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Ranking the painfulness of the Yankees’ last four seasons

If you’re a Yankee fan, you’re probably starting to feel pretty good right now. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in a few days. The Yankees announced there will be a limited amount of fans in the stands from the beginning of the season. And the team has a chance to win the World Series this year. However, I’m not writing this blog to lift you up with optimism. I’m going to drag us all down with painstaking memories of the most depressing Yankee moments of the last four seasons. Okay, I’m gonna talk about some of the good memories too. But that’s what makes baseball so painful – 162 games, months of watching and enjoying a team, coming to an abrupt end for every franchise except for one each year.

All four of these postseason exits were painful in their own way. The Yankees have beef with all the teams that have eliminated them – the Red Sox, Astros, and Rays. But I’m not just considering the team who took the Yankees out. Which Yankee teams gave us the kind of great memories that made the end of the season that much harder? Bring on the pain.

Image result for drake get in loser

4. 2020 Yankees

No recency bias here. The Yankees’ most recent playoff exit was the least painful of the last four years for a variety of reasons. No, it’s not because it wasn’t a “real season.” It absolutely was; however, the season was unorthodox, and I didn’t have the emotional ties to the 2020 Yankees that I did to the three Yankee teams before them.

As I mentioned in the intro, the baseball season is a grind. 162 games, six months of watching your team almost every night. 2020 wasn’t like that. Sure, I was thrilled to get baseball back. But we didn’t get a 162-game marathon, we got a 60-game sprint. On top of that, there were no trips to Yankee Stadium, or any stadium for that matter.

The regular season also wasn’t only short, but also forgettable. Despite a fast 16-5 start, the Yankees finished just 33-27, seven games behind the Rays. They were 2-8 vs. the Rays, and lost Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for good chunks of the season. Besides the five-run ninth inning comeback against the Mets, what were the highlights of the regular season? It mostly wasn’t fun, especially relative to expectations.

The Wild Card round was fun for the Yankees, though. The most enjoyable baseball they played all year.

Stanton’s grand slam in Game 1 of the Rays series was awesome too. But, thanks to the Yankees’ decision to go to J.A. Happ in the second inning of Game 2, the fun kinda ended right there.

Mix in Aroldis Chapman serving up yet another backbreaking home run in an elimination game, and the end of 2020 absolutely sucked. Especially losing to the Rays after the whole “stable full of guys” incident in the regular season.

3. 2017 Yankees

This is probably my favorite Yankee team that didn’t win a World Series. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year after they’d been trade deadline sellers the year before. And yet, they came closer to the World Series than any other team on this list.

Aaron Judge burst onto the scene with a 52 HR performance that won him Rookie of the Year, and should’ve gotten him the MVP as well. Luis Severino was unbelievable, and Gary Sanchez followed up his great rookie year with another strong season. This team was just so much fun to watch. Who could forget classic games like these?

The playoffs provided more memories. Didi’s Wild Card homer, Bird going deep off Andrew Miller, Tanaka dealing to keep us alive, Didi taking Kluber deep twice in Game 5 to advance, and then the insanity of the ALCS.

If I loved this team so much, and they got closest to the World Series, why are they only #3? One word: expectations. Nobody anticipated the 2017 Yankees being that good. I thought maybe they’d be a playoff team, but never did I think they would be within a game of winning the pennant. I was still very upset when they lost Game 7 in Houston, but I remember thinking “this is only the beginning, we’ll be back.” Unfortunately, they haven’t made it as far since then.

2. 2018 Yankees

I had HIGH hopes for the 2018 Yankees. They had just come within a game of the World Series, and they added Giancarlo Stanton fresh off his 59-homer MVP performance. They weren’t underdogs anymore. In some ways, they lived up to the hype. The team did win 100 games. The Yankees also were extremely hot early, winning 17 of 18 against the likes of the Indians, Astros, and Red Sox.

There were other season highlights too. Gary’s walkoff homer against the Twins, Giancarlo’s against the Mariners, absolutely clobbering David Price on Sunday Night Baseball at the Stadium. There were, however, two lowlights of that 2018 season:

  1. Aaron Judge breaking his wrist
  2. The four-game sweep at Fenway in August

Both of those completely de-railed the Yankees’ season in different ways. Judge’s absence left a huge hole in the lineup, and the Yankees failed to keep pace with the Red Sox. The four-game sweep ended any hopes the Bombers had left to make a run at the division.

The Yankees did end up getting a shot at the 108-win Sox in the ALDS. After losing Game 1, the Yankees won Game 2 to even the series.

Here’s where things get painful. Series tied at 1 game apiece. Yankees coming home to the Bronx, where they were 6-0 the previous postseason. Severino on the mound. At that point, I really thought we were winning that series. Unfortunately, what ensued was a 16-1 massacre on our home field, followed by elimination the very next night.

I was at that 16-1 game, the first Yankees/Sox postseason game in the Bronx since 2004 ALCS Game 7. Of all the Yankee games I’ve ever been to, that one HAS to be the worst. The Yankees gave me a glimmer of hope before being absolutely embarrassed at the hands of their rivals.

1. 2019 Yankees

2019 still gets to me. Maybe it’s partly because that’s the last full season that was played. But I really thought that team was going to win the damn World Series.

“Next Man Up” was real in 2019. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a team more badly bitten by the injury bug than that Yankees team. Judge, Stanton, Severino, Voit, Didi, and Hicks all missed significant time. Gary had a few IL stints, and Paxton missed a handful of starts. But it didn’t matter, because whoever stepped up to replace them was going to be a beast.

DJ LeMahieu became an MVP candidate when he was signed to be a utility infielder. Voit was unbelievable in the first half before suffering a hernia in London. Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin both gave the outfield a huge boost. And Gio Urshela broke out and became an absolute star at third base.

103 wins, six of them in the walk-off variety. Winning in extras at the Angels. Taking 2/3 from the Dodgers. The Hicks catch in Minnesota. That season was so awesome.

The Yankees disposed of the Twins in short order in the ALDS, before an ALCS matchup with the Astros. I hated the Astros by that point for a variety of reasons:

  • They eliminated us in 2017;
  • There were rumblings at that point that they were up to no good (the trash can scandal would be reported a few months later);
  • Correa, Bregman, Verlander, etc. are all insufferable.

The Yankees won Game 1 behind a masterful Tanaka & 5 RBId from Gleyber. Unfortunately, the next 3 games didn’t go their way. Correa hit a walkoff homer in Game 2, some guy named Gerrit Cole shuts us down in Game 3, and Springer & Correa belted a pair of three-run bombs in Game 4. We did win Game 5, the last baseball game I attended & the last to feature fans at Yankee Stadium.

Game 6 was especially gut-wrenching. Yankees got down early, crawled their way back in, DJ tied it in the 9th..

…only for Altuve to take Chapman deep in the bottom half to crush our dreams. Between how fun the 2019 season was, how great that team was, how much I hated the Astros, and how the season ended, that takes the cake for me as most painful of the last four Yankee teams.

Now that I’m done rambling, I wanna hear from you guys. Let me know what you think the right order is in the comments, or tweet me @ncostanzo24.