The following teams have played in a League Championship Series since the Yankees last did: Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Rays. That's fourteen teams, nearly half of Major League Baseball. It has been a while.
As we hone our expectations for the American League Championship Series against the Angels, which will begin tonight if the weather cooperates, it's important to remember that not only has it been a while since we've been here by Yankee standards, it's been a while by almost anyone's standards. (Seriously, the Mets have been to the LCS since the Yankees. The Mets!) If the Yankees and their fans weren't so caught up in the notion that every season is "championship or bust," they might appreciate making it this far as the rarity, and the gift, that it is.
But no matter now! We're here, and that means insanely late nights and zombie shuffle workdays for the next week-and-a-half, and maybe longer. (We recommend getting as much work done today as possible, because this is gonna take a while.)
If there is a Game 1 tonight, the starters are CC Sabathia for the Yankees and John Lackey for the Angels. It's a matchup in which the Yankees would seem to have the advantage, but crazy things happen in the postseason: Predicting individual series, let alone individual games, is folly. We just have to strap in and follow along, like the managers, like the players, like everyone else involved. It's the greatest (and most exhausting) show in sports.
For the first time in five years, the most important games in baseball will be played in the Bronx, with freezing players, wrapped-up-in-attempted-warmth fans hopping up and down, and every pitch ripping out your guts. It's not always fun, but it's always vital. The Yankees are at the center of the baseball universe again. Whether we want to admit it or not, it has been quite some time since we could say that.