A eulogy to this year’s New York Yankees

Although a cornerstone of being a Yankees fan, a championship-or-bust mentality can prevent an enjoyable baseball season.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

David Bernstein, Staff Writer

Aaron Judge stepped up to the plate in what could have been his final at-bat as a New York Yankee on Oct. 23. The Houston Astros were on the brink of sweeping and eliminating the Yankees in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series. 

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 6-5 game, the Yankees needed a miracle. Down 1-2 in the count, Judge grounded an easy ball right back to pitcher Ryan Pressly, who promptly flipped the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel for the third and final out.

Houston’s dugout emptied as players took the field, celebrating its fourth trip to the World Series in six years. The Yankees solemnly went to their clubhouse, while the team that had eliminated them from the playoffs in four out of the past eight seasons cheered on their field. It was yet another season of disappointment as the Yankees failed to win, or even reach, the World Series for the 13th straight year. For an organization and fanbase that measures its success by rings, it is very easy to call this season a failure.

Judge, the unofficial Yankees captain, reiterated this point after the loss, stating “If we’re not the last standing, it doesn’t matter what you do, what happened. It’s a failure.” Of course, Judge has to call the season a failure. He wants to lead the Yankees to a championship and knows what he has to say to handle the media. But, do fans have to think that way too?

Conversations in New York quickly switched to what is sure to be a tumultuous off-season. The contract of general manager Brian Cashman is almost up, Judge is entering free agency and many positions are still up for debate. Fans and the media immediately began to propose their ideas for what will bring a World Series trophy home. This is the annual cycle in New York — when one season ends prematurely, the focus immediately switches to the next.

Yankees fans and their winning-centric mentalities forget to take in the great moments across a daunting 162-game season. This absolutism, which usually ends in grief, makes the most memorable moment of the season that of elimination. Fans constantly play every alleged managerial mistake, misplay and strikeout on repeat, until we convince ourselves the entire season was for nothing. All that remains are memories of sadness — this is no way to enjoy the game of baseball.

The MLB season lasts for approximately six months. Over that half year, there are countless ups and downs. In the first half of the season, it looked as if the Yankees were on pace to have one of the best regular seasons in history, going 64-28. However, injuries and slumps halted their domination of the league. In August, the Yankees went 10-18, posting their worst month in over 30 years. But, they stayed the course, with a record of 20-11 throughout the rest of the season and comfortably winning the AL East by seven games. 

No other sport provides the rollercoaster that baseball can. Some memories are best forgotten, like the Yankees getting no-hit by the Astros in June. But some are for the books, like Judge’s first career walk-off home run against Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano in May. That moment made many Yankee fans fall in love with the team and truly believe that they had what it takes to go all the way. While that didn’t end up being the case, the emotions felt at that moment should not be discounted.

Judge hit 62 home runs this season — the most in American League history and the most for any player not linked to steroids in the history of the MLB. But, it is not this monumental 62 that is being discussed in Yankees circles right now. Instead, it is zero:  the number of home runs Judge hit in the ALCS. Judge gave us arguably one of the greatest regular seasons in baseball history, but that is being clouded by the Yankees falling short of their postseason goals. 

In baseball, like in life, happiness is fleeting. But, joy is joy. No, the Yankees did not win the World Series, and yes, criticism is very much needed to help the team eventually win one. While the season ended with a disappointing four-game sweep, let’s not make those final moments be the only ones that stick.

Contact David Bernstein at [email protected]