: May 30, 2007
Those Who Ignore History...
It is looking bad for baseball biggest franchise, The New York Yankees. An extended streak of playoff seasons is on the line for a team filled with star players grown accustomed to success. The New York fans and press are piling on the pressure for a team off to a bad start. Yes, 1965 looks like a rough year for The Bronx Bombers.
If you think this yearís team has high expectations, the Yankees in 1965 were on a streak of 5 straight American League Pennants, and 14 League Championships in 16 years. In addition, the Yankees hadnít had a losing season since 1925, FOURTY YEARS! The team still had Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, Bobby Richardson and Roger Maris. They also had new owners to appease; CBS, a corporation with no sentiment and a focus on the bottom line.
The Ď65 Yanks started out a hand-wringing 7-7, then proceeded to go 12-19 over the month of May and were 9.5 games behind the surging Minnesota Twins. Of course, this team had to finish ahead of all the American League teams to make the post season and had no Wild Card to fall back on.
The Bombers pulled it together enough to climb over .500 on August 17th, but by then, they were 15 games back in 6th place. They stumbled to a 77-85 finish and finshed 25 games behind the Minnesota. To be fair, Mantle and Maris were both injured for large parts of the season, but 1965 began a decade of mediocrity for the Yankees with no post season appearances.
Are the 2007 Yankees on the same track as the í65 crew? Some elements are reminiscent of that end of Yankee dominance. Both clubs relied on older players at key spots in the lineup, especially in the outfield. Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui are all 33 years old, Mantle was 33 and Maris, an old 30, in 1965. Elston Howard was 36 in í65, Jorge Posada is 35 this year and Jason Giambi is 36. Whitey Ford was 36 in í65, Mike Mussina, 38, this year. It seems like both teams were in the year that age and injury affected the team enough to keep them out of the post season.
This yearís team has the ability to get back to .500 and above, but, like the í65 squad, they have spotted a white-hot division leader a huge head start. While the 2007 Yankees are loaded with talent, they donít have the youthful energy required to pursue a 110-game-long desperation-driven fight to the end. Fortunately, with free-agency and George Steinbrennerís deep pockets, I donít see the Yankees enduring another decade-long slump.