Remember the ghosts?
“The ghosts,” Derek Jeter famously told Aaron Boone as Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS drifted into extras, “will show up eventually.”
Remember the way history always seemed determined to trample the Red Sox, torture their fans, tease every acre of New England?
“Relax,” Yogi Berra famously told Bernie Williams in 1999, before the ancient rivals played their first-ever postseason series. “We’ve been beating these guys for 80 years.”
Well the ghosts have vanished. All that awful history has evaporated. It is 18 years since the Yankees have beaten the Red Sox in October. Since 2004 it’s Boston 3, Yankees 0. We have officially reached the point that Pedro Martinez’s old chestnut has been reversed.
The Sox are the Yanks’ daddy.
Yep. We are officially through the looking glass. The Yankees didn’t just run into a brick wall Tuesday, it was one of the 109-year-old walls at Fenway Park. The final was Sox 6, Yankees 2, and that means the Red Sox have won eight of their last nine playoff games against the Yankees.
There’s a lot of awful stuff to unpack in the wake of this dyspeptic game; that might be the worst. Generations of Yankees fans grew up believing the rule of law that the Yankees would always, somehow, some way, figure out a way to ruin the Red Sox. That’s a world that belongs in an archive now, and for Yankees fans it’s like learning that the laws of gravity have been suspended, or that the sun actually rises in the west.
“Guys are crushed,” Boone, now the Yankees’ fourth-year manager, said, maybe half an hour after the Yankees were finally taken out of their misery, Garrett Whitlock — an ex-Yankee (of course) — inducing a lazy pop fly from Gleyber Torres, clinching the win, tapping the kegs at the Fens.
“Tonight’s another tough one to take. We’ve been through a lot of wars with the guys in that room. We have a lot of scars. Guys are bummed. You pour a lot into this.”
There are so many issues with the Yankees, problems both short and long term they must deal with, but this might be the most jarring of all: unless there are serious changes to the team’s fundamental DNA, they are probably the fourth-best team in their own division right now. The Rays are clearly at the top, despite spending a fraction of the Yankees’ payroll every year.
The Blue Jays are charging hard, and if the season had lasted an extra week it’s entirely possible they might’ve nosed ahead of the Yankees for the second wild card. But perhaps most troubling, the Sox have re-established prominence in this rivalry. Three different times since the Yankees won their last title the Sox have bottomed out, and yet all three times they have recovered. Twice they won titles.
This time they merely schooled the Yankees across nine innings of a win-or-else obstacle course. The most optimistic Sox fans hoped for 81 wins this year. Instead they won enough to get this game at their ancient home, then maximized all of Chez Fenway’s nooks, crannies and quirks to squeeze the Yankees dry.
“The league’s closed the gap on us,” Boone said, which is a curious way to put it because the Yankees have actually spent 12 years trying to close the gap on the likes of the Sox, Rays and Astros above them. “We have to get better in every aspect.”
They absolutely do. Tuesday’s final chapter of a generally underwhelming season was in many ways a perfect summation of the six months that came before. The Yankees weren’t just beaten, they didn’t just offer little resistance, they turned the night into a referendum on their very likeability.
One of their $300 million men, Gerrit Cole, got all of six outs before getting yanked after allowing three runs.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Cole said.
The other, Giancarlo Stanton, had three hits — but on two of them, rockets off the Green Monster, he admired his blasts, assuming they were out before they slammed into the wall. He settled for a single the first time. He only wound up on second the next time thanks to an 8-6-2 relay that cut down Aaron Judge at the plate and allowed him to advance.
That’s a terrible look. And dovetails, almost entirely, with how detached the team was from its fans’ affections across so much of this season. The 2021 Yankees challenged you to love them. And too often failed. And finished up by lying down, once more, in infuriating fashion, to the Red Sox. The ghosts are dead. Winter beckons. Tough night all around at the Fens.
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