Wednesday February 17, 2021
That Yankees Pennant Drought
Over the years I've written a lot about the how, why and when of the New York Yankees sucking. It started with the 61* reasons in The Grand Salami in the early 2000s, and I added more as I learned more: the org's historic racism, treating the KC A's like its farm club, David Cone's faux outrage speech against the Mariners in 1998, more historic racism, Derek Jeter's parting gifts, etc. etc. It should be a book. Maybe it will be.
But it's worth reiterating the No. 1 reason why the Yankees suck: They win. They win all the fucking time. They are the sports symbol of our horribly unequal society—U.S. Steel and Amazon.com all rolled into one. Rooting for them is like rooting for white people. A Yankee pennant or championship is like a Republican tax cut: It benefits the people who need it least.
It's worth reiterating all this now because the Yankees are in the midst of one of their longest pennant droughts.
First, a little history.
The Yankees started out as a shoddy little organization called the Highlanders that didn't have its own ballpark for a few years; they had to make do with the Giants' ballpark. They were one of the last teams to win a pennant—the lucky 13th of the original 16 teams to do so. It took 18 seasons. That is still their longest pennant drought.
Then on Jan. 5, 1920 they purchased Babe Ruth for $125,000. Here are the Yankees pennantless runs since that day.
Just how dominant were the Yankees in their 1920-1964 heyday? For nearly half a century, Yankee fans never had to suffer for four staight years without a pennant. Not once. Put it this way: If, on Jan. 5, 1920, you'd told Yankee fans that for the next 45 years they could win a pennant every other year—every other year for 45 years—or they could let things play out as the fates allowed, I'm sure most would've chosen the former. And they would've shortchanged themselves. In these 45 seasons, the Yankees won 29 pennants and the rest of the AL combined won 16:
Ah, but the fun part. Some combination of new CBS ownership and longstanding racist policies led to their downfall. By 1966, the Yankees were the worst team in the AL. Good times. I like how, immediately after the Yankee Years ended, four Have-Nots stepped up to win pennants: Senators/Twins, Browns/Orioles, Red Sox and Tigers. And the first team to dominate was the team that had the least. Before 1966, the Orioles franchise had been to the World Series just once and lost. That was it. Then, in the next six years, they won four pennants and two titles. Then it was on to another Have-Not, the Oakland A's, which won three pennants and three championships in three years. No team besides the Yankees has ever done that. Then the Sox and their memorable '75 Series. And then, crap, back to the Yankees. Oh well. Fun while it lasted.
Indeed, even after the Yankee Years ended, who has been the most dominant team in baseball? Sadly:
Which is why we need to enjoy the Yankees' current pennant drought. Sure, it doesn't hold a candle to the Mariners' current drought (44 seasons and counting), or the Pirates (41 seasons), Brewers (38), Orioles (37), A's and Reds (30). Hell, almost half the Majors have longer current pennant droughts than the Yankees. But for the Yankees, this is still historically bad territory—their second worst drought since the day they bought Babe Ruth. Enjoy.