Attention Yankee fans: Put away your hats and jerseys and start making plans for October that don't involve baseball, because your team is not going to be playing. The Dump in the Bronx also known as Yankee Stadium closed for good on Sunday, and for the first time since 1993 the Yankees get to watch the playoffs on TV.
Despite having baseball's highest payroll at $207 million, they have been embarrassed by the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who have the second lowest payroll at $43 million. The Yankees are struggling to fight off the Toronto Blue Jays for third place in their division, with the Boston Red Sox having clinched at least second place and the American League wild card playoff spot.
Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner has attempted to come up with excuses for this season's debacle, blaming injuries for the team's demise. Granted the Yankees have been hurt by injuries, but who in baseball hasn't this year? The main reason the Yankees aren't going to be playing this October is the lack of attention given to their pitching staff in the off-season.
If you were to say that 39-year-old Mike Mussina was going to be the ace of the Yankee's pitching staff this year at the beginning of the season, it would be evident that their season wouldn't be lasting as long as usual. Chien-Ming Wang was not as affective as usual at the beginning of the season before being lost for the year in July. Young prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy proved that they weren't ready for the big leagues. Joba Chamberlain was impressive as both a starter and a reliever, but missed almost the whole month of August. When you sign Sidney Ponson in the middle of the year and ask him to join your rotation, you know you're in trouble.
What makes this even worse for Yankee fans is the fact that the crosstown rival Mets are also closing their stadium for good this season, but are currently in the middle of a pennant race. Coming down to the last weekend of the season, the Mets are battling with the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers for two playoff spots.
One of the main reasons the Mets are still in the race has been the pitching of staff ace Johan Santana, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees also tried to pull off a deal for Santana, but were too reluctant to part with Kennedy and Hughes. Chances are if the Yankees had pulled the trigger on the Santana deal, he alone could have been enough of a difference maker to push them into the playoffs. Instead, he will likely be starting at least one postseason game at Shea Stadium in the next couple of weeks while Yankee Stadium faces the wrecking ball.
After seeing the Yankees in the postseason each year since 1995, it will be nice to finally have a postseason without them. This weekend, while Shea Stadium will be packed with Mets fans trying to root their team into the playoffs, Yankee Stadium will quietly be awaiting the wrecking ball. If the Mets do hold on and make the playoffs, that trend will continue for at least a couple more weeks.