November 2, 2004

Ranking Yankee Post-Season Failures
by Steve Lombardi

Most people assume that the New York Yankees make the post-season every year.  And, most of those same folks believe that the Yankees win the post-season just about every year.  Both of these presumptions are far from the truth.  First of all, to date, the Yankees have failed to make the post-season in over half their seasons since 1903.  Further, in 18 of the 44 times (through 2004) that the Yankees have made the post-season, they have lost.  Below is a ranking of the 18 times that the New York Yankees have been defeated in the post-season:

18.  The 1922 World Series.  The Yankees did not win a game in this series.  They did not score more than three runs in any game.  The Yankees had 25 hits in 46 innings played during the contest.  Babe Ruth batted .118 in this series for the Yankees.  The New York Giants took the crown.

17.  The 2002 American League Division Series.  After winning 103 games in the regular season, the Yankees lost this series to the Wild Card Anaheim Angels in four games.  Angels hitters batted .376 against Yankee pitching.  The Yankees ERA for this series was 8.21.  The ERA for the Yankees starting pitchers was 10.38.

16.  The 1980 American League Championship Series.  As was the case in 2002, after winning 103 games in the regular season, the Yankees season ended quickly in this post-season.  New York lost to the Kansas City Royals in three straight games.  Royals pitchers had an ERA of 1.67 for the series.  George Brett iced Game 3 for K.C. with a huge homerun off Yankee relief ace Goose Gossage in the top of the 7th inning.

15.  The 1976 World Series.  After a dramatic win the in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees got their clocks cleaned by the defending champion Cincinnati Reds in this series - getting swept.  The Reds as a team had an On Base plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) of .887 in the series.  The Yankees OPS was .570.  The only game that was close was Game 2, and the Yankees lost that game with 2 outs in the bottom of  the 9th.

14.  The 1963 World Series.  The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Yankees in this series.  The Yankees never had a lead in any game at any time.  The Yankee pitchers faired well against the Dodger bats.  But, the Dodger pitchers flat out dominated the Yankees - allowing only 4 earned runs and 22 hits to New York in the four games.  Mickey Mantled batted .133 in the series.

13.  The 1921 World Series.  Here, the New York Giants beat the Yankees - this time in 8 games.  (The series was a best-of-nine.)  The Yankees were up 2 games to none and then lost 5 of the next 6 games.  In the last two games of this World Series, the Yankees lost by scores of 2-1 and 1-0.  Babe Ruth had only one At Bat in the last three games for the Yankees.

12.  The 2003 World Series.  The Yankees out-hit and out-pitched the Wild Card Florida Marlins in this series.  Yet, New York lost the series in six games.  The Yankees led the Marlins two games to one in this contest, heading into Game 4.  In that game, the Yankees tied the score at four with a two-run rally in the top of the 9th.  In the top of the 11th, New York had a chance to plate the lead run in the game; but, Aaron Boone struck out with a runner on third with one out.  Florida won the game in the bottom of the 12th on a walk-off homerun (allowed by Jeff Weaver, who had not pitched in a game in 4 weeks).  The Marlins then went on to take Games 5 and 6 for the ring.

11.  The 1942 World Series.  New York lost this series to the St. Louis Cardinals in just 5 games.  St. Louis won Game 2 with a run in the bottom of the 8th and they won Game 4 with a run in the top of the 9th.  The final game was tied at two going into the 9th inning - when Red Ruffing allowed a two-run homer that cost New York the game and clinched the series for the Cardinals.

10.  The 1981 World Series.  In this series versus the Los Angles Dodgers, the Yankees won the first two games.  But, they lost the next four in a row and the Dodgers won the championship.  Yankees pitcher George Frazier earned the "loss" in three of the final four games.  Games 3, 4, and 5 were all one run losses for New York.  The Yankees Dave Winfield batted .045 for the series - 1 Hit in 22 At Bats.  

9.  The 1964 World Series.  The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees in this series in seven games.  New York won a big contest on the road in Game 6 to force a Game 7.  But, in that final match, Bob Gibson of the Cardinals was too much and he won the game 7-5 (with the last two Yankee runs being a pair of solo homers in the top of the 9th).

8.  The 1957 World Series.  New York lost this series to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games.  With the series tied at two games each, the Yankees lost Game 5 by a score of 1-0.  New York came back to win Game 6, three to two, to force Game 7.  The Braves won the final game with a five-nothing shutout.  It was Milwaukee's Lew Burdette who conquered the Yankees - allowing just 2 runs in the 27 innings that he faced them - including acomplete game whitewashes in Games 5 and 7.

