New York Yankees
The 21st centuryIn the emotional October 2001, following the September 11 attack on New York City's World Trade Center, the Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics 3 games to 2 in the Division Series, and then the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, 4 games to 1. But, the usually unhittable Mariano Rivera shockingly blew the lead - and World Series - to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7. Arizona manager Bob Brenly used his pitching staff, which included Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, very effectively. In addition, the usually potent Yankee attack turned ice-cold.
In 2003, the Yankees defeated their long-time rival the Boston Red Sox in a tough seven-game ALCS, which featured a near-brawl in Game 3 and a series-ending walk-off home run by Aaron Boone in the 11th inning of the final game, only to be defeated by the Florida Marlins - a team with a payroll a quarter of the size of the Yankees' - in the World Series, 4 games to 2.
The loss in the 2001 World Series effectively marked the end of the 1990s Yankee dynasty, as lynchpin players began to retire, not be re-signed, or traded. The Yankees' quick ejection from the 2002 playoffs at the hands of the Anaheim Angels accelerated the changes, as ownership and management began to look increasingly on free agent acquisitions and major trades. The trend continued after the 2003 World Series, culminating when the Yankees traded for the nominal "best player in baseball", Alex Rodriguez, in February 2004. Other significant acquisitions during 2002 to 2004 included Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, and Javier Vázquez.
In the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, the Yankees became the first team in professional baseball history, and only the third team in North American pro sports history (it happened in the NHL twice), to lose a best-of-7 series after taking a 3-0 series lead. After the 2004 World Series, the Yankees needed to improve their pitching, which suffered in the huge collapse to the Red Sox. They signed pitchers Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. The Yankees also acquired dominant lefty Randy Johnson from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 2005 season didn't start as it expected to be, once they were in last place in the American League East division. Pavano and Wright struggled, so did Johnson. As the season went on, the Yankees got better and slugger Jason Giambi started to hit again. Most of the season, the Yankees were chasing the Boston Red Sox for the division title. The Yankees seemed destined to win the division, and they did.
In the 2005 Division Series, the Angels defeated the Yankees in five games in the first round of the postseason, winning the final game by a score of 5-3. After the 2005 season, the Yankees needed to get younger and more athletic. In the 2005-2006 offseason, general manager Brian Cashman took control of the Yankees, because owner George Steinbrenner and his advisors signed older talented players after the 2001 season. From the end of the 2005 World Series to December 2005, the baseball world noticed that the Yankees were patient with signing free agents.
Many explanations have been given for the lack of Yankee World Series titles since 2000. These include depletion of the Yankee farm system because of trades and free agent acquisitions, the aging or departure of the players who had formed the core of the Yankees during the late 1990s, and allegedly poor coaching. Buster Olney, in his book The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, argues that George Steinbrenner's management style resulted in the players burning out psychologically. Several sabermetricians have argued that success in the playoffs is largely the result of luck. This argument is bolstered by the fact that the production of the Yankees' core players has decreased steadily since their 1996 World Series title.
One particularly creative explanation jokingly proposed by blogger Larry Mahnken is the "Curse of Clay Bellinger". By analogy with the Curse of the Bambino, Mahnken points to the departure of utility player Clay Bellinger from the Yankee roster following the 2001 season and asserts that the Yankees will never again win the World Series until either they make amends to Bellinger or they win the championship anyway. The tautology is part of the joke.
Despite their most recent drought in World Series championships, the Yankees have continued to perform well in the regular season, recently winning their eighth straight AL East division title. In September 2005, the club set a new American League home attendance record of 4,090,696. The Yankees are only the third franchise in sports history to draw over 4 million in regular season attendance at their own ballpark (the others being the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays with 4,057,947 and the 1993 Colorado Rockies with 4,483,350).
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