For those refined gentlepeople who prefer the cerebral grace of baseball to the plebian savagery of football, October is the greatest of months. Will Leitch looks at each of the eight playoff combatants. Now up: The New York Yankees.
The 2009 New York Yankees are the first team I've ever spent any time in the clubhouse of — assuming that you will not allow me to count the 1993 Big Twelve Champion Mattoon Green Wave — and I'm not sure I've learned much about the players who dress in it, other than the facts that Joba Chamberlain has a Megan Fox-esque tattoo full of indecipherable words I suspect he wouldn't understand anyway, and that Nick Swisher has a picture of Cody Ransom in his locker. People always talk about clubhouse tension, but none of that would ever filter out to a point that the sad masses of notebookers would ever notice it. Not that they don't try, regardless.
This was the season that the Yankees' undignified lurch toward their past dominance actually worked, a cosmic confluence of circumstances that allowed them to sign the best three free agents and have them, lo and behold, to turn out to be pretty damned good. Of all the signings, Mark Teixeira was probably the most steadying. The literal opposite of a diva, he's a robot, a smiling semi-vacant switch-hitting machine, a man so lacking in personality that his at-bat song is "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister. You can almost see the gears whirring and creaking in his brain. I do, in fact, like rock. Particularly Daughtry. What song would be express this feeling? How do I say, 'Boy, I sure could use some rocking right now.' That man doesn't even think in exclamation points. The last few years, the Yankees have needed players they never have to worry about. Mark Teixeira is the living embodiment of Someone Who Requires No More Thought. This is not a criticism of Teixeira. It is what makes him valuable. Well, that, at the .948 OPS.
More than Derek Jeter, more than Mariano Rivera, more than anyone else, the 2009 Yankees have taken the character of Teixeira, a relentless, robotic, blandly devastating instrument of destruction. Jeter, having one of his better years and mentioned by some as a possible MVP candidate, is actually eighth in his own lineup in slugging. Seven different guys hit at least 22 home runs, nine hit 13. Much of this is the new stadium, which sure did transfer from Luxury Suites homer-happy embarrassment to Home of Champions! awfully fast. But that stadium is going to be hosting a lot of games over the next few weeks. It plays to their strengths perfectly. And it's a lot louder than the old place. It really is. Place feels like college football sometimes.
At the beginning of the season, there was hope that this would be the year the Yankees' greed and inflated self-importance would finally be deflated, prey to age, PEDs, karma, Matt Taibbi's typically overexcited fingers. And there was something fitting about it, a gluttonous empire finally taken down by choking on its own bullshit. But, alas, that wasn't the Yankees; that was the Cowboys. I leave it up to you to decide whose downfall would be more satisfying. True life doesn't conform to Macbeth. Sometimes the most powerful win. Sometimes you don't even hate them for it. But usually, you do.