Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

It was set up to be an overture, the scene-setter for what might have been an epic, operatic early autumn of New York baseball. Instead it was more of a sad trombone sound.

The Yankees went quietly on the field Tuesday, managing three hits and no runs against four Astros pitchers, only one of whom is a Cy Young candidate, in the American League wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

Then they went relatively quietly in the locker room, where if the mood could be summed up in one word it would be this: shrug.

To be fair, the Yankees surely were bummed out by their late-season belly-flop on offense. Brian McCann's eyes were rimmed in red and every key player lamented how it all went wrong.

"Maybe we were out of gas, maybe we were too banged up, but we just kind of hit a wall at the end of the year and that's unfortunate," said Mark Teixeira, whose broken left leg played a big part in the late fade.

"Down the stretch we just obviously didn't bring our 'A' game anymore," GM for Life Brian Cashman said afterward. "The wheels starting coming off over time, and that's frustrating."

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And also to be fair, the Yankees had every right to point out that before the season few predicted they would get even this far with an elderly roster full of uncertainty.

But it also is fair to say there always was something missing from this first team of the post-Jeter Era, as juice-less as any in recent memory for the Bombers outside of the always fascinating -- and presumably juice-free -- Alex Rodriguez.

As the Yankees shrugged Tuesday so did many of their fans, a far cry from the mood inside and outside the team after postseason failures of the previous decade, when Jeter reminded everyone of the Boss' old mantra that anything short of a ring simply wouldn't do.

So, here is the good news about the Yankees' quick exit for those among us who either are Mets fans or just observers of the passing scene without a rooting interest in any team.

It provides blissful clarity, a stage devoid of distractions that will allow Gotham to focus on the Dark Knight and a series of dark, dramatic nights to come, starting with late shows Friday and Saturday in L.A.

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For this one season at least, the town again belongs to the Mets, as it should for what is the most interesting team in New York -- and which will continue to be the most interesting team in New York until Clayton Kershaw's last yakker or a parade on Broadway, whichever comes first.

This being baseball, Suzyn, of course the Yankees might have gone on an improbable run had they beaten the Astros and gotten on a plane to Kansas City Wednesday. But ... well, probably not.

Asked about the cruelty of the one-and-done wild-card format, Carlos Beltran said, "That's the way it is, my friend. That's part of it. We knew coming in that somebody was going to win and somebody was going to lose and it happened that we were the ones to lose the game."

Shrug.

On to L.A.!