So that's that. For just the second time this decade baseball has an undisputed champion, a team that won the most games in the regular season and went on to win the World Series. Whether or not you care for the Yankees, you can't make any kind of argument that they're a paper champion.
As I wrote elsewhere today, there's at least as much reason to think this was the last hurrah of the old Joe Torre Yankees as there is to think this is the beginning of a new dynasty. Even in their newly remodeled version the team is old, and, as they say, what can't continue, won't. There are reasons why catchers and shortstops and closers don't usually play as well as Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera have at their ages, and there isn't any obvious way to replace these irreplaceable players. Meanwhile Boston and Tampa Bay will likely be better next year than they were this year, and there are two whole other divisions to contend with as well. As the Phillies can tell you, it's tough to repeat.
Still, in the wild-card era especially, a true championship is something to savor, and the Yankees won theirs the hard way, beating first the hottest team in the American League, then the one team that has had their number for years, and then the reigning World Series winner. It's 151 days to spring training, when everything starts over again. Until then, the Yankees have earned the right to smile the widest smiles in the world.