After Celebrating a Playoff Berth, Yankees Recognize 'The Job's Not Finished'

Max Goodman

Glasses clinked in the lobby of the Yankees' hotel in Buffalo on Sunday night as New York's players convened to celebrate a berth to the 2020 MLB postseason.

With the Mariners' loss to the Padres, the Bombers officially clinched a fourth-consecutive trip to the playoffs and the club's 22nd appearance in October in the last 26 years.

"When we found out that the Padres won, it was immediately in our group chat," rookie right-hander Michael King said Monday evening. "I think [Brett] Gardner was the first one to say something."

Once word had circulated about the decisive result of Seattle's contest out on the west coast, everyone began to gather. Earlier that evening, the Yankees had lost in a blowout at Fenway Park, ending a historic winning streak against the club's division rival, so any sort of celebration was already different. Those festivities were even further from normal due to COVID-19 protocols.

Rather than spraying alcoholic beverages across a crowded locker room, players wore masks when they weren't sipping on champagne.

"It was an interesting way to do it but better than nothing for sure," slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. "It was a fun get-together and definitely better than not." 

While it was nice to be together, some of the Bombers' biggest names craved the shenanigans of a traditional big-league clinching party.

Yankees' infielder DJ LeMahieu, looking back on the responsible gathering the following morning, admitted he would've preferred letting loose in the clubhouse.

"Not as fun as doing it in the locker room and doing the normal postseason trying to burn each other's eyes," LeMahieu said. "But it's still a big accomplishment. I think we all realize that."

Ace Gerrit Cole agreed, but explained that the most important component of any end of the year celebration is to acknowledge the grind it took to get to this point. 

"It's obviously not as fun as getting to spray champagne over everybody but anytime you can get the team together and acknowledge everybody in the room and the hard work that's been put in, regardless if you're spraying champagne or just 'cheersing' with masks on it's nice," Cole said. "We'll take it and we'll get back to work."

At one point, the group quieted down as Yankees' manager Aaron Boone addressed the team. Beyond congratulating those in the room, the skipper reiterated that there's still work to be done to achieve what this team sets out to accomplish each and every season.

"Proud of the fact that we're back to the dance in what's been a challenging and crazy year for everyone involved," Boone said. "We know what our goals are, we know what are expectations are and let's go do it,"

Although right fielder Aaron Judge didn't speak to the team, the slugger said he pulled some of his teammates aside, elaborating on Boone's overarching message. Last season when the Bombers fell short of the Fall Classic, ousted by the Astros in the ALCS, Judge deemed the campaign and deep playoff run a failure. 

To Judge, while celebrating a postseason berth is important and something every team should do—as not every ballplayer gets a chance to fight for a title in October—the goal of being "the last team standing" should outweigh festivities commemorating an invitation to when it matters most.

"You want to celebrate those moments but the job's not finished. We've got a lot of work ahead of us and we're still focused on bringing it back home," Judge said. "That's going to be our mindset going down the stretch and going into the postseason is to get focused and geared up."

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