Derek Jeter will not have his chance at one last World Series. With a 9-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday afternoon, the New York Yankees are now mathematically eliminated from the American League Wild Card race. They are currently five games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card position with only four games to play.
Even if the Yankees had hung on today with a win, they would still had to have won out for the remaining four games and hope that the Athletics, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, and Seattle Mariners all lose. However, one of the biggest obstacles to that scenario was the fact that the Royals and Indians played each other four times this week, so one of those two teams had to win each time.
Considering the slew of injuries that the Yankees have faced throughout the 2014 season, they did very well to stay in the race this long and compile a winning record of 81-77 at the point of elimination. The worst they can finish is an even .500 (81-81), and they can still finish eight games over (85-77) if they do manage to win out. Doing so would mean a win against Baltimore on Thursday and a sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park over the season's final weekend.
The myriad of injuries includes the loss of four of the five pitchers slated to form the starting rotation on Opening Day. Ivan Nova succumbed to Tommy John surgery in April after making four starts. CC Sabathia had knee problems that hindered his performance in the first half and eventually led to season-ending surgery in July. Michael Pineda suffered a torn teres major muscle in his shoulder and missed three months from early May to mid-August. Finally, Masahiro Tanaka, once the front runner for A.L. Rookie of the Year, went down in early July with a partially-torn UCL in his right elbow. He came back just this week.
Add in the other plethora of injuries to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran that either canceled games for them or greatly reduced their production, and we can see why the Yankees had trouble maintaining momentum.
One positive stems from elimination. Jeter may now decide how and when he wants to finish. Now that there is no postseason left for his team, Jeter has the option of playing Thursday in the Yankees' final home game -- thereby ending his career in Yankee Stadium -- or playing in the Red Sox series in Boston to end his career. He has earned the privilege of making this decision for himself.
This season marks only the third time since 1993 that the Yankees have missed the postseason. They finished third in the A.L. East in 2008 at 89-73 -- before the second wild card position began -- and fourth last year at 85-77. Still, those records are well above the .500 mark even though they fall short of expectations in the Bronx.
In addition, combining 2013 and 2014, the Yankees will miss their first back-to-back postseasons since 1992-1993 -- or more appropriately, a 12-year stretch from 1982-1993. They led the A.L. East with the A.L.'s best record in 1994 when the season ended early due to the horrific strike that also delayed the opening of the 1995 season.
New York will not have a postseason appearance this year, but Yankee fans still have reason to celebrate. They will get to say goodbye to another Yankee legend and hold fast to the memories of the five World Series championships and seven American League pennants that Jeter and his teammates brought to the Bronx between 1996 and 2009. In all, the Yankees have won 27 World Series titles, so there is still plenty of reason to cheer.