7.  The 1997 American League Division Series.  The Yankees led the Cleveland Indians two games to one in this contest, heading into Game 4.  One more win would mean an advance in the post season.  The Yankees had a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 4 when closer Mariano Rivera allowed a homerun to the Indians Sandy Alomar Jr. to tie the game.  New York would lose that game in the bottom of the 9th and then lose Game 5 (the clincher for Cleveland) by a score of 4-3.

6.  The 1995 American League Division Series.  This was the Yankees return to the post-season after a 13 year absence.  In this best of five series, the Yankees jumped out to a two game lead - winning Game 1 and Game 2 (with the latter in remarkable fashion coming on a homerun in the bottom of the 15th inning).  Needing only one win to advance in the playoffs, New York lost the next three games to the Seattle Mariners.  The final game was an 11-inning affair where the Yankees blew a 5-4 lead by allowing 2 runs in the bottom of the 11th - and the Mariners came back to take the game (6-5) and the series (3-2).

5.  The 1955 World Series.  This was the year the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series.  The Yankees took a two game lead in this series - winning Games 1 and 2 - but, Brooklyn won the next three games.  The Yankees then won Game 6 to force a final, winner-take-all, match the following day.  The Dodgers Johnny Podres was masterful that day and the Dodgers won Game 7 by a score of 2-0.  The Yankees went 1 for 9 at the plate with runners in scoring position during the final game.

4.  The 1926 World Series.  The Yankees led the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two in this series, heading into Game 6.   One more win would be the clincher for New York.  But, Pete Alexander bested the Yankees in Game 6, by a score of 10-2.  And, he came back in relief in Game 7, with two outs in the bottom of the 7th, to strike out the Yankees Tony Lazzeri with runners on.  St. Louis would go on to win Game 7 by a score of 3-2.  The Yankees Babe Ruth was thrown out on the bases during a failed hit and run attempt for the final out of the game and the series.

3.  The 2001 World Series.  After losing the first two games on the road in this series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees came back to win Games 3, 4, and 5 at Yankee Stadium - these games including game-tying two-run homeruns in the bottom of the 9th with two outs for New York in both Games 4 and 5.  However, Yankees starter Andy Pettitte's habit of tipping his pitches allowed Arizona to come back in Game 6 and pound the Yankees, 15-2.  In the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7, the Yankees Mariano Rivera blew a 2-1 Yankees lead and allowed the Diamondbacks to win the game (3-2) and the World Series.

2.  The 1960 World Series.  In this series, the Yankees batted .338 and had an ERA of 3.54.  Their opponents, the Pittsburgh Pirates, batted .256 and had an ERA of 7.11.  New York out-scored the Pirates in this seven game series, 55 to 27.  But, the Pirates won this World Series - on a Bill Mazeroski homerun for the Pirates, leading off the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7 in Pittsburgh (after New York scored two runs in the top of the 9th to tie the score at nine).  

1.  The 2004 American League Championship Series.  The Yankees quickly jumped out to a three-zip game lead in this best-of-seven series versus the Wild Card Boston Red Sox.  One more win for New York would mean the pennant.  In Game 4 of the series, New York was three outs away from winning the game and allowed Boston to come back and win the game.  In Game 5 of the series, New York was six outs away from winning the game and allowed Boston to come back and win the game.  The Yankees would go on to lose Game 6 as well - and then get pounded in Game 7 to lose the series and allow Boston to go on and win their first World Series in 86 years.  This series will go on to be known as the greatest comeback and/or greatest collapse in sports post-season history.

That is quite a list of post-season failures.  It is somewhat interesting that Angels fans will be quick to mention Donnie Moore, and Red Sox fans always lamented about Bill Buckner, and Cubs fans now have Steve Bartman, and Cardinals fans have Don Denkinger, and White Sox fans have their Eight Men Out (and fans of other teams have their respective demons) - but, what other team in history can match this list of 18 post-season reasons to bewail?  The Braves franchise can match the quantity - but not the quality of the failures.  The Dodgers and A's franchises fall short of both the number of failures and the depth of the losses.  In all likelihood, no franchise can match this list from Yankees history.

Think about that the next time your hear someone talk about how "they're tired of the Yankees winning every year."  Half of the time, the Yankees do not make the post-season and roughly half of the time they do make it, they lose.  In the words of Clara Peller, "Where's the beef?"

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