I think it finally sunk in for me right around the time Josh Hamilton was explaining to a live television audience how God allows him to hit baseballs far.
The Yankees were done. Dead. Finito. Their quest to repeat as world champions had come to an abrupt end in, of all places, the land of Friday Night Lights.
How did we get here?
No sport approaches baseball in the personal connection fostered between fan and team. For three hours a day, six to seven months a year, you're along for a ride with more twists and turns than a Swisher-approved episode of Gossip Girls. If you devour all the internet content, read the newspapers, listen to talk radio, or write a dopey blog, you go in even deeper.
And then just like that, with nine innings, a few bad pitches, and a handful of listless at-bats, it's all over. It's a genuinely painful shift in reality, hard for your girlfriend to understand, but even more difficult to come to grips with yourself.
You shouldn't care this much. And yet, you do.
The 6-1 loss in Game 6 served as a microcosm for how the Yankees buried themselves in the first place: Bad starting pitching, porous middle relief, and an offense stuck in a perpetual stoned haze.
Make no mistake, the Rangers very much deserved the pennant. The Yankees knocked them down in Game 1 and they had the guts to pop right back up. When the Rangers returned the favor in Game 2, the Yankees never seemed to recover. In retrospect, it's a minor miracle the series lasted six games.
What's frustrating as a Yankees fan is that you knew this team had the potential to perform far better than it did. They just fell flat when it counted most.
That's what makes the postseason such a different animal than the six months of baseball that precedes it. Fall into a funk in July, and you have plenty of time to straighten yourself out. Fall into a funk in October, you're going home.
I think what made Game 6 especially painful was that there was a collective belief amongst fans that the Yankees would find a way to get the series to Pettitte vs. Lee for the whole damn thing. It would have been a great matchup, and certainly would have made for fine baseball theater.
But just as they had all season, the Yankees zigged when you thought they would zag. Predicting anything with them was impossible. Maybe this was the only way it made sense in the end.
We all know that Colby Lewis is little more than an above-average pitcher. Superstars don't usually do two-year tours in Japan unless they're Jessie & The Rippers.
And yet, Lewis beat the Yankees twice in the ALCS, the second time with relative ease. It was the type of performance the Yankees hoped they were going to get out of Phil Hughes.
This isn't Hughes' fault — at least not his alone. He had long since obliterated his personal high for innings pitched in a season, and was clearly running on fumes in the end. And remember, he was only put in this position of responsibility because A.J. Burnett forgot how to pitch.
Is it disappointing that Hughes was unable to make The Leap? I suppose, especially when you factor in the expectations that have followed him since he was 20 years old. But ultimately, this failure was a team effort.
The Yankees broke down in all phases of the game. Were the Rangers really that much better? That's certainly debatable, but there's no questioning who was the better team over six games.
Even so, media types will paint this outcome as some type of grand upset, David slaying the mighty Goliath. That A-Rod made the final out, the man the Rangers once gave $252 million to save their franchise, only enhances that angle.
I get that. The general populace needs a team to hate in every major sport. In the NFL, it's the Cowboys. In college hoops, it's Duke. In the NBA, it's become the Heat. In the NHL, it's ... um ... you know, that one team with all the skates.
The Yankees are obviously that team in baseball. How could it be anyone else?
Being a fan of the team everyone else hates is more fun than you might think. ESPN's Bill Simmons has said that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the dealer in black jack.
That's fine with me. The dealer does get taken from time to time, just like what happened to the Yankees on Friday. But ultimately, these type of things are only temporary.
Don't you know the house always wins?
- I'll get into this in the next couple of days, but the Core Four enters the offseason at a crossroads. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera are all free agents. Jorge Posada has one year left on his deal. If I had to guess, I'd say they'll all be back next year. But 2011 may be the end of the line for the unit as complete group.
- Did the Yankees put up some ghastly numbers in this series or what? They hit .217 as a team and had an ERA of 6.58. With runners in scoring position they were 5-for-41 (.151). They were outscored 38-19. I'll ask you again, how in Josh Hamilton's savior's name did this series get to a sixth game?
- David Robertson, you let me down son. All season, I thought of Robertson as a difference-maker come playoff time. Instead, he fell flat on his face. The two-run homer he allowed to Cruz was the real knockout blow on the season. You could see the Yankees emotionally check out after that.
- Like it or not, the Yankees will try to work out a deal for Joe Girardi and his binder to return in 2011. What other option do they have? (Don't say Torre, don't say Torre, don't say Torre ...)
- More (potential) bad news for Yankee fans: Say the Rangers win it all, and Cliff Lee does his Cliff Lee thing two more times, winning the World Series MVP in the process. Very feasible, right? Now tell me how the Rangers will allow Lee walk as a free agent? I think they pony up the dough and he stays.
- Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has been reading River & Sunset all season. The blog has really made strides in '10, and like the Yankees, we plan on getting better in the offseason and beyond.