27th for the Yankees.
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By Sky Andrecheck, Hardballtimes.com
2009 was a victory for the New York Yankees, solidifying them as the team of the decade, not to mention the team of the millennium, and the team of all of baseball history. But one could also argue that the 2009 playoffs were a victory for Major League Baseball.
The Yankees, by all serious accounts, were baseball's best team regardless of the outcome of the playoffs. MLB may say that it craves parity, but what they really mean is parity in the regular season. The playoffs, by consistently producing upset after upset, have gained a reputation as a crap-shoot, in which luck rather than talent rules the day. With the team with the best regular-season record winning just two World Series in the last 18 years, fans can hardly be blamed for regarding the postseason as a roll of the dice, rather than a system of determining the game's best team. Additionally, the expanded playoffs have produced several champions and league champions which could not credibly be considered worthy of their title (I count four World Series champions, and an additional three World Series participants -- I'll leave it to you to pick out which teams I'm thinking of). The crisis has led to reactionary calls to punish wild-card teams by taking away their home field advantage or add a second wild-card team to make it tougher for an inferior team to win. (Ironically, implementing the latter would actually make it easier for an inferior team to win.)
In any case, it's not good for any sport when fans believe that luck, not skill, is the main determinant of who wins the championship. The regular season becomes a drag when fans believe that no matter how good their team is, it matters little when it comes to the playoffs. Just ask Atlanta Braves fans. In general, sports fans enjoy an upset, but when upsets become routine it disturbs the balance of sport.
Luckily for MLB, 2009 shocked the sport back into equilibrium. Teams that were supposed to win won. In six out of the seven series, the team with the better record won the series. Most of all, the consensus best team in baseball won it all. New York's victory, even if you personally detest the Yankees, is good for baseball and the fans because it restores some credibility to the playoffs. A loss by the Yankees, especially an early one, would have further diminished the value of both the regular season and the playoffs, by making fans lose faith in the way MLB determines its champion. If the best team loses year after year, why watch?
Part of the appeal of sport is the possibility of a David over Goliath victory. But in order to keep those moments fresh, Goliath has to win sometimes too. For MLB, Goliath's long losing streak had begun to erode the sport's credibility. 2009 went a long way toward restoring the balance of the game.