Accepting that the baseball world could spin without them last October wasn't easy for the Yankees, manager Joe Girardi acknowledging the "bad taste" and "empty feeling" of watching the Rays and Red Sox play on.
Thus their return to the postseason tonight is being heralded, principal owner George Steinbrenner applauding how "this year's team has worked hard to prove that they are worthy of the great distinction of calling themselves Yankees."
They got back their old-fashioned way, spending more — a major-league-high $201 million payroll, after an offseason free agent frenzy — and winning more — 103 games — than anyone.
In a way, order was restored.
In another, chaos was rewarded.
"Having the Yankees in is certainly good for the game," Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "It highlights that money does in fact matter, and matter a whole lot. Bringing a spotlight on that is good for the game."
That's one way — or, cleverly, two, if you happen to think free spending needs to be reined in — to look at it.
"I think having the Yankees back in the playoffs is good for MLB," said Maury Brown, founder of the sports business Web site bizofbaseball.com. "Whether it is good for baseball is a subjective undertaking.
"In that, I mean a $200 million-plus payroll says, 'We're buying our way back in,' but it could also be read as the return of compelling story lines. Unless the weather throws a wrench in the mix, I imagine we'll see much better ratings for games this postseason."
"It is very important, and very beneficial, for baseball to have the Yankees in the playoffs again," said Marc Berman of MediaWeek. "The Yankees are a New York team, New York is the No. 1 market, and large tune-in from the top market will totally spike the overall ratings."
Certainly, that's good for the game, as if the smiles on the faces of the TBS and Fox network folks weren't enough of a tipoff. And the higher ratings can be extrapolated to increased rights fees, which can provide more money for teams to spend on payroll.
"I really think it's a mathematical equation," erudite Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler said. "What's good for baseball is good for all of us."
The interest level in the postseason will soar. That's the benefit of a dynastic team in any sport — be it the Cowboys, the Lakers, the Canadiens or the Yankees.
"It's good for Yankees fans, and for Yankees players," captain Derek Jeter said. "There's a lot of people that either love us or hate us, so a lot of people are interested, which is good."
"And even if you hate them," said Randy Choate, a Rays and former Yankees reliever, "you're going to watch them hoping they lose."
There's also a matter of tradition. "The Yankees have a great history in baseball," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "So them being back in is definitely a good thing."
There's some arrogance and attitude that accompanies the Yankees, but — except to the teams trying to beat them — having them back on baseball's grandest stage, for the 14th time in 15 seasons, probably is a good thing.
No matter how they got there.
"The one thing about all the moves they made … it's the biggest and baddest getting on top," Rays All-Star Evan Longoria said. "George Steinbrenner makes it pretty obvious that he doesn't care what it costs and he wants to get to the playoffs. … There's no other way — it's win or nothing, and that's a good way to be. You can't knock them for that."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com