The New York Yankees have left a few rings on the table across the decades.
The first thing a Yankees fan will likely say to any offending bystander is, of course, “27 rings!”
But, if you let us perch by your shoulder a little longer, our hardened exterior will break down, and we’ll start blubbering like any other diehard about the ones that got away.
That’s the harshest irony about fandom, right? You remember your toughest losses 100 times more vibrantly than your greatest triumphs.
Though the Yanks have objectively walked away the victor plenty of times, New York should have well more than 27 rings by now, if we’re being honest. These early exits hurt the most.
4. 2002 Yankees
Somehow, the 2002 Yankees fell early to the eventual World Champion Angels.
The 2002 Yankees had it all — especially pedigree, considering they were a largely improved version of the team that had gone to four consecutive World Series.
Though the Yanks had lost luminaries like Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, and Paul O’Neill (and to be fair, those are some big ol’ guns), the roster was reinforced in all the right places.
34-year-old Robin Ventura posted an All-Star season at third in Brosius’ stead, socking 27 homers. Jason Giambi took over at first, and put up his greatest season in pinstripes (ever?), slashing .314/.435/.598 and bashing 41 homers and 122 RBI.
Though an outfield trio of Shane Spencer, Rondell White, and Raul Mondesi couldn’t quite approximate O’Neill, Alfonso Soriano made The Leap, hitting .300 with 39 homers.
In response to the changes, New York went 103-58, adding eight wins to the previous campaign. Of course, it all…came down…to the pitching. Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens regressed, and were only slightly better than league average (109 and 102 ERA+, respectively). Though Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez were stellar, and Ted Lilly filled in the gaps to perfection, the rotation struggled to contain the Angels in prime time.
New York took Game 1 of the ALDS 8-5, but stunningly lost the next three contests 8-6, 9-6, and 9-5. It’s rare that a supreme slugging team gets into four straight slugfests in October and loses three consecutive. Odds would’ve leaned towards this being a 2-2 series heading back to the Bronx. Instead, Pettitte, Mussina, and Wells all lost their starts, Hernandez cratered in relief, and we didn’t get Washburn-Clemens in a Game 5 rematch. We got nothin’.