Yankees miss playoffs for first time since 2016

September 24, 2023, 7:19 PM

NEW YORK -- The end has officially arrived for this year's New York Yankees.

While a bevy of key injuries and a season's worth of offensive struggles long made it seem that their run of six straight postseason appearances was likely going to be halted, that conclusion mercifully and officially arrived on a soggy Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Under a steady, relentless rainfall and amid powerful, gusty winds brought on by nearby Tropical Storm Ophelia, the Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-1, falling out of contention for the American League's final wild-card spot. 

"It sucks," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "That's what you work hard toward all year round -- the wintertime, spring training, on through the season -- for an opportunity to play in October and compete for a championship.

"So the reality of that not being in play sucks."

Yankees captain and outfielder Aaron Judge said he plans to take a vocal and proactive role this offseason in ensuring the organization trends back to where it was prior to this season.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Judge said. "So we got to hit the ground running, especially when the season ends. We've got a lot to work on, a lot of things to change and a lot of stuff going on around here that needs to be fixed."

Asked what some of those things were, Judge declined to answer, saying they'd stay "in-house." He added that he has some ideas of changes that need to come, and he plans to work with key decision-makers throughout the major and minor league parts of the organization to ensure they take hold.

With regard to the AL wild-card race, now that the Yankees are out of the picture, the final spot remains a toss-up between the Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

In the National League, the Diamondbacks still hold a one-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for that league's final wild card. 

Sunday's loss also dropped the Yankees to 78-77, as they continue flirting with the possibility of being the first set of Bronx Bombers since 1992 to finish a season with a losing record.

"I feel like this club right here can win," starting pitcher Carlos Rodon said. "It's kind of one of those things where we have to turn the page and move on. Obviously, we have like six or seven games left, and so we have to finish strong with those and show what we can do on the field and move on from there, and look forward to next year."

Infielder DJ LeMahieu, a veteran who has played for the Yankees the past five seasons, said improvements he has seen in recent weeks by many of the team's young call-ups give him belief in what the organization's future can be.

"The most frustrating part of this year is we know we're good enough to be where we want to be, we just haven't done it," LeMahieu said. "[But] overall, there's definitely a lot to look forward to. But we know this year's not good enough."

Before this season, 2016 was the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs. It was a similarly underperforming team, one that featured the likes of aging All-Stars Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

But following that year's disappointing finish, New York made postseason appearances annually from 2017 to 2022, including three trips to the American League Championship Series.

It was a run powered by a team of younger, up-and-coming stars. It was paced by the likes of Judge, who won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2017.

This year's Yankees have seven games remaining, including a make-up against Arizona on Monday that was scheduled after Saturday's game was rained out.

Judge, who has been playing the past two months through a toe injury that landed him on the injured list for 51 midseason games, still plans to stay in the lineup often this final week.

"There was talks of stuff getting shut down, but I've got to be out there," Judge said. "I'm a leader on this team, and especially with the young guys we've got coming up -- you got to show them that you got to post, even if you're not feeling good, not feeling great. You've got to be out there every single day for your teammates.

"So I'm going to be out there."