Hundreds, thousands, millions of eulogies rang out last Monday night, booming from bleachers, newsrooms, basements, living rooms, conducted by wires and waves and the wisps of wind. As the Yankees slinked off the field, finished in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight season — a loss this time administered by the nascent Cleveland Indians — the same feeling seemed to descend upon all denizens of the baseball world.
Joe Torre sat in a room with the most carnivorous press in the country, answering questions with the careful, deadpan candor just like he’d done thousands times before, and that he was doing for perhaps the last time. If George Steinbrenner follows through with his promise to fire Torre, the highest-paid manager in Major League Baseball after making the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons with the Bombers, chances are that the next time he’ll be talking to the media, it’ll be for a biography or during a pro-am.
Torre finished with class, the same composure and dignity that has characterized this Yankee era since he joined up with the club. The same composure and dignity that’s made them so damn easy to hate.
Perhaps none of them were as poignant as Howard Bryant’s tome on ESPN.com (link courtesy of Nick Williams), which either must have been prepared beforehand or the result of stealing everyone else’s muse. He packaged the moment into around 800 words, each of them necessary, each one of them befitting a dynasty that now deserves its due.
If you don’t want to read the whole story (you should), here’s an excerpt:
‘And perhaps it is time, for all dynasties ultimately crumble and decay, and losing to the Indians seemed as much a disappointment for the Yankees as it was the recognition that they have witnessed the end of something larger, something grander. For years, when the future beckoned, the Yankees reached back into the past, a futile attempt to stop time.’
For the past decade and a half, almost a generation, the Yankees have been even more Yankee than usual. No matter how badly the season begins — and this one did start horrendously — they’ll always be around when the postseason rolls around. And this Yankee dynasty’s signatures have been many: Capitalist ball, disregard for the salary cap, Jeffrey Maier.
But none have had greater resonance than the Sox-Yanks rivalry. It was Cold War esque. Two sides that blindly hated each other, based almost entirely on faulty information and the fact that nobody else offered any real competition year in and year out. Right, they didn’t always win the Series, but there was always the feeling that if there wasn’t a Sox-Yanks playoff, we were cheated.
The Yanks won’t collapse. They are, after all, the New York Yankees. The greatest team in history. But with more teams playing the Billy Beane method of team-building, has this era come and gone?
With Steinbrenner on the way out of coherence within the next decade or so, possibly bringing with him the throw-whatever-money-is-need-at-talent ethos, will it be hard to hate the Yankees?
And on that note, after USA Today ran a story about how the Sox are America’s new team, will they assume the position of loathing that the Yanks have for the past 10 years?