Baseball, as well as the world at large, needs a Yankees team in the playoffs again. The wild card is not where the Yankees would have preferred they make their postseason re-emergence after a two-year hiatus, however. But, we fans will take it. Fact is, at the beginning of spring training, no one had the Yankees as a playoff team. Alex Rodriguez’s side show circus was the most compelling story the Yankees could muster before the season began.
At the same time, it is strange to see the upstart Astros playing the mighty, rich-in-tradition Yankees in the postseason. Back in the 70s, the Astros were a National League team. Jimmy Wynn, the “Toy Cannon,” was my favorite Astro. They were a mostly unmemorable team and Toy Cannon was not on the Stros during the 1976 season when the Yankees came back from the desert they were in since after the 1964 World Series.
Mickey Mantle was a shadow of himself at the end of his career (1968) and it got so bad for the Yankees in the late sixties that they were eclipsed by the Mets as New York’s favorite team, when the Amazins won the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles in 1969. But, all that was about to change after George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for the paltry sum of $8.3 million. Some estimates have the team valued now at north of $3 billion—not a bad appreciation for sports’ most storied franchise.
But there sure is something about seeing the Yankees back in the postseason, playing in a one game playoff with the Houston Astros for the right to advance to a series with the Kansas City Royals, that makes me think the world is moving in the right direction.
Sure, things are different now than they were during the late 70’s when the George Brett-led Royals were always the Yankees nemesis. The Royals of today are full of young, up and coming stars and the Yankees are once again (mostly) the best veteran team money can buy.
The 1976 Yankees team that advanced to the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds were mostly a bunch of loveable misfits that managed to click at the right times (except in the Series where the Reds swept). The 2015 Yankees limped to the Wild Card finish and face the youthful team in the Astros that they someday hope to become themselves through a rebuilt farm system.
Whether the Yankees have enough to survive the Wild Card is not the thing that needs celebrating. What needs to be talked about is that they are back where they belong—the postseason. Beating the Yankees still means something and that’s why they are the biggest draws on the road year in and year out.
Will the Yankees make any further noise in the postseason if they can somehow manage to take down the Astros? It doesn’t look good at this juncture. The Stros look young and powerful and the Yankees look overmatched. The fans are nervous. While there was cause for optimism for Yankees fans at the onset of the game, much like 1976 and what came in the two years afterwards, the world has at least now been set rotating back on its proper axis by virtue of the Yankees (underwhelming) Wild Card appearance.