emerged as a potential front-line starter. Domingo Germán spun the latest perfect game, even if it was against the Athletics. Last but not least, a new band of prospects – the ‘yutes,’ as the YES Network has called them – has arrived to bring hope: Anthony Volpe the Fox, Oswald and Oswaldo, the mustached Austin Wells, the great Everson Pereira, and of course the prize of the bunch, the extraterrestrial himself, Jasson Domínguez.”
The baseball gods nodded their assent, but then stood Alexander Cartwright. “Gentlemen, esteemed lords of baseball. Rarely do I stand and speak in this assembly, as we discuss the fates of these teams in memory, for I did not play upon the Major League stage like all of you. And yet, now, honor compels me to speak out. How can we grant mercy to this team? Successes do exist, it is true, but how do they compare to their crimes? They entered into the season with championship aspirations and missed the postseason.”
“A crime, to be sure,” uttered the Babe, “but it happens to multiple teams every year. That is not enough for eternal punishment.”
“Sultan of Swat, it is true, but I have not yet finished,” Cartwright continued. “They entered with championship aspirations, and yet entered the season without a left fielder or a third baseman. For Brian Cashman himself said, upon the start of free agency, that the team lacked a left fielder or a right fielder — remember, Aaron Judge was a free agent at the time and not under contract — which implies that neither Aaron Hicks nor Oswaldo Cabrera was considered a legitimate option. And yet what was the spring training battle? Hicks and Oswaldo!
“Donaldson too, they pretended was bound for a bounceback, but at the age of 37, that was either a lie or a self-delusion; either way, a crime against baseball. They lacked offense last year, and mostly ran it back.”
“And roster construction was not all they messed up,” Jackie Robinson stood to add. “How many times did they run the contact play with slow runners and fail? It requires true speed to engage with it successfully, and of speed they had none.”
“They should have sold at the trade deadline and acknowledged their position, instead of standing pat and losing Harrison Bader for nothing,” remarked Duncan F. Curry.
“And who can forget playing a game against the White Sox in June when the air was so filled with smoke and ash that the New York skies turned yellow!” exclaimed Henry Aaron.
“Then it is settled,” announced Roberto Clemente. “We label the 2023 Yankees as infamous for their failures and denounce them to the depths of Tartarus.”
All murmured their assent, save for one. Cy Young stood, “It is my prerogative, as the person for whom the best pitcher’s award is named, to save those who have earned a Cy Young Award from the infamy of their teammates. While he has yet to be granted the title, Gerrit Cole is a true Cy Young, and I invoke my right to grant him immortality.” At his words, all agreed.
“But what about Judge?” asked Don Newcombe. “It’s not his fault his teammates failed him.”
Most agreed, and would have voted to save him, had not Gehrig shaken his head when he stood. “You’re right, Judge has done nothing wrong. But he is the Captain, the Yankee Captain, and with the Yankees just as with the navy, the Captain goes down with his ship.” To his words, none dared argue.
This motion was passed without further debate. William Wheaton returned to bear the 2023 Yankees, minus Cole, to the pits where teams that ought to be forgotten, but who are remembered in infamy, are sent. It is a land the Greeks call Tartarus, ruled by the Infamous Lord. In life they called him Rob, and in truth he was just a Man, but for those who loved baseball, he was darkness incarnate.
Upon their journey to the land of infamy, the 2023 Yankees passed by their equipment managers, loading their equipment into the trucks to return them to Yankee Stadium for next season. And when the team saw them, they realized the extent of their failures. For rather than mourning the end of the season, the equipment managers rejoiced in the onset of the winter, “At long last our great nightmare is over!”
At long last, they reached Tartarus. Upon their arrival, they saw a great many former teams, punished for their incompetence and their sins. They saw the 2011 Red Sox, whose September collapse was legendary, farming chicken and brewing beer for all eternity. On the field next to them was the 2017 Astros, punished despite their on-field success, playing the drums for an out-of-tune middle school band using a familiar-shaped hunk of metal. And there were field upon field of halo-clad ballplayers, members of every Angels team in recent memory, who secured their fate by wasting the primes of the two best baseball players on the planet, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
What should be the punishment of the 2023 Yankees? Forced into an extra-innings game that will never end, as they are unable to bring home the zombie runner from second? An eternal rain delay, where just as the tarp starts to come off the field, the skies open up once more? Lead normal lives, but be forced to listen to John Smoltz narrate them?
These punishments, and many more, were devised and debated, but it proved to be for nought. Just then, Jayson Nix and Zoilo Almonte suddenly appeared, and they claimed 2023 as their next opponent. For just as the team celebrated the 25th anniversary of the 1998 champions, they also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 2013 disaster, and celebrated with their play the latter not the former. Satisfied, the 2023 team is handed over to their 2013 selves.
Writer’s Note: This mock eulogy is based off the Apocolocyntosis, commonly called “The Pumpkinification of the Divine Emperor Claudius,” attributed to the legendary philosopher/statesman Seneca the Younger. If you’re interested in reading it in the original Latin, click here; for a translation, click here.