A little more than a decade ago, ESPN's Buster Olney put out a book called "The Last Night of the Yankees Dynasty," hubbed around the 2001 World Series loss and the decaying infrastructure of a team that had dominated baseball for a half-decade.
11 years later, the Yankees are still a perennial playoff team, but it really feels like a break point now: The energetic Orioles seem to have sapped New York's energy; the Yankees are about to get swept out of the ALCS, a complete humiliation.
Jeter is out. Rivera is out. I would never bet against either, but between age and injury, you just don't know how effective they will be in 2013 and beyond. The rest of the lineup is largely punchless -- and if/when Cano and Granderson and Teixera aren't hitting HRs, it's a huge problem.
And then there is the A-Rod issue, which is really just a money issue -- he is owed $120M over the next five years, and he is so ineffective, they won't play him in a must-win playoff game, among other signals that he is all but done as a useful contributor.
I'm not sure the Yankees can spend their way to a title again -- they aren't better-positioned than the Tigers (clearly); they aren't better-positioned than the Rangers or Angels. The Orioles will clearly regress next season, but the Rays won't, the Jays are always on the cusp and the Red Sox -- while even more of a mess than the Yankees -- are a couple of well-financed moves from being a threat, if not a contender.
Yankees fans have every right to be unenthusiastic -- they have championship expectations, and this team isn't even close (and looks to be getting further away by the day). And it is good for the game that the swath of Anti-Yankees Nation gets to revel in a little bit of schadenfreude.
*Lance: He's leaving Live Strong. Nike is dropping him. These two things are way more symbolically meaningful than the USADA report or the various tell-alls by his former colleagues.
*ALCS: Justin Verlander is a joy to watch. Take in his playoff starts now, so you can tell your kids about it when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
(Sidebar: How many active pitchers feel like HOF locks? Rivera, obviously. Verlander. At this rate, King Felix. Probably Cliff Lee. Probably Roy Halladay. Probably CC Sabathia. Maybe Andy Pettitte. Possibly David Price. Possibly Clayton Kershaw. That seem right?)
*NFL: Firing the defensive coordinator won't help the Eagles. At what point will they finally figure out that Andy Reid isn't getting them to the top?
*More: Not sure there's a more overrated NFL exec than Mike Holmgren, who was a terrific coach but always felt like a huge stretch as a GM/President. His final (and most obvious) failure was not putting the trade package together to get the Rams' 1st-round draft pick to acquire RGIII.
*CFB: The minor knee injury to Bama QB McCarron feels like ominous foreshadowing of the Tide falling short of what initially felt like an inevitable national title. (Now, you could probably plug in the third-string QB and they would still run over people -- and it's not like McCarron plays D, which will always keep Alabama in games -- but don't undervalue his role as a leader.)
*Remainders: The new Nets court looks terrific on TV.