I was just looking at the final A.L. East Standings for 1988:
Team W L W-L% GB Red Sox 89 73 .549 -- Tigers 88 74 .543 1.0 Brewers 87 75 .537 2.0 Blue Jays 87 75 .537 2.0 Yankees 85 76 .528 3.5 Indians 78 84 .481 11.0 Orioles 54 107 .335 34.5
Close race, huh? Five teams all bunched up at the top with just 3 1/2 games between them.
You know, at the close of business on September 15th that season, the Yankees were in 2nd place – just 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox (who New York beat that day albeit facing Roger Clemens). And, the Yankees were all set up – as they had six games left with the Red Sox and seven games left with the Orioles (who stunk that year) in their next 13 games to play. So, what happened?
Well, in those seven games with the O’s, they got it done – going 6-1. But, in those six games against the Red Sox, the Yankees went 1-5. And, once that 13-game run was over, the Yankees were 3 1/2 games back with three games left to play in the season. So, it was over.
But, really, it was over just three games into that 13-game period. After the Yankees beat the Red Sox, in Fenway, on September 15th, New York lost the next three games in Boston – and then found themselves 6 1/2 games back of the Red Sox (with 13 games left to the season). Granted, getting fat against the O’s after that allowed the Yankees to get within 3 1/2 games again. But, those three losses in a row were a killer for them. Here’s what happened in each of those:
September 16th: Al Leiter and Steve Shields don’t get the job done.
September 17th: Charlie Hudson is left in too long. The Yankees protested the game, for some reason, but it was not allowed.
September 18th: Ron Guidry got battered around and then some.
I was 25-years old during the 1988 season. Why I don’t remember more of it, I dunno? I was probably too busy working during the week and then running around down at the Jersey Shore on the weekends. Either that, or, because of the whole Boston-thing, I decided to redact the whole tank job from my memory. Plus, don’t forget, the Mets were rocking in 1988. So, that might have played into it too…with it just being a bad time to be a Yankees fan.
Then, of course, 1989 through 1992 was just a terrible time to be living in Yankeeland. In the end, perhaps, the missed chance 1988 was the match that set the whole thing off?
Oh, what might have been…