Crunch Time For The Bombers
As baseball’s long season heads into its final month the Yankees hold a unique distinction as the second best team in the sport. It’s unique because being second best in such a top heavy league gives them a chance at a title, but still guarantees nothing. With a record of 84 and 50 on August 30th at face value; things are great. Most teams….cough (the Mets)…. would love to be in the Yankees position, the problem lies with the always pesky division rival Boston Red Sox. Simply put Boston never loses, they hold a 93-42 record, currently first in the American League East.
That leaves the team with the second best record as a wild card team. None of the other five division leaders in the game have a record as good as the second place Yankees, which brings into question the playoff system itself. The Yankees went through something similar last year, they had over ninety wins but it wasn’t good enough to win the division.
They hosted the eighty-five win Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game and won to move on but it wasn’t easy. The first inning was wild as ace Luis Severino gave up two home runs and was booed off the field. Didi Gregorius saved the game by launching a big homerun to tie it in the bottom of the first and the weight of world was lifted.
Had the Yankees lost that game I believe the league would have made a rule change during the offseason, solely based on the fact that an eighty-five win team didn’t really deserve the chance to compete in a five game divisional round series in comparison to the ninety-one wins the Yankees had achieved. The counterargument to this is obviously to just be better and win the division, but one can’t help but notice somewhat of a crookedness in the league standings.
This year, if the season were to end today the Yankees would host the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card game. The Athletics have always been a thorn when playing the Yankees even in their rebuilding years. The Yankees have also had issues playing on the west coast the last five seasons, so if they were to fall behind Oakland in the standings and lose home field advantage in the wild card game, their odds of winning in the playoffs go down significantly.
We saw last year with the World Champion Houston Astros how key home field advantage was when they played the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, after each team won their respective home games. The Astros had one extra game at home and it was exactly what they needed to get to the World Series.
The Yankees will be in Oakland this Labor Day week in what’s sure to be a preview of the much anticipated Wild Card match-up. If they aren’t prepared and don’t win two of the three games in that series, there could be real cause for concern that they aren’t the team they thought they were and their World Series hopes could go up in smoke.