Yankees Suck postsSunday April 05, 2015
The Decline and Fall of the New York Yankees ... Kinda Sorta
When I was reading Marty Appel's history of the New York Yankees, “Pinstripe Empire: From the Babe to the Boss,” I was really looking forward to 1965. You know why.
From 1921 to 1964, a span of 43 years, the Yankees won 29 pennants and 20 world championships. Essentially they were in two out of every three World Series (67% of them), while winning nearly half of all Series titles in those years (46% of them). No wonder author Douglass Wallop had to enlist Satan to stop them. (And of course, Satan is really a Yankees fan, so he wasn't much help.)
Their run ended in '64, the year after I was born. For 10 years, they sucked. Then Steinbrenner instigated their rise (late '70s), fall (the '80s), rise again ('96-'03) and fall again (post-'09). Since '64, the Yankees have won 11 pennants (22%) and seven titles (14%)—paltry numbers compared to what they did before.
That's why I was so looking forward to 1965.
But I wondered: Sure, the Yankees in my lifetime have paled compared to the dynasty years. But how do their numbers stack up again the rest of Major League Baseball?
Yeah. Still on top. And in terms of World Series titles, it's not even close:
MLB Pennants and Titles Since 1964
|Team||Pennants||World Series titles|
This is why I root against them. Even after their fall, they're still the most successful team in baseball.
This 1966 Topps card displays the previous year's sixth-place finish of the former World Champions. The '66 team would do it better, finishing in last place in the A.L. for the first time since 1908. Can you name the only other year the Yankees finished in last place?
Virginia is for Yankee Lovers?
Tomorrow is Opening Day (or Night), so everyone's talkin' baseball while their team is in first place. I've seen the map below several times today. It's Facebook's map of baseball fandom: “Each county is color-coded based on which Facebook team pages has the most likes from people who live in that county”:
You can see a bigger version here, courtesy of The Atlantic.
A couple of things about the map:
- That little notation in the lower left? It says: “There are no U.S. counties where a plurality of fans like the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, or Oakland Athletics.” Almost makes you want to root for those teams.
- I get that the Yankees have fans in places other than New York. “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Gen. George S. Patton. But ... in the South?
So which Southern states root for the Yankees? Most of Virginia, West Virginia, and Louisiana. Half of Florida. And parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi.
I get Florida (spring training, Steinbrenner home), and my friend Mr. B lets me know the Yankees had a farm team in Greensboro, NC from 1990 to 2002. But c'mon, Southern states. Yankees? Really?
I just got back from a quick trip to Atlanta, where I stayed in midtown and during a free moment walked over to the Margaret Mitchell house, where I participated in a tour, etc., and watched a film on the making of “Gone with the Wind.” I came in on the film when all of those actresses were trying out for the character originally known as Pansy O'Hara before she got an 11th-hour name change to “Scarlett.” When the film role finally went to Vivien Leigh, the reaction among the Southern was disappointment tempered by worst case scenarios: sad, yes, that an English girl got the part, but at least it was better than a Yankee.
Now look at you. That old attitude is gone with the wind.
How Many Teams Have Won More than One World Series in a Row?
First, a few tears for victims of high expectations: the early 1950s New York Yankees:
“You would think we would have had one of those ticker-tape parades after all those years,” said Whitey Ford. “But we never had a single one. People just expected us to win, and we did, and then it was on to next year. We had our victory celebrations, we got our rings, but there was never a parade. It would have been fun! I would have liked to have been in at least one!”
That's from Marty Appel's book, “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss.” Appel was PR for the Yanks, but there's still good stuff here. Ammunition, you might say.
So from 1949 to 1953, the Yankees won five World Series in a row, and only one time ('52, against Brooklyn) did it even go seven games. Otherwise: five and out, four and out, six and out and six and out.
That Yankees team was the only team to ever win five World Series in a row. But another team won four in a row. Can you name them?
Right, it's still the Yankees: the 1936-39 version. When DiMaggio was starting and Gehrig was finishing.
As for three in a row? Only two teams have ever done that:
- 1972-74 Oakland Athletics
- 1998-2000 New York Yankees
Even two in a row is rare:
- 1907-08 Chicago Cubs (dry patch since)
- 1910-11 Philadephlia Athletics
- 1915-16 Boston Red Sox
- 1921-22 New York Giants
- 1927-28 New York Yankees
- 1929-30 Philadephia Athletics
- 1961-62 New York Yankees
- 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds
- 1977-78 New York Yankees
- 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays
That's it: only seven of the 30 franchises. And no team has gone back-to-back this century. The Giants have won three of five, but they keep spacing them out.
Interesting footnote: for all of their postseason triumphs (11 titles, most in the NL, and second-most in the Majors), the Cardinals have never gone back-to-back. My Cardinals friends blame Mickey Lolich.
The 1949-53 Yankees inspired Douglas Wallop's novel, which became the Broadway/movie musical “Damn Yankees”; the 1972-74 Oakland A's inspired the DC Comics story “The Kid Who Beat the Oakland A's,” which kind of inspired the Thomas Ian Nicholas movie “Rookie of the Year.” So far, the 1998-2000 Yankees have inspired nothing.
An Open Letter to Brian Cashman: Addendum
Here's a couple of dueling quotes. I wrote about the first yesterday in an open letter to Brian Cashman. The second I read last night in Marty Appel's book, “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss”:
- “As far as I’m concerned — and I’m not the decision-maker on this — that captaincy should be retired with No. 2. I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.” — Yankees GM Brian Cashman, last week.
- “[The position of captain] has died with Lou [Gehrig]. There will never be another one on the Yankees.” — Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, in 1941.
McCarthy was close, by the way. After Gehrig retired in 1939, there wasn't another Yankee captain until 1976, when Thurman Munson was annointed. Then he died suddenly, too, 40 years after Gehrig's farewell speech. Was there ever talk of a curse following Yankee captains? If so, it died with the next few—Nettles, Randolph, Guidry, Mattingly—all of whom stayed with us.
McCarthy said his line because Gehrig was a great man and teammate who died suddenly and tragically. Cashman said his about Jeter because ... ? Jeter's fine, living his life. It's the Yankees who've died.
An Open Letter to Brian Cashman: 'You Don't Go Far Enough in Honoring Derek Jeter'
Dear Brian Cashman:
I agree with you about Derek Jeter. He was such a fine example of man, ballplayer and Yankee, that I can’t imagine anyone else being named Captain of the New York Yankees—the title Mr. Jeter has held for the last 11 years. And for that reason, you’re right, Derek Jeter should be the 16th and last Captain in New York Yankees history. You shall have no other captains after he.
But I don’t think you go far enough.
Just look at Jeter’s legacy: four World Series championships in his first five years in the Majors. Think of that! True, without O’Neill, Tino, and Coney, the Yankees and Jeter, who officially became Captain in 2003, managed only one more title over the next 14 years. But he was obviously the impetus for the first four. Well, him and Jeffrey Maier.
More, look at the record books! Seventh all-time in at-bats! Sixth all-time in hits! Fifth all-time in singles! He’s also 30th in doubles and 189th in homeruns! Tied for 112th in batting average, 190th in OBP and 514th in slugging! Can you imagine? Only 513 players in Major League history slugged better than Derek Jeter. We shall never see his like again.
And that’s why I don’t think you go far enough. You don’t truly honor what Derek Jeter has meant to the Yankees and the city of New York.
It’s not enough to retire his number. It’s not enough to retire the Captaincy. It’s time for you and the Steinbrenners to retire the Yankees themselves.
Look at your current lineup. Sagging bags of bones like Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia. Blatant cheaters like Alex Rodriguez and Michael Pineda. Aging lumps like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Skinny disappointments like Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Do you think any of these guys are fit to wear the same uniform as Derek Jeter? Mr. November? Captain Clutch? Captain Crunch?
And can you imagine anyone in the future having the same kind of guts, glory, flair for the dramatic, and numerous bloops singles that Derek Jeter had?
I can’t. It’s all downhill from here for the Yankees. So why not go out on top? Or, you know, 12 games back in the A.L. East.
I understand this might leave Major League Baseball in a bit of a quandry, with only 29 teams rather than 30, meaning not every team could play every day.
But “Is this decision right for Major League Baseball?” is the wrong question to ask. It’s not even a matter of “Is this right for the New York Yankees?” No, the only proper question to ask is, “Is this the right decision for Derek Jeter?”
I think you know the answer to that one. And I think Mr. Jeter would agree with you.
Smells like team spirit: Derek Jeter celebrates the walk-off single in his last home game that put the Yankees only 12 games back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles.