The Yankees are not only in the AL wild-card race, but they can win the AL East. This comes after they were declared dead for trading Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller.
The Yankees are two games behind the Orioles for the last wild-card spot, and they are three games behind the Blue Jays for a wild-card spot. Most importantly, they are four games behind the Red Sox for first place.
Winning the wild-card is nice, but winning the division is even better. Being AL East champions should be the short-term goal for the Yankees with the goal of being a championship team in the process.
It’s doable to win the division. Anything short of it is disappointing.
With a team that has one of the highest payrolls in the game, there’s no excuse not to win the division. Winning the wild-card would not feel like an accomplishment. What’s the point of playing a wild-card playoff game and losing it? The Yankees have been there and done that last year. Last year was forgettable since the Yankees did not finish strong, and they went out meekly against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros in the AL wild-card game.
Winning the AL East would give the Yankees at least five chances to win three games in the playoffs, so there’s room for error in losing one game in the playoffs. Plus, the Yankees would align their best rotation for the Division Series rather than waste Masahiro Tanaka for the AL wild-card game. The Yankees would fare better playing the Rangers or Indians in the Division Series than face the Red Sox or Orioles in the wild-card game.
There’s no one dominating in the AL East. For all the questions about the Yankees starting rotation, the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles don’t have a rotation that scares hitters.
One can make a case the Yankees have a better starting rotation than their competitors in the division. They have an ace who is a game-changer in Tanaka. That’s something the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles can’t say.
The Yankees have been boosted with an energy of youth in rising star Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. They still have veterans such as Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Chase Headley who can hit now that the pressure is off them.
The Yankees are peaking at the right time, which was not the case last year when they peaked in the first few months and bottomed out in August. That’s the one they have going for them in their playoff pursuit.
The Yankees have had a winning pedigree that has served them well since 1995. They know how to win. It just seems everything goes their way when it matters. Why should this year be any different? Some teams just have that magic karma, and the Yankees are one of those teams.
When the Yankees are beating their wild-card competitors in the Royals, Orioles and Blue Jays, it’s hard to take them lightly. This is a team that is playing with confidence right now. The Yankees have played winning baseball since the trades were made. They know what they are doing.
The pressure is now on the Orioles, Blue Jays and Red Sox to hold on to their leads. It remains to be seen if they are capable of doing that. They have played well for most of the year, but one bad month can ruin the good work they did all year. Ask the 2007 Mets and 2011 Red Sox.
The Yankees will approach this with nothing to lose. After all, no one expected them to be in this position now. With the pressure off on them, it has been easy for them to do well.
Eventually, there will be pressure on the team to finish the deal if the Yankees are in a position to win the AL East in two weeks. How the Yankees handle it will determine if they are capable of getting the job done.
It’s hard to doubt them now.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Yankees win the division and maybe go all the way to the World Series.
If anything, it would be a disappointment if the Yankees fall short of this amazing run they are in now.