Postseason without Yankees will have different feel
It is never the same in the postseason without the New York Yankees.
There really hasn't been much experience of that absence lately, since the Bronx Bombers have been in the postseason 17 of the past 18 years. But the 2013 version of this club is on the very edge of becoming only the second Yankees team since 1995 to miss the playoffs.
This is not about the long list of injuries and ills that beset the franchise in 2013. This is not about the inability to give a properly victorious sendoff to Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher of all time and the epitome of what is best about the Yankees.
This is also not about the fact that Yankees fans have a fundamental belief that their team is supposed to go 162-0 in the regular season, and then encore by going 11-0 in the postseason.
The Yankees were mortal this season, OK? They were vulnerable to the normal human limitations of age and injury. This is not supposed to happen, and it certainly doesn't happen often. But this year, it did.
And now, a Yankee-less postseason beckons. The five teams in each league that qualify for the playoffs would certainly be too happy -- and too busy -- to spend any time bemoaning the absence of the Yankees from the festivities of October.
But there will be those of us who will notice and who will, in one way or another, miss the Yankees. This will not happen because we are either Yankees fans or Yankees haters. It will happen because we have a notion of how closely the Yankees are identified with the postseason, not to mention their singular success at that level.
The Yankees have won 27 World Series championships. The St. Louis Cardinals, a truly proud franchise, are a distant second with 11.
Over the history of baseball, the Yankees have been in the Fall Classic 40 times. Thus, they have also lost the World Series more times than any other club, but this merely proves how pervasive their presence has been at baseball's summit.
This is not lost on anybody who is paying attention. There is a vivid recollection of the end of the 2001 World Series, after a compelling competition, capped by a thrilling Game 7 at what is now Chase Field.
The victorious Arizona Diamondbacks were suitably, understandably elated. And what they were saying was not only how wonderful it was to win a World Series. They were also saying that what made it even more special was that they had beaten the Yankees in the World Series. And they had beaten the Yankees who had won the previous three World Series and four of the previous five.
That sort of thing cannot be replaced. There is nobody else in the game with the Yankees' nearly territorial right to the postseason. The winners of the 2013 World Series won't spend a fraction of a second feeling any less like champions if the Yankees aren't on hand. But they also won't have the bonus blast of defeating the most frequent postseason champs.
The business of baseball generally suffers a bit when the Yankees are not on board for the postseason. The Yankees have fans that are seemingly beyond number. The television ratings, to the surprise of no one who keeps score in this aspect of the game, are better with the Yankees than without them.
All of this is not to say that the 2013 postseason, even it does not include the Yankees, will be anything less than terrific, tremendous, spellbinding, epic in every round and every matchup. There will be exceptional clubs, with riveting stories, and there will ultimately be a richly deserving winner.
But if it doesn't have the New York Yankees, the one thing it can't be is business as usual.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.