The New York Yankees face an elimination game tonight and with the whole world watching they need to come through against the Detroit Tigers. They don't need to come through for themselves, the Steinbrenners, or the citizens of New York, they need to come through for baseball itself.
Baseball is at a crossroads. It is in the process of replacing marquee players without the benefit of performance enhancing drugs. The result is a boring game with modest accomplishments. Josh Hamilton, Justin Verlander, and Robinson Cano are not household names like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, or Roger Clemens. They also don't put up EA sports type numbers to excite the crowd. Without that crutch baseball only has on thing to lean on, the Yankees.
The Yankees invoke emotion one way or the other. You either love them or you hate them. People tune in to see them continue their dominance or pray they fall flat on their face and get what's coming to them. There's no middle ground with the Bronx bombers and people seem to genuinely care if they win or lose.
Personally I love what the Yankees represent. It is an example of capitalism at its finest. If the game is stacked in your favor why would you ever play fair? Buy what you want and give yourself a distinct advantage if the rules allow it. With money out of the equation it's up to the players to perform at their full capability and deliver on the investment.
This is the great thing about sports. It is the ultimate reality show. The drama and intrigue associated with game 5 tonight is immense and things may not go as scripted. Without New York (or Boston) in the playoff landscape the interest level falls off dramatically and baseball suffers. The purists will say may the best team win regardless of the implications. The realists will say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and a Yankees win is in the best interest of everyone. Which side are you on?