NEW YORK—Saying the American League wild-card bid is "beneath the dignity of the Yankees organization" and "an affront to everything [we] stand for," New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and manager Joe Torre told reporters during a press conference Wednesday that the Yankees have respectfully declined the opportunity to participate in Major League Baseball's postseason if they have to do so as the American League's wild-card team.
"On behalf of the entire Yankee team: Thanks, but no thanks," said Steinbrenner, adding that the Yankees would only play in the 2007 playoffs if they were able to take their "rightful place" as the American League East representatives. "Please don't patronize us with by making us the wild card. The New York Yankees aren't wild cards. We're the New York Yankees, for God's sake. The New York Yankees. And we have our dignity."
"Wild card?" Steinbrenner added. "Please."
The announcement came following a three-hour meeting between Steinbrenner, Torre, and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, in which both Torre and Steinbrenner attempted to convince the commissioner that the Yankees were anything but wild cards—a position Steinbrenner later called "demeaning and pathetic."
"We're not an unproven, intermediate expansion team whose qualities are unknown and whose team character has not been established," said Steinbrenner, referring to the strict definition of a wild card. "The wild card is for those lesser organizations, teams like the Colorado Rockies, or—ugh, I can't believe I am actually going to utter their name—the 'Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.'"
"You have to consider the elite pedigree of this historic franchise," Torre added. "The Yankees have won 26 World Series titles and 39 American League pennants. To even think we would reduce ourselves to such an embarrassing position is an absurdity bordering on insanity. We might as well drop down to Single A."
The Yankees, who finished the season with a 94-68 record, leaving them two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings, are in fact statistically the American League wild-card team. Torre maintained, however, that the Yankees are above statistics, and answer to a "much higher calling."
"We have family, friends, and billions upon billions of fans who deserve much more than for us to just submit to being spat upon," Torre said. "The fact that we have, in the past, even participated in divisional series and league championship series is beneath us. I've been saying for some time that the Yankees should only have to play in one game the entire year: an intrasquad match to decide the world champion."
Though the Yankees did accept wild-card births in both the 1995 and 1997 seasons, Steinbrenner said he was not made aware of it at the time. Had he been, the Yankees' controversial, often polarizing owner stated, he would have most assuredly pulled his team out of the playoffs to show respect for Yankee greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle—none of whom, Steinbrenner said, ever donned the pinstripes as a wild-card team.
The wild-card system was introduced by Commissioner Selig in 1995.
"I'm not even sure how this, what do you call it, 'wild card?' Right…how this wild card even works," said Yankees shortstop and team captain Derek Jeter, who made "air quotes" gestures every time he uttered the phrase. "Can a team even make it to the World Series from such a position? Seems like charity to me. And the Yankees are nobody's charity case."
"Try to remember that the Yankees are blessed by God himself," Jeter added. "If God wanted us to be a wild-card team, He would have done so when He created the Yankees over 100 years ago."
When informed three of the last five World Series titles were, in fact, won by wild-card teams, catcher Jorge Posada stated that it was because other Major-League clubs acted out of the weakness of false sentiment, having felt sorry for "those lesser teams' lowly, disgusting, and frankly wretched position."
"How do you think Florida beat us in 2003?" Posada said. "Because the Yankees are too classy a ball club to beat up on a clearly inferior team."
Though the majority of the Yankee team affirmed their commitment to boycotting the playoffs if their wild-card status is not "corrected," third baseman Alex Rodriguez stated he would still play, adding that with so many Yankees out of the lineup he would get more at-bats, more balls hit to him in the field, and would finally get a chance to pitch, a position Rodriguez said he is "probably pretty good at